Today in Movie History: April 21

We go all silent movie on your ass today, starting with Buster Keaton’s masterpiece Sherlock Jr. It’s a slight story of a lonely projectionist fighting haplessly for the girl he loves: filled with Keaton’s jaw-dropping stunt work, but also the innovative use of the film within a film as a narrative device (Keaton’s character falls asleep and reimagines his dilemma on the screen in front of him). It opened today in 1924.

People talk about great performances a lot, but few have ever matched the power of Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc. The actress herself struggled with debilitating mental illness (she committed suicide in 1946) that may have given her some unique insight into the character’s suffering, or it could have been Carl Theodor Dreyer’s one-of-a-kind direction (stories range from “they developed a singular and intimate working relationship” to “he flat-out tortured her”), but whatever happened, it worked. Falconetti’s performance is considered the best ever put on film in many circles. In opened in Dreyer’s native Denmark today in 1928.

Beneath those behemoths, I’m going to slip a little horror movie in: Pet Sematary, based on the Stephen King book he was purportedly too frightened to finish. Roundly panned upon release, it has enjoyed a resurgence over the years, and today is considered one of the better adaptations of King’s work. It opened today in 1989.


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