WHO is he?

American film director, screenwriter and producer associated primarily with silent cinema, who nonetheless made talkies that were as innovative as his silent works. French critic and filmmaker Luc Moullet once called Vidor “the grand master of the bravura sequence”, referring to the grand climactic set pieces of his films. Vidor’s career spanned a staggering 67 years!

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Some of Vidor’s early films have an uplifting, old school conservative flavour — so much so they have been labelled socialistic by some — with a strong support for classical values such as hard work, communal living, spirituality and altruism, and a distaste for Wall Street-like finance systems, partly as a result of the Great Depression. These films also believe strongly in the family system which seems to be the only holding force in an often chilly, impersonal world.

Style

Vidor is widely appreciated for this moving camera shots, especially crane and tracking shots. But, looking at films such as Duel In The Sun (1946), it is clear that he was a filmmaker with a keen eye for colour, composition, tone and mood. Vidor was influenced by early Soviet cinema, especially the films of Alexander Dovzhenko to which his propensity for filming nature and using montage as an emotional intensifier is indebted to.

WHY is he of interest?

It is an understatement if one said Vidor was a filmmaker highly committed to his art. Although working within the mainstream, Vidor was persistent in making the kind of films he wanted. He mortgaged his house to make the risky Our Daily Bread (1934) when no studio was ready to finance it. He was also a director who took up bold projects, such as Hallelujah (1929), one of the earliest all-black films from Hollywood.

WHERE to discover him?

A major candidate for the greatest American film ever made, The Crowd (1928) taps into the fear at the heart of a modern, capitalist society: the fear of mediocrity. Vidor’s extraordinary work employs an aesthetic of repetition built on the succession of similar images that reflects the ordinariness of an individual’s position and the sameness of human experience in an industrial society. Bravura camera movements and editing rhythms keep emphasising the cold truth that you are only as good as the next person.

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