Dir: F. W. Murnau | Cast: George O’Brian, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston | US Silent, 87′
Lured to Hollywood by producer William Fox, German Expressionist F.W. Murnau created one of the silent cinema’s last and most luminous masterpieces. Having already made a name for himself on the continent, Sunrise – a tale of two country mice overwhelmed by the temptations of the city after the husband is seduced by a sophisticated urbanite – represented an auspicious Hollywood debut that promised much, but tragically produced little. The recipient at the very first Academy Awards, in 1928, of a special award as the “most unique and artistic production” of the year, Murnau failed to build on its great success and after two more ill-fated Hollywood silents the German director went to Tahiti to recharge his batteries on Tabu.
Posterity alas will never see what impact Murnau would have on the classic era of the thirties because he tragically died in a car accident at the shockingly early age of 42. Richard Chatten
SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (1927) directed by F.W. Murnau. now screening courtesy of the BFI player subscription from 6 March 2023