Sunrise, 1929 Classic, On Blu-ray

Jan. 22, 2014
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Sunrise is a film that aspires to poetry, not prose. While German director F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) made the movie in Hollywood with an American cast, Sunrise owes more to European filmmaking of the silent era. However, it's not, strictly speaking, a silent film: no one speaks, the story is told visually, and yet the silence is accompanied by a musical soundtrack and punctuated by the sounds of the city.

 In outline, the story of a country man (George O'Brien) about to be lured away from his loving wife (Janet Gaynor) by a cigarette-smoking big city vamp is stock melodrama. And yet, the feeling between husband and wife is palpable. Murnau orchestrated a symphony of emotions: murder and fear, love and remorse. Although the links of the story might be creaky, the flowing images are unforgettable from the spooky white moon over the shimmering swamp to the racing, roaring traffic of the city.

O'Brien's performance is remarkable. In thrall to his sexual obsession with the sexually aggressive vamp, and then wracked with regret, O'Brien is also capable of softening into tender concern for the wife he thinks of leaving behind.

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