SUNRISE: A Song of Two Humans

When F.W. Murnau and screenwriter Carl Mayer set out to make their very first Hollywood picture they were given an almost unlimited budget and complete artistic freedom. The result is SUNRISE (1927), one of only a handful of silent pictures without titles (or nearly without them). One of the wisest uses of that budget was hiring Janet Gaynor, one of the biggest names of the time and also one of the few actresses able to retain her star status even after she made the move from silent films to talkies. Her expressions say more than titles ever could have and transform the movie into something more like a visual poem.

This is helped, of course, by Charles Rosher and Karl Strauss whose skillful photography of the misty, moonlit marsh, the bright lights of the city and their reflections on the lake won them the very first Oscar for cinematography. The film won a host of awards, in fact, including a Best Actress for Gaynor and a never repeated award for Unique and Artistic Production. And now that Criterion has released a new 35mm print, you can see it in all its original glory at Film Forum for one week only.