Erich von Stroheim's fanatically naturalistic study of people whose natures become distorted by their passion for money, powerfully acted by Zasu Pitts and Gibson Gowland, cut from its original 42 reels to 10, yet still one of the great films of all time, or as Jean Renoir put it, “The Masterpiece of Cinema.”
“Everything in the film, people and objects, has been touched by life in a profound and always different way, the alarm clock as well as the pastor, the dentist as well as his canary. The minor characters are equally brought to life often with a small but vivid detail.... The principal characters are not merely caricatures or figures of ridicule; their complexities are almost completely portrayed by their appearance, in the way writers like Balzac tried to do.... Its portrait of the materialistic side of the human soul is the first we have seen, except perhaps in the theater. However, in my opinion the film does it better, more perfectly. And the moral decline of three people, brought on by their lust for gold, is portrayed with a bitterness and cruelty equaled only by the most pessimistic novels of some Russian authors and without their grandiloquence and didactism. The author describes without judging. He gives us a detailed picture of the innermost recesses of this cesspool of hell but it's up to us to decide what he is saying.”

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