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Persona

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

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Persona   

I haven't viewed either of these yet, but finally broke down and bought them both. I have the Sunrise DVD, it only cost me about $30 after being more than two times that amount a few months ago, so like i said, i broke down. I also have Faust on VHS. In the spirit of caring and sharing, if anyone would like to borrow either of these after i watch them this week, send me an email and let me know. (stef@stefloy.com)

-s.

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Persona   

It's the one that was only made available if you bought like three other classic DVDs as a part of the Fox Studios Classics edition, and there was no other way to attain it. For a while it was selling for over $60 on ebay but prices have recently dropped. It looks great, i did put it in just to view the first 10 or 15 minutes, and at least it looks fully restored.

The ebay add where i bought it said:

"FEATURES: Original Movietone Score (Mono) , Alternate Olympic Chamber Orchestra Score (Stereo) , French Subtitles , Spanish Subtitles , Audio Commentary by ASC Cinematographer John Bailey , Outtakes With Commentary by John Bailey , Outtakes With Text Cards , Original Scenario by Carl Mayer With Annotations by Murnau , Theatrical Trailer , Still Gallery , "Sunrise" Sceenplay , Restoration Notes , Murnau's Lost Film "Four Devils" , "Four Devils" Treatment , "Four Devils" Sceenplay , ---- ----This is the real thing, it is a Region 1, NTSC US release. This is not a PAL, Bootleg, Asian, or anything of the sort, it is real."

-s.

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stef wrote:

: It's the one that was only made available if you bought like three other

: classic DVDs as a part of the Fox Studios Classics edition . . .

Ah, right. Hmmm. I have one of those Fox DVDs (The Day the Earth Stood Still), and I am very tempted to get at least one of the others (All About Eve). I think The Song of Bernadette is also part of that series, yes? If so, that might be one to get, too. Hmmm. We consumers have until the end of January to take advantage of this offer. Will ponder this.

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mrmando   

I should be interested in seeing those Murnau films ... give a holler.

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Persona   

Russell gets first dibs. PM him your address.

-s.

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Persona   

Lots of thoughts after my late-night Halloween exploration of Faust. Don't know if anyone's seen it, but Russell and Mando are obviously going to, so i'll post some things to watch out for.

The film makes absolutely no sense in terms of the struggle in the heavens. After Mephisto and the angel make a wager that Faust will sell his soul for the right to change things on earth, Faust quickly realizes it's easier to blame God than to be God... He turns to folly, falls in love and is martyred with his love, Gretchen. For what, i'm not sure. I think it was because they were sexually active, but the film only shows them kissing. Then again, she shows up later with a baby so i guess they were doing more than that, but they had all their clothes on in the love scene so it must have been immaculate conception. wink.gif The point that clearly stands out in the end, a point i just can't understand a person as smart as Murnau letting the film sink to, is that the wager is nullified because of the act of love. This made no sense in the context of the film, or if it did i missed it.

The effects in the first 20 minutes were awesome in an old-school kind of way. It's funny to think that a film from the 20s could have effects that stand out more clearly than, say, the Godzilla films of the 60s. I think it's because the effects here are more like a metaphor than an actual visual styling. They further the reality of what's happening in the heavens so well. The scene of Mephisto hovering over the little town would turn Frank Peretti on. It was wicked. Also, the actor who played the older version of Faust was so great looking, with his scraggly long beard blowing in the wind and smoke rising all around him.

There's a fascinating clip towards the end where Gretchen is trying to save her baby's life. In one scene she holds her baby up and begs for someone to take it out of the cold. It's great looking, but begs the question -- how did she and her baby end up in the winter cold homeless? In the scene right before this she was in her mother's house, kneeling at a chair her mother used to sit in.

I really liked Murnau's effects and the questions he seemed to be asking in the first half of the film. From what i've seen, he is clearly a better director than Lang, with greater stories and a superior lens for relaying them. There were some great spiritual quesitons filling up the screen, but the ending made no sense in terms of the Job-like wager in the heavens, and i'd be welcome to comments explaining this.

-s.

Edited by stef

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

Stefbo, mrmando,

I've been very delinquent. I intended to turn these around quickly, but things got in the way. Things like patching, priming and painting our living room in the hours after the kids are in bed so that our living room would be ready to accomodate our Christmas tree and Christmas guests. We sat down last night to watch Sunrise. I was captivated by the hour that I saw before I made like Kara watching Psycho and went unconscious. Ali watched to the end and loved it.

I'll report back with more comments later and these will go in the mail to Washington state by Monday the 15th.

Again, I am thankful for your kind consideration.

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Persona   

Hey fellas, just take your time and enjoy.

I'm looking for more people to discuss Sunrise with, so after you check it out report back. Ash saw it and we spent the better portion of a night talking about all of its great qualities. We may have talked ourselves out. Regardless, it didn't stop me from buying a used book about it on Amazon.com last night. Asher and i are going to fave fun reading up on this one.

OH. And it's Kara to you, el wifebo to me.

-s.

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

I fixed that misspelling because I know how awkward spouse name spellings and misspellings can be.

My wife routinely receives mail and telephone calls on the assumption that she is from the middle east.

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Persona   

On the big screen with a newly restored print, this will no doubt be a great night for you, Peter. I'm jealous.

-s.

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

Bizarre. I was planning on seeing this film at the Cinematheque tonight. Thanks for sparing me the task of looking for this thread, boys!

No worries. I'll start a separate thread tomorrow to record my thoughts on the end of the film.

wink.gif

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Thom   

Bizarre. I was planning on seeing this film at the Cinematheque tonight. Thanks for sparing me the task of looking for this thread, boys!

That is ironic. I am with Stef on this one, it is going to be a great night. Sunrise on the big screen, I am a bit jealous.

Maybe I should start a thread on big screen jealousy

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Beautiful film; a bit of a typical silent-era melodrama, which ain't my favorite genre, but memorable just the same. Creative use of titles; I like how the words sink off the screen when the mistress suggests that the man drown his wife; and note how the process is reversed at the end of the film when the word "Finis" rises up onto the screen. I love the shot where the mistress's face overlaps that of the man, tempting from multiple angles simultaneously. I had to laugh when the man and his wife come out of the church where ANOTHER couple has just gotten married; just imagine what the people outside are thinking. Fascinating matte shot when the couple stroll into the street, oblivious to the traffic around them, and the background suddenly turns to a nature shot around them, before the horns and yells from the passers-by bring them back to reality. (Were the music and sound effects for this film there from the beginning? I know that SOME films had music-and-effects tracks in the year or two leading up to The Jazz Singer, which came out in 1927, the same year that Sunrise did. There's one amusing scene in particular where the soundtrack makes use of that classical bit that I believe went on to become the theme song for Alfred Hitchcock's TV show.) The jealousy in the barbershop was priceless, and even though I could tell where the bit where the man pulls out his jack-knife was going, I still jumped when it went there. Speaking of which, the man is rather violent, dontchathink? I'm amazed that EITHER girl would want to go back to him.

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Persona   

Great stuff, Peter.

Yes, that was the part i most didn't understand. The man was a jerk, plain and simple, so why would either woman want him? If he went with the City Girl's plans and killed his wife, it would only prove him morally bankrupt, and if the wife knew she wanted to kill him, what possessed her to let his repentance touch her? He was a violent adulterer. In the words of Dr. Phil, "Just stay away."

But many women have taken in jerks over the years so it doesn't derail the story.

How about that boat-trip sequence? I will never forget that as long as i live.

And when i look at these old films, especially the ones made by Murnau, i am blown away at the crystal clear picture. The shots of the man in the marsh under moonlight in the arms of his mistress... Again, the boat-trip... the city lights... etc, combined with artistically tasteful superimposed shots (the most used special effect of the day)... It makes me want to find Faust on DVD (i've only seen the VHS).

I just received the BFI Film Classics book by Lucy Fischer in the mail today, and it looks like a quick read. I'll report back if there are any more astounding insights. Even a glance at it looks to bring out a few extra themes that we haven't touched on yet.

-s.

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

Ali and I really loved Sunrise. The story itself was both terrifying and charming in the way that Grimm's fairy tales, for example, can be. We were really impressed with his technical tricks. The intertitles were innovative, as Peter mentioned, but we really enjoyed his superimpositions of images.

Stef, I know what you mean concerning the husband's faults, but I really had no problem putting them aside. Everyone in the film is broadly-drawn and not terribly complex character-wise. As an aside (from someone who has seen a negligible number of silent films and would probably be better off not speculating), I wonder whether silent films of the plot-driven variety were somewhat constrained in drawing the characters broadly. Dreyer's Joan isn't broad, of course, but neither is the film plot-driven in the conventional sense. When you've got only intertitles and a lot of story to tell, I'd imagine that subtle nuances of character are hard to incorporate.

Despite that, I still can make out some understanding of the husband's frustrations, as misguided as they are. It's the classic tale of city vs. country, and the liberation from marriage and from physical toil are interrelated. It's fool's gold, of course, but he's not a garden variety psychopath, just a guy disgusted with his lot in life, intoxicated by his misperceptions of what city flapper life can be and goaded on by a young woman who is herself not drawn with any complexity. And it's her idea, in the grand tradition of Lady MacBeth. I think the film's success is that when the reconciliation occurs and the final tribulation is over, I've forgiven the guy and believe he is reformed.

What an amazing treatment of the modes of transportation. That setup of the train station is awesome and enormous, especially in contrast to the shots of the village, and it's really great to see how Murnau contrasts the plowing beasts of burden and the pedestrian and unpowered boats of the villagers with the trolley and the auto-trafficked street (sped up for maximum danger effect). The wife escapes from her husband via a city-type conveyance, and that draws them into the city, with all of its attendent dangers.

Q: Is this an "American" film? I know Murnau was German, but the English intertitles make me curious.

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

Oh, and one more note on the use of accompanying sound. My daughters were awake while my wife and I were rewatching the latter part of the film, and when the searchers were looking for the wife, the wailing trumpet repetition was really poignant. My six year-old said she thought it sounded like a name being called. She suggested a name--I can't remember what it was (Donna?), but considering that we don't get a name for the wife, it's a neat guess.

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Persona   

Q: Is this an "American" film?  I know Murnau was German, but the English intertitles make me curious.

Yes it is. Murnnau was one of the directors Germany lost to America. I believe Sunrise was his first American film, but i'd have to take a look over at IMDB to see exactly how many American films he did make. Maybe Doug can help us out with that question.

...when the searchers were looking for the wife, the wailing trumpet repetition was really poignant.  My six year-old said she thought it sounded like a name being called.  She suggested a name--I can't remember what it was (Donna?), but considering that we don't get a name for the wife, it's a neat guess.

That is really interesting, and "Donna" seems like it would be a perfect guess at a young woman's name at that time.

-s.

Edited by stef

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Hmmmm. Saw "Sunrise" several years ago in my "Film History" class. I could be thinking of the wrong film, but doesn't "Sunrise" have an out-of-place "happy" ending that was forced on Murnau by the studio? Stef, does the book you bought go into the history of the making of the movie?

Also, I'm pretty sure my "History" professor discussed Murnau's sexual preference, and how that might be seen in the film. I didn't necessarily buy that theory, but I thought it might merit further study someday. I've not thought much about it in the intervening years. Does the DVD have a documentary that mentions any of this stuff?

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Doug C   

Christian, you're probably thinking of The Last Laugh. Its ending is pretty incongruous with the rest of the film, to the point where many critics claim it is purely sarcasm.

And I consider Sunrise to be one of the greatest films of all time--certainly of the silent era.

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Doug C   

There's a nice little 30-minute doc on the new Tartuffe DVD that talks about Murnau's personal life (cut short by an automobile accident in his early 40s). A towering filmmaker.

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mrmando   

Russell, Stef: Still no sign of those DVDs. Sunrise was showing here in town and I skipped it, figuring I'd get to watch it on the small screen. Any updates on the whereabouts?

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Guest Russell Lucas   
Guest Russell Lucas

mrmando: My profoundest apologies. I have the videos and will be mailing them to you imminently. I just haven't had the time to finish Faust yet and feel like I might not have another chance to see it. My movie-watching lately has been so sporadic and choppy (fifteen minutes of this before falling asleep, fifteen minutes of that before something or other interrupts me and I don't make it back to the movie) that I deleted my seedling Film Journal post out of head-hanging shame.

Again, I am sorry. And sorry for sitting on your movies for so long, stef. Your kindness in sending and lending them hasn't been forgotten in the midst of my inertia.

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