The Godless Girl (1929) by Cecil B. DeMille.
“All the cinema is there. It’s a tragic subject, the young delinquents facilities, with many bad guards who, for instance, put electricity in the bars a girl holds, leaving her with a burn in the shape of a cross. It’s dramatic but DeMille adds many comic elements. It always goes from tragic to comic, almost burlesque, with references to Chaplin, like if DeMille said to himself “I will make the most dramatic film and they’ll also have comic moments”. It’s very surprising to see this mix, with an uncommon subject since it’s about the struggle between a girl who runs a very aggressive atheist movement and a boy who is hyper protestant. They also are in love, which complicates the whole thing. There is a romantic touch, quite rare in DeMille’s cinema, and something about the strength of the drawings, the propaganda flyers the atheists place everywhere in the university. There is also a remarkable work on the sets, especially on this very important element of the cinema of these times, the stairs. The stairs of Godless Girl were probably taken from 7th Heaven by Frank Borzage, six-floor spinning stairs -quite old-, there is a great work with the camera during the big fight between atheists and theists. Like many other DeMille’s films it contains different things, sometimes contradictory. It may be DeMille’s best film, with so many different aspects, and more humanity. He took youngsters and let them express, there is a spontaneity you don’t find to this point in his other films.”
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A critic for the Cahiers du cinema, among others, atypical French director Luc Moullet made forty films of different types and lengths (Anatomy of a Relationship, Genesis of a meal, The Comedy of Work). A full retrospective of his films is being shown now at the Centre Pompidou in Paris through May 30, 2009.