Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunrise

F.W. Murnau, 1927, silent/bw (9.0*)
This film is #12 on the critics consensus top 1000.

Normally I'm not a fan of silent movies. In complete silence, there seems to be something lacking, throw in a honky tonk piano and I'd just as soon turn the sound down, or even strangle myself (like Dr. Strangelove). That leaves the dvd's that have a music soundtrack added, which makes them a little more palatable. F.W. Murnau's masterpiece Sunrise is such a beautiful movie visually I'm making an exception. In fact, the cinematography of Kari Struss and Charles Rosher won a well-deserved Oscar®. This movie looks like an 18th century painting in motion, and often uses special effect done so well you can't tell they're effects.

The story is almost a distraction, a typical lover's triangle. George O'Brian is a philandering husband to Oscar®-winner Janet Gaynor (lots of arching eyebrows and sorrowful looks in silent films), and his cosmopolitan girlfriend from the city (Margaret Livingston), who is vacationing in the married couples' country resort village. Together they plan the wife's murder so the lovers can be together.


F.W. Murnau's first film in Hollywood brings his European background and influence into full focus. There are some eerie expressionist scenes outdoors, and some near surreal cityscapes as well, as Murnau proves equal to the legendary master Fritz Lang. The story takes a back seat to the cinematic art of Sunrise, and this is a treat for all students of film history. Three Oscars®, the most given the first year, including one only given this one time (for 1927) for Unique and Artistic Film.

Recipient of one of our first World Film Awards, as we started with 15 silent films.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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