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Ménilmontant 1926

The film follows a pair of sisters who leave the country for the city after their parents are slaughtered in a mysterious axe murder. Unusually for the time, there are no intertitles, so the plot is communicated entirely with imagery. This economical storytelling gives the film a lean, stripped-down aesthetic that makes it seem eminently modern. All the unnecessary exposition is trimmed away, and the opening axe murder is boldly stylized and brutally effective, even as its exact details remain unclear. Kirsanoff's dense, rapid-fire montage is perfectly suited to capturing the insane violence that orphans the two girls. This is a dazzling masterpiece that is as overwhelming and powerful today as the day it was made, its impact completely undulled by the passage of many decades.

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