Superman Batman: Public Enemies, a review by Dragonfire
(From Dragonfire88's Alphabet Marathon on July 4th, 2010)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, a review by Jon
This new edition of Sunrise contains two versions of the film (both in 1080p HD): the previously released Movietone version, and an alternate silent version of the film, recently discovered in the Czech Republic, of a higher visual quality than any other known source.
The culmination of one of the greatest careers in film history, F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise blends a story of fable-like simplicity with unparalled visual imagination and technical ingenuity. Invited to Hollywood by William Fox and given total artistic freedom on any project he wished, Murnau’s tale of the idyllic marriage of a peasant couple (George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor) threatened by a vamp-like seductress from the city (Margaret Livingston) created a milestone of film expressionism.
Made in the twilight of the silent era, Sunrise became both a swan song for a vanishing medium and one of the few films to instantly achieve legendary status. Winner of three Oscars® for Best Actress (Gaynor), Cinematography, and a never-repeated award for “Unique and Artistic Picture”, its influence and stature has only grown with each passing year. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the world première of Sunrise on Blu-ray.
There are a few members of this forum who love a good romance. I implore you to seek out this film, it's just wonderful.
It seems to me that whenever a new innovation is introduced, history shows that cinema suffers somewhat as artists scramble to use the new technology. We’re seeing it at the moment with 3D (again) and decades ago, the introduction of sound, the widescreen ratios and even colour. There is possibly no finer example than Sunrise, a silent film and a glorious demonstration of a director working at the height of his powers, yet it possibly lost some momentum being released just days before The Jazz Singer, which is criminal. In any case, F.W. Murnau perfectly balances a variety of visual techniques to tell a story in such a way that the lack of spoken dialogue is actually a benefit. It makes you wonder if it is even possible to tell this story today.
It is the story of a marriage being tested and reborn. A farmer is tempted to leave his wife and sell his farm for the promises of an immoral city girl (a brazen Margaret Livingston). She plants the idea of murder in his mind to get rid of his wife and he almost goes through with it. On a trip to the city, the young couple face up to that awful truth and rediscover what they mean to each other. It sounds simple, but it has an epic sweep that will catch you off guard.
George O’Brien is incredible as the farmer and I was amazed at the humanity and subtlety of his performance, considering that in the first act he is so tormented and largely shuffles around like a Golem under the woman’s control (the double-exposure trick that shows him unable to get her off of his mind was stunning). He blossoms later on and brings such humour to the character. His wife, Janet Gaynor (a more attractive version of Drew Barrymore in some shots!), will break your heart as she has to suffer her husbands near fatal decision and especially later in the café as he rather pathetically tries to make amends to her, a near broken woman at this point. How can a plate of cakes be that emotional? It’s just superb! A fantastic performance and I was convinced by her intentions, while I know some may feel her husband is unforgivable.
The whole journey of the boat (loved the shot of the dog, trying to keep them ashore), the farmers desperate race to land after realising his stupidity and their entry to the city on a tram could be one of my favourite and most memorable sequences of any film. There is much wrapped up in there. As the urban rat race comes into full view, with the tram racing through traffic and cityscapes, they are so caught up in their torment they are oblivious to it and I felt regret that they were missing it, if that doesn’t sound ridiculous! It’s such a thrilling journey, one she was clearly relishing and now it was ruined.
All of that and the café scene culminate in a wedding they stumble upon and they listen to the ceremony. It is as if they are getting married again. He becomes distraught at hearing the vows and it’s as if he makes them again himself. I don’t usually explain so much of the plot, but I felt it was important here, because in many reviews I’ve read, it seems that the following scenes that make up the middle act are considered too silly and so I wanted to stress the importance of that wedding. What follows is essentially a second honeymoon. They wrap themselves up in each other, embrace the city and experience a pure joy. You owe it to yourself to join them as Murnau clearly does. His montages and pans are exhilarating, particularly during the fair, while the comedy of the smaller moments is beautifully timed (drunken pig!). Nothing is wasted as it all adds to the relationship being rebuilt on stronger foundations than ever, right up to the moment the man literally throws his wife back on to the tram! This may be a masterpiece of Expressionism, but it is also a sublime example of Hollywood Romance and proof that it never pays to be too cynical.
I found the storm scene that followed fascinating. If one considers the emotional focus of a narrative, and that we had left the city behind with no individuals to be concerned about, to what end was Murnau thinking when he shows the storm hitting the city first? Why are we interested in what happens there now we are back in the boat? My take on it is that the couple had outran their own metaphorical storm (his frantic rowing to shore), but it had continued to chase them and was now catching up, still needing to be dealt with. The city that they knew was a fantasy. There was no reference to the woman that caused all this and only the briefest nod to their baby, left back at home (whom the man had not been shown with anyway). They were literally drifting back to reality.
The story is reassuringly predictable up until this point. But the storm has potential to wipe the slate clean and I thought that was brilliant. Perhaps we’re supposed to join in with the silliness of the middle act with the same abandon as the couple and not worry about the underlying story yet to be resolved. Murnau would reacquaint us when necessary and that time is now.
This is an incredible piece of work. Murnau proudly directs with a passionate and consummate grasp of his ability to stretch the storytelling right into the animated title-cards, montages, comedy asides and pure Expressionism. I loved every second of it. It’s been a long time since I watched a film and immediately watched it again. This fantastic Blu-Ray release gave me an excuse with the alternative version.
I started this review by implying that cinema suffers, at least temporarily, when new innovations derail artists still exploring the limits of their craft. I wonder how aware F.W. Murnau was of this, especially considering the title. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but maybe we shouldn’t look on Sunrise as a swansong of the silent era, but in fact as a beautiful and defiant promise of what is always possible in cinema, an art form able to reinvent itself with every film. Every generation of movie-goers deserves its Sunrise.
(From Jon's Random Reviews on May 22nd, 2011)
Angel Marathon, a review by addicted2dvd
Angel: Season 1
2. Lonely Hearts
Another of Doyle's visions leads the newly formed Angel Investigations to a trendy bar where they face off against a worm-like demon who eviscerates its victims.
This is the first episode that has the character of Detective Kate Lockley. It is a pretty good episode... but not what I would call a great one. I liked the introduction of Kate... and it did have some good fight scenes in it. But for some reason it didn't click for me. Maybe because I never been one to frequent bars and clubs. I did however get a kick out of Doyle getting into a bar fight to defend Cordelia's honor. That is another thing... I always disliked Cordelia in the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But in this series I like her. Only a little at this point... but she soon grows as a person... and as she does she grew on me as well.
(From Angel Marathon on December 22nd, 2009)