Thursday, February 14, 2013
SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (1927) movie review
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) d. Murnau, F.W. (USA)
Oscar’s first – and only – winner of the “Best Unique and Artistic Picture” Award. (Wings would take the official “Best Picture” honors, starting the Academy Awards off on their merry history of handing out the top prize based on Hollywood politics as opposed to actual merit - sure, those flying sequences are pretty cool but the rest of the movie? Come on.) Married farmer George O'Brien falls under the spell of The Woman from the City (Margaret Livingston), who tries to convince him to drown his devoted wife Janet Gaynor. With this relatively simple, almost fable-like plot as his canvas, F.W. Murnau (Faust, Nosferatu) unleashed a bevy of groundbreaking techniques that continue to amaze 80 years later.
Aided by skilled cinematographers Charles Rosher and Karl Struss, each scene is like a meticulously structured still life photograph and yet, the film is anything but stagy. By contrast, this moving picture moves. In addition to double exposures and astonishing-for-their-time tracking shots, Murnau also employs a rich tapestry of synchronized sound effects – an achievement sadly overshadowed by The Jazza Singer’s introduction of the “talkie” the same year. Deserving of attention by cinephiles everywhere, this is no moldy oldie but a thrilling bit of onscreen history and a damn fine film. Not to be missed.