November 6, 1928 [The Man Who Laughs]

It deliberately blends the sentimental with the grotesque, a Chaney picture sans Chaney—although Mary Philbin once more appears—this time blind, a melodramatic kindness for Gwynplaine, his face carved into a constant grin, his eyes always pleading that it fade, so he can mourn his losses—and maybe smile at Dea, the blind girl—another irony: strength lies in Gwynplaine's tortured posture, leaning his wet rictus away from feminine hands, desperate to be the hero despite the nightmare clown he presents. And while the sets and camera angles recall Veidt’s Caligari-led somnambulist—everything stark, off-center and swaying—pathos dominates; still, the audience groaned their disgust when Philbin—who has discovered the truth, both about his face and her love—kisses him, her lips against the stretched skin.  Safe in our seats, we weren't ready to allow love’s imagination to reach us. But more than once I felt my face tugging at itself, assuming an unconscious, sympathetic grin of its own—and each time I quickly pulled it back, a little disquieted that Veidt had turned mesmerist, no matter that the cause was True Love.


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