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Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans Review

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In a lakeside village, ‘the Man’ is seduced away from his wife by the vampy ‘Woman From the City’. He contemplates murder, but is overcome by conscience and reaffirms his love for his wife on a trip to the city, though their lives are imperilled by a sto

★★★★

In the first year of the Oscars, covering the 1927-28 season, the Academy handed out two separate but equal Best Picture statuettes: one to the big, brassy, popular middle-brow commercial movie which remains in the reference books (Wings), and the other to Sunrise, which was singled out as for its 'artistic achievement'.

      This practice was discontinued by crass producers – raising the question of what alternative Best Artistic Picture gongs ought to have been awarded since 1927.  Directed by German genius F.W. Murnau (of Nosferatu and The Last Laugh) in his Hollywood debut, this silent art movie has a fairytale story which is less important than its performances, technical innovations and remarkable evocation of moods and passions.  Janet Gaynor, who took home the Best Actress Oscar in '28, is extraordinarily delicate as the non‑weepy heroine, while malleable O’Brien and slinkily seductive Livingston throw themselves into sustained mime excesses, memorably in a steamy, swamp-set adulterous clinch.  



      Abetted by the imaginative cinematography of Charles Rosher and Karl Struss, Murnau takes a story which wouldn't have been substantial enough for a Hollywood two-reeler shot in 1907 and spins it out into a remarkable, dreamlike symphony of moments and insights.  Murnau was among the first foreign talents to fetch up in Hollywood and attempt to meld his own artistic sensibilities with the effects, art direction and technical expertise available only in the studio system – count the number of trick shots he works into the movie

Imaginative and surprisingly moving for a silent art movie.

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