There’s something here to confuse, astound, bore and dazzle any viewer, although it’s impossible to guess which will have what effect on whom. Curator/annotator Bruce Posner and producer David Shepherd have gathered 37 short movies, with new soundtracks for most of the silent films, 10 of which were previously gathered in Unseen Cinema, their essential DVD box of a decade ago. This combo pack, two Blu-rays and two DVD’s, sensibly arranges the films in chronological order and divides them by decade. We’ll divide them into thematic categories for the purposes of cogitation, and the results of our analysis will be that these are arbitrary overlapping categories.
1. Cinema as City Documentary: The city film is a genre invented by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand’s elegant Manhatta (1921), here in stunning 2K digital restoration with two score options (one on each disc). These views of Manhattan, with quotations by Walt Whitman, emphasize the monumental to unite the concepts of “city” and “cinema” in modernity. People are distant masses of rushing ants, a point that marks a tension between celebration and discomfort.