The Morning After: Jun. 29, 2015

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

A Tale of Two Cities


Based on Charles Dickens’ historical novel of the same name, A Tale of Two Cities tells a story set against the backdrop of the impending French revolution. Therein, an idealistic nobleman (Donald Woods) flees France to help lead efforts to support the French peasantry. This isn’t his story. Instead it’s the story of a man who resembles him a great deal, Sydney Carton (Ronald Colman), British advocate who helps free Woods’ Charles Darnay when accused of treason in an attempt by his ruthless uncle (Basil Rathbone) to get him out of the way and keep his ideologies from seeping into the French peasants’ consciousness.

There are several plots twisted into this simple narrative, all of which are skillfully blended into a compelling, if sometimes stilted historical drama. Colman is terrific, as is much of the rest of the cast. Woods bares resemblances to his namesake while Blanche Yurka as the odious Madame De Farge does tremendous work, but sometimes goes a bit overboard. Also of note is the reliable Edna May Oliver as Lucie Manette’s (Elizabeth Allan) longtime servant Miss Pross.

W.P. Lipscomb and S.N. Behrman crafted a fairly faithful adaptation of Dickens’ novel with several notable changes from the source, but all of which were designed to better fit the style and capabilities of the motion pictured medium. Director Jack Conaway conveys the screenplay with evocative aplomb, but the anti-French bias is a bit overzealous and the parallels to British Society of the period in which Dickens wrote is reserved for the viewer to research independently.

If the film struggles, it’s largely in its reliance on silent film techniques. With a heavy use of intertitles, the film requires the viewer to spend a great deal of time reading, seldom allowing them to understand what’s going on behind a handful of the images. The battle scenes outside of the Bastille are also over-dramatized, taking the viewer out of the scene in those moments. It also lets the anti-French bias paint nearly every French character as deserving of condemnation.

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