Week 27: Text: film review in The Michigan Temperance Society Gazette, Art and Culture Section, January 1923

by Geraldine Speers.

When the legislators of our great land, in a rare display of wisdom, passed the Prohibition Act through Congress, we in the League felt that our prayers had been answered, that a corner had been turned, and that our United States would begin the slow climb out of depravity towards that state of perfection which is God’s promise to Man. But alcohol is not the only snare we must shake off if we are to ascend Jacob’s Ladder. Now that our livers are clean it behoves us to purify the body’s most delicate instrument: the eyes. And so it was with great pleasure that I accepted the Michigan Temperance League’s offer to become a contributor of film criticism to their righteous periodical. Like Virgil did for Dante I shall strive to guide you through the darkness of the celluloid deep. It is a treacherous path, yet one that may still lead to paradise. We the viewing public must remain vigilant, discerning and cultivate a strong cinematic sensibility. Let the movie moghuls serve our enlightened interests, lest we become subject to their degeneracy. The technological wonder of cinema is itself benign. It is the use that Man puts to it that shall render it either an instrument for spiritual improvement or debasement.
It is with this in mind that I wish to praise the makers of The Tides of Man for what was, up to this point in my fledgling career as a cineaste, the most moving experience I have yet had outside of a chapel. The photoplay tends towards the rhetorical - few amongst us scribblers can refuse the urge to wax prolix – yet the photography is supremely innovative and without being ostentatious creates a rich garden for the mind to stroll about in, a mis en scene bursting with little miracles. Not least is the use of colour tinting to highlight certain details: the red of a rose bud; the blue of the street urchin Clementine’s eyes, so bright they threaten to pierce your heart; the exotic flags flapping on the bonnet of the European ambassador’s opulent motor vehicle seeming to glitter like strange eyes in the face of some fabulous beast.
What I like most about these effects is that they serve the intentions of the story, unlike so many trick films released recently that simply seek to stimulate for their own sake. I hold this movie up as a standard for all film makers to follow. Let not your technical skill outstrip your moral purpose, lest you and your audience become slaves to sensation, drooling like slack jawed yahoos in the monkey house you make of what was once the temple of cinema.

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