Broken Blossoms (1919)
Directed by D.W.Griffith
Palais des Beaux Arts Lille France
Live Film Commission
Pierre Bastien & Scanner
This strangely beautiful silent film from D.W. Griffith is also one of his more grim efforts; an indictment of child abuse and the violence of western society. An ideological Asian (Richard Barthelemess) travels to the west in hopes of spreading the Buddha's message of peace to the round-eyed "sons of turmoil and strife." Instead he winds up a disillusioned, opium-smoking shopkeeper in London's squalid Limehouse District. Down the street, a poor waif (Lillian Gish) suffers horrific abuse at the hands of her boxer father (Donald Crisp). When fortune delivers the battered girl into the Asian's tender care, a strange and beautiful love blossoms between them, a love far too fragile to survive their brutal environment. Griffith directed with his unique blend of poetry and realism, and Miss Gish delivers a typically first-rate performance as the girl; the result is a work of art that's both eloquent and crushing.