Saturday, August 17, 2019

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

At the first Academy Award ceremony the silent film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won three Oscars -- best Actress for Janet Gaynor (along with her roles in 7th Heaven and Street Angel), best Cinematography and Best Unique and Artistic Picture (Wings won Outstanding Picture, and this category was discontinued in later award ceremonies).

This silent film surprised me in many ways, including it's complex non-heroic main character played by George O'Brien. As the film begins he's abandoning his wife (Janet Gaynor) and child in the country to pursue a romantic relationship with "the woman from the city (Margaret Livingston), who wants him to drown his wife -- and with an opening few minutes that begin like that I found myself shocked that this was a silent film from nearly a century ago embraced by any part of the film community at that time.

The film contains some uniquely sophisticated special effects, an elaborate "city set" that shocked me to learn it was specially made for this film. Further, I thought this film was a unique presentation of what silent films could be, even in the sense that there was a mix of tones (sentimental, dramatic, jovial) and as the film progressed the drama and connection to the characters progresses without the need for title cards to tell the story.

I'm glad this lauded film is a part of the top 250 list and that it's presence here inspired me to cross it off the list of the top 250 films I have not yet watched.

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