20 Aug 2013: The Ten Commandments (DVD, 1956, Cecil B. DeMille)
Ponderous and, despite its obviously enormous budget, somehow shoddy – as with every other Charlton Heston movie I’ve seen save Touch of Evil, feeling like an exploitation film more than a real artwork – its storytelling is surprisingly compelling and captivating, probably due for the most part to the source materials. Unless one goes wild for obvious rear projections, there’s not much of a visual flair except for a few well-lit shots (Moses chained in a dark room), several impressive sets and some extremely long shots with what look like thousands of cast members. (One bizarre composition, with a phallic asp statue pointed from Moses’ crotch toward his adopted mother’s head, stands out for a different reason.) Though this movie seems to be the basis for much of the material and viewpoint of the Indiana Jones films, it at least (much more than the latter) possesses enough of a philosophical discourse to activate the brain into engaging with the ideas and worldviews presented – for instance, what hope is there for the chosen people really if they revert back to atavistic mayhem (i.e. free love; lots of disdain for sexuality here) the moment their obvious savior leaves them be? And what would so many people who presumably love this film’s message and the ideals depicted think of labor organizers and a campaign to end wage slavery? Even a “dumb” movie maintains interest if it is able to maintain such an exploratory dialogue, especially significant given this one’s length.