By Dudley Andrew
The Description for this publication, movie within the air of mystery of artwork, should be forthcoming.
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18 BROKEN BLOSSOMS five minutes to promote in the manner of the epics Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, Broken Blossoms also lacked the expansive heaving rhythms of those films. In truth, it was a minor undertaking from the standpoint of production. Shot in seventeen days, on only a few simple sets, its cost ($70,000) was a fraction of the earlier masterworks. Yet Griffith was determined to invest his money and prestige to promote the film. " This conflict with the establishment assuredly contributed to the self-righteous attitude Griffith adopted, and this attitude in turn gave rise to the concept of art as the criterion and category capable of locating the worth and appeal of this film.
The introductory sequence sets up this conflict in miniature by pitting the serene Yellow Man, fresh from his temple retreat, against three feisty American sailors. The sailors know no rule of life save rough and tumble fun, healthy unreflective instincts. The Yellow Man, on the other hand, is shown to be the product of a sophisticated culture and tradition. In the establishing scenes before he is introduced, three marriageable Chinese women, potential partners for the soldiers, routinely consult an ancient fortuneteller in the streets.
The impressionists were an elite group fostering a conception of cinema that might appeal to an elite audience. The year 1919 also saw the introduction of a more refined and self-conscious notion of cinematic art in America. It was predictably championed by Griffith and expressed by a single film, Broken Blossoms. Indeed it might be suggested that it was Griffith's megalomania, inflated by the fame he had achieved in 1916, that allowed this more acceptable notion of art to be admitted in America, where the sort of subculture of the French impressionists could never exist and where every alteration in the institution of cinema had to be ratified by the single dominating culture, Hollywood.