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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 67.0° F  Fair
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Intolerance
Rated
D.W. Griffith was a Southern Gentlemen, but he also considered himself a tolerant man...and, impregnated as he was with the Confederate view of the Civil War and miscegenation, he was bewildered by the furious cries of "racism" that greeted "Birth of a Nation." So, with the profits from "Birth," he set out to vindicate himself. To create a massive indictment of bigotry throughout history, interweaving four separate stories; the Crucifixion of Christ, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenot, Belshazzar's Feast and the Destruction of Babylon, and a modern story of labor turmoil, urban crime, hypocritical charity foundations, and injustice in the courts. The stories are told simultaneously, all linked by the image of Lillian Gish as an eternal Mater Familias - her emblem, "Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking, " borrowed from that old champion of Abe Lincoln and Emancipation, Walt Whitman. The separate dramas merge and clash and finally pour, like four boiling streams, into an amazing, hypnotic climax, a series of breathless, roaring crescendos that leave you gasping. Unfortunately there was less of an audience for Griffith's majestic hymn to brotherhood, than there was for his glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. He lost his shirt on "Intolerance," and started on the economic downslide that would eventually drive him from the industry. But what he managed to create out of his sublime "folly" is a staggering achievement, even after 60 years. It should not be missed.
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