ISN'T LIFE WONDERFUL (1924, USA)
directed by: D.W. Griffith

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IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0015018

Submitted by Yuri Tsivian on 2007-10-16

Yuri Tsivian's comment:
Another Griffith from Pordenone. Projected at 18 fps. One double-click -- otherwise the count is pretty accurate.

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Users' comments:

Author: Yuri Tsivian Date: 2007-10-16

As usual, credits and the end title excluded. The longest ASL fall on romance (the longest take -- embrace 77 secs) and dying, the fastest, suspense in the meat line and merriment scenes, the wheelbarrow chase and the mugging. A series of faster shots at the very end -- a happy-end style epilogues after the "sad" real ending with the eponymous phrase pronounced at the empty wheelbarrow.



Author: Paolo Cherchi Usai Date: 2007-10-17

I attended the screening of this title in Pordenone on October 13, 2007. As curator of the Griffith Project retrospective, I had originally asked to project the film at 18 fps. However, while watching the film, I noticed that there are two types of intertitles on the MoMA print: A) white text on black; B) white titles on a textured gray background, surrounded by a white "frame" decoration (identical to the intertitles of The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance). The "A" intertitles appear on the screen for much longer than necessary to read the text. The length of the "B" intertitles looks about right at 18 fps, but these intertitles are the minority in the film. Were the "A" intertitles designed to be shown at a greater speed than 18 fps? I am not aware of a later reissue of the film (a common reason for the creation of new and longer intertitles, given the increased projection speed in the late silent period), but the fact is that at 18 fps the "A" intertitles were unreasonably long, thus affecting the overall pace of the film (although the movements of the characters on the screen were perfectly natural). After about 40 minutes of screening, I asked the projectionist to raise the speed to 19 fps. As a result, the "A" intertitles were not as painfully long, while the characters were now moving faster than normal. This of course raises once again the issue of the projection speed at the time of release of a given film. There is no specific information on the projection speed recommended by Griffith for Isn't Life Wonderful, but there is some primary evidence of projection speeds greater than 19 fps adopted for previous Griffith features by indication of the director himself. I have tried to project these other films at the recommended speeds, and found that the characters were moving way too fast. Here we go again: history vs. modern sensibility (and the issue of projection speeds in the silent cinema period gets more and more complicated). I am mentioning all this simply because your Cinemetric calculation should take into account the change in speed from 18 to 19 fps after ca. 40 minutes into the Pordenone screening used for your Cinemetrics analysis.

Author: Paolo Cherchi Usai Date: 2007-10-17

I am also convinced (I know I'm not the only one) that the "sad" ending of the story is the one originally conceived by Griffith. The "happy" appendix contradicts the lyrical flow of the previous scene (also note that the the last shot of the "sad" ending is identical to the very first shot in the film, another instance of "circularity" in Griffith's narratives).


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