When silent film really succeeds, the fact that there's no dialogue track, completely fades away. Only a musical score and perhaps a few intertitles can allow the images standing alone to be all the more expressive. At least that's the case with F.W. Murnau's Sunrise (1927), which is playing this weekend at Film Forum to begin their Murnau retropective.
One of the great evocations of that movieland type "the vamp," Sunrise tells the story of a simple little family in the country whose husband meets a woman from the big city (a Gothamist, perhaps?) and is tempted to throw it all away.
His first movie made in Hollywood and after a number of successes in Germany, Murnau and his screenwriter Carl Meyer were given free reign artistically and an almost unlimited budget. While this may have adversely affected the rest of Murnau's Hollywood career, it did win his cinematographers Charles Rosher and Karl Struss an Academy Award as well as an Oscar for his leading lady, Janet Gaynor.
The series runs until Sept. 20, with Sunrise playing all this weekend plus day time screenings on Sept 13, 14, 15 and then one more full day on Sept. 16. There's also going to be double features throughout the retrospective with pairings like Nosferatu and the Last Laugh (Sept 17 and 18).