And yet it is very possible, even in the bustle of New York City. There is Jim (Glenn Tryon) and Mary (Barbara Kent), getting ready for the day separately, though clever editing ties them together. Soon they will be. At work, factory worker Jim and switchboard operator Mary are locked together, slaves to time as they are framed in a superimposed clock face. The work day eventually ends and it’s suddenly Fourth of July weekend.
Many, Jim and Mary included, head to Coney Island, where the bulk of the story is set. They hop on rides, partake in food, sit with a fortune teller. They’re able to be alone together in the crowds, at least for a time. Jim and Mary are so full of energy that the film can’t be anything but completely charming.
Paul Fejos’ most famous work, 1928’s Lonesome, is rightfully renowned for its inventive approaches to an array of aspects. The aforementioned crosscutting and superimposition are key to developing Jim and Mary’s romance, and the color tinting (brilliant blues, pinks and yellows)--limited, appropriately to only the Coney Island scenes--adds a touch of dazzle. One technique used but greatly unnecessary is the addition of dialogue, lopped in random spurts to fit in with “talkies.” Though seldom, what’s spoken is cringe-worthy:
“Hello. Nice day, isn’t it? It’s perfect just like you.”
“Well, Mary, you’ve found your little lamb. Now I’m gonna follow you wherever you go.”
(Note: This was obviously a very awkward period in Hollywood, and even the best from the era have easily detectable cornball dialogue and delivery.)
Lonesome took a long time for both its current form and its audience to develop. Nearly four decades after it debuted, the George Eastman House began the first preservation attempt on the film. Three decades after that, the first major restoration was completed and the film got a wider audience at the 1994 Telluride Film Festival. In 2008, yet another restoration took place. Now, 84 years after its premiere, Lonesome has made its home video debut and can be seen and cherished by everyone. It’s no longer misplaced, no longer forgotten.
Fejos Memorial (19:35): This video essay, produced with the help of Paul Fejos’ widow, Lita Binns Fejos, features excerpts from Fejos’ 1963 audio autobiography to offer a glimpse into the life and career of the director.
The Last Performance (59:32): Fejos’ 1929 feature stars Conrad Veidt (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) tells of “a vengeful magician smitten with his stage assistant.” This Danish version features a new score by composer Donald Sosin.
Broadway (1:44:27): Also from 1929, Broadway was initially released in both silent and sound versions. According to Criterion’s notes: “Although the last reel of the sound film has been lost, we have reconstructed that version by incorporating the final reel of the silent version with a soundtrack element discovered in a private collection.”
Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 32-page booklet featuring three pieces: an essay titled “Great City, Great Solitude” by critic Phillip Lopate, an essay titled “The Travels of Paul Fejos” by film historian Graham Petrie and a 1962 interview with Fejos.