Isn’t Life Wonderful. 1924. USA. Written and directed by D. W. Griffith. With Carol Dempster, Neil Hamilton, Erville Alderson. DCP. Silent. 115 min.
Filmed largely on location amid the devastation and economic chaos of postwar Germany, D. W. Griffith’s 1924 film is one of his strongest works, mixing somber social realism with a delicate appreciation of human frailty. Griffith protégé Carol Dempster shakes off her usual affectations as a Polish war orphan who finds refuge with the Berlin family of her fiancé (Neil Hamilton), a returning soldier reduced to repairing furniture for a living. The film’s stark approach, incorporating significant amounts of documentary footage, strongly influenced the German directors of the “new objectivity” movement (G. W. Pabst’s Joyless Street seems particularly in debt to Griffith). This new 4K digital restoration is based on the original negative, acquired by MoMA in 1938. Restoration premiere. Funding provided by The Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.