Review of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Moving picture, 94 minutes

A modern myth: The recent happiness of a rural married couple has been choked by the husband’s infatuation with a woman from the city. She convinces him to invite his wife on a boating trip with murderous intent, but matters take a different turn.

The symbolic grand farewell of populist silent cinema in Hollywood, as highly refined as it ever got.

Fortunately it is well worth watching as sheer entertainment, but its place in history is fascinating enough: It won three Oscars the first time anybody could, including the first and last award for “Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production”, but failed financially. The public preferred The Jazz Singer (1927) for its technical novelty (Sunrise does have recorded music and some sound effects, mainly crowds, but no synchronous talking). Lavish sets, beautiful in-camera trick filming, a relatively mobile point of view (something early sound films could not replicate with their inchoate microphones and heavy soundproofed cameras), great story, good acting and interesting parallels between the makers and their work.

References here: The Artist (2011).

moving picture fiction