Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sunrise (1927)

Directed by F.W. Murnau. Starring George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor.

One of the most beautiful of all silent films, Murnau's masterpiece tells the story of a young man from the country (O'Brien) who is lured to the city by a sophisticated woman. The events in the film are the stuff of melodrama- the man attempts to kill his wife in order to escape his old life, for example- but few films encompass such a broad spectrum of emotions. Murnau made the influential classics Nosferatu and The Last Laugh prior to emigrating to Hollywood for this film, and died a few years later in a car accident (sordid details of the crash can be found in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon), and as in these films, the black and white cinematography here is extraordinary. What really makes this film great, though, is how Murnau makes the idea of young love timeless- the simple pleasures the couple enjoys together, the emotional peaks and valleys of youth, and the ways the film turns the man and the woman into every man and woman who has ever loved or hoped to love.

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