What’s the oldest great movie? Like legitimately great, not just great ‘for its time’ or something. – Mia R.
Editor’s Note (12/4/14): We no longer answer movie questions through our advice column. We answer them in the mailbag segment of our podcast. Send them to Cody@SmugFilm.com and we will answer on the show!
John D’Amico: Well you could track back and back to the dawn of film for this one. There are moments of grace and creativity in most surviving early films, but I think for modern eyes, one of the first really powerful, emotionally affecting films is the 1912 Edison studios short The Land Beyond the Sunset directed by Harold M. Shaw. It’s about an orphan boy/dreamer, kind of along the lines of that short story The Little Match Girl. I don’t want to give it away too much, because at 12 minutes with a whopper of an ending, you may as well just watch it on YouTube:
Some lovely framing and a great use of practical locations give it a really slice-of-life feel, catching the very last embers of that horrible Dickensian industrial world. Among other successes, the constant motif of little Joe looking directly at the camera makes him a uniquely memorable and affecting protagonist of the era. Enjoy!