Monday Movie: Good Morning Babylon, by Alexander Miller
Every Monday, we’ll highlight a piece of writing from our vaults. This review of Good Morning Babylon originally ran as a Criterion Prediction.
Pairing the production of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance with a witty, metaphorical story of two brothers making their way in America is handled with a lighthearted touch that we don’t commonly associate with Italian films. Good Morning Babylon is one of those overlooked treats that feels like an American co-production, given the filmmaker’s air of familiarity depicting Hollywood’s silent era. Perhaps the reverence for the work of Griffith seems more authentic coming from the point of view of an outsider, as opposed to the apologetic overtones that are synonymous with discussion of Griffith here in America. Throughout Good Morning Babylon he is presented as a craftsman. What I love most about this movie is the seemingly infinite allegorical depth in this deceptively complex film. Historically, we associate the significant contribution from immigrant labor with America’s industrial workforce; here our attention is turned to its influence on the growing film business. The mass production of movies from the studios at this time was on par with a factory assembly line in the days that would be defined as Hollywood’s Golden Age. Very much a love letter to the creative endeavor, and to silent film, it reinforces that cinema is a cultural language we can all connect with, and the reverence for the medium is humorous and affectionate. Vincent Spano, Joaquim de Almeida, and Greta Scacchi deliver endearing performances, and Charles Dance is a surprising find as D.W. Griffith. Using history as a platform for their films, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Good Morning Babylon is evidence that movies can be intelligent and charming without being simplistic or pretentious.