Monday Editor’s Pick: Greed (1924)

by on December 27, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Mon Jan 2 at 8:15 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]


Film Forum’s ongoing Monday-night screening series, “The Silent Roar: MGM 1924-29,” continues this week with Erich Von Stroheim’s famously ambitious and infamously butchered morality tale, Greed.


Originally shot and edited as a nine-hour magnum opus, the director’s epic was eventually hacked down to a mere 140-minute release version by MGM studio-czar Irving Thalberg. Greed has since become the historical exemplar of Hollywood philistinism and, er, corporate greed; the go-to example for anyone arguing that the studio system is a sausage grinder turning fine art into uniform product. But as David Thomson writes:


You can talk of Greed as a ruin. If you are inclined. That means despairing of a commercial system that would let a nine- or ten-hour monster survive as more than 140 minutes of rare sensation. [Then] there is Greed itself, quite plainly a masterpiece.


Alt Screen contributor Cullen Gallagher has a good rundown on Von Stroheim’s film for Our Town Downtown. And make sure to read Imogen Smith’s fabulous feature on the series; while it doesn’t touch on Greed specifically, it’s still broadly relevant and, more importantly, it’s a great read.



Geoff Andrew for Time Out (London):

Originally planned to run around ten hours but hacked to just over two by Thalberg’s MGM, von Stroheim’s greatest film still survives as a true masterpiece of cinema. Even now its relentlessly cynical portrait of physical and moral squalor retains the ability to shock, while the Von’s obsessive attention to realist detail – both in terms of the San Francisco and Death Valley locations, and the minutely observed characters – is never prosaic: as the two men and a woman fall out over filthy lucre (a surprise lottery win), their motivations are explored with a remarkably powerful visual poetry, and Frank Norris’ novel is translated into the cinematic equivalent of, say, Zola at the peak of his powers. Never has a wedding been so bitterly depicted, never a moral denouement been delivered with such vicious irony.

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