excerpt from the Thousand Movie Project book

I think I’ve mentioned a couple times now that the past few weeks have been consumed with work on the Thousand Movie Project book proposal, for which I have to write a sample chapter. It runs about fifty pages at the moment, in its third draft iteration, and I like this indulgent little snippet about D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, so I thought I’d share:

The Internet started rubbing its chin in a morbid way, few years back, after somebody pointed out that, when you watch a sitcom from the 1950s, it’s safe to assume that everyone in the studio audience is probably dead, and that the laugh track is thereby made up of chuckles from the grave. Well, watching the legion of extras in Intolerance is like a steroidal version of that morbid meta-ness, and it’s likely to sidetrack your mind and prompt you to maybe pause a scene, or rewind it, or look out the window to get willfully lost in thoughts about, like, who among that crowd of 4,000 actors is your best friend’s ancestor, or one of your own distant artsy cousins, and who among them mighta murdered somebody and which of them became famous and who among them lived longest or which died soonest and who of them will lose a child to World War Two (still a quarter century away)—and to wonder how any or all of those extras on the screen might feel to know that you, over a hundred years later, are watching them, appreciating their contribution to culture; seeing and, to the best of your ability, knowing them?

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