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also known as The Wheel

La roue 1923

  • 4.3
"There is cinema before and after LA ROUE," wrote Jean Cocteau of Abel Gance's 1923 epic romance of forbidden love and doom, shot with no-expense-spared amidst the chaotic railways of Nice and the high-elevation peaks of Mont Blanc. One of the most influential films of the silent era, its editing style of rapid, rhythmic cuts had never been seen before. LA ROUE heralded an entirely new approach to filmmaking that inspired Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko (among many others). "Cinema endows man with a new sense," noted Gance. "It is the music of light. He listens with his eyes." Pure melodrama, the film concerns a kind-hearted railway engineer who adopts an orphan girl; years later, both he and his son fall in love with her, a tainted triangle that leads to disaster. Criticized for its heaving melodramatic flourishes and "lack of verisimilitude" during its original release, LA ROUE is most entertaining precisely because of its willful lack of realism and decency; this, as they say, is cinema, and here it is being born. A year later, Gance would take what he had learned and put it towards an even more spectacular epic, NAPOLEON. - Jason Sanders
Never before released in the United States, this monumental French film is one of the most extraordinary achievements in the whole history of cinema. Written and directed by Abel Gance (NAPOLEON), three years in production and, for its time, unprecedented in length and complexity of emotion, LA ROUE pushed the frontiers of film art beyond all previous efforts.

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"There is cinema before and after LA ROUE as there is painting before and after Picasso." - Jean Cocteau


Member Reviews (5)

If my top ten list were to be written rather than improvised, La Roue would be my number one for foreign film and number three for favorite film of all time. This is Abel Gance's best work. He has managed to construct such an epic that is equal only to Victor Hugo (who is referenced in the beginning of the film). The photography, acting, editing, and montages are all excellent. The only thing anyone could see as a downside is the lengthy plot development---but this is not my complaint. I love a film that reads like a novel.

Also, the music by Robert Israel makes this restoration shine!

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Beautiful film marred by bungled score on this version. Not sure if it's a sync issue or just indifference on the part of the distributors, but at some point around the beginning of part 2 of this presentation the score gets badly out of whack - music becomes intense and dramatic during a visit to the optometrist, while the horrific death of a major character is treated with a light and playful theme.

Despite the issues nothing can take away from the power and beauty of the final passages. A grueling brutal film that allows for some grace at the end. Really great.

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top reviewer

La roue (1923) is a film with high entertainment value, & high artistic merit. The 4+ hour length of the film didn't make it boring or tedious for me at all. I appreciated this old silent film MUCH more than MANY, MANY "talkie" films that I have viewed.

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top reviewer

A masterpiece.

Truly incredible, a masterpiece beyond words.