Roue, La

Director: Abel Gance
Year Released: 1923
Rating: 2.5

Railroad engineer Sisif (Séverin-Mars) discovers a baby girl at the sight of a train wreck, but instead of reporting the missing child, he accepts her as his own along with his infant son - when she (Ivy Close) grows up, however, weird problems emerge, as both he and his violin-crafting son (Gabriel de Gravone) fall in love with her (oh so French!) and she's courted by a wealthy railway inspector (Pierre Magnier). Though an interesting set-up - with a strangely poetic conclusion I did not anticipate - it needs to be asked whether or not Gance's ego gets in the way of his filmmaking: running at close to five hours long (originally it was closer to eight hours!), this is lacking in efficiency and depth and one wonders whether or not it's a story that could have been told in a more compact, less belabored manner. There are really only three principal players to focus on - with the Magnier character being only marginally developed - and it's as if their sweetly tragic fable, in stretched out form, does it more of a disservice than anything: Gance throws the proverbial kitchen sink of cinematic techniques at the screen, and while many of them are intriguing, they sometimes feel a bit unnecessary.