One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.
These lyrics from the 1971 musical, Fiddler on the Roof aptly describes this weeks’ two films. Both have titles involving solar interactions, be it the sunset and fading into obscurity of a famous starlet or the sunrise of a reinvigorated love between a couple from the country.
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours
“One season following another” is perhaps the best description of the transition from silent films to the “talkies.” And while some took this transition with grace and submission, others resisted it with all of their being. Yet, even though the main character (Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond) is resistant to the talkies, Sunset Boulevard is home to such famous quotes as, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” and, “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small,” both ironically being said by Norma Desmond. Having won three Oscars as well as being nominated for eight more (including Best Picture), the American Film Institute has placed Sunset Boulevard as high as #12 on its top 100 list (in the updated list, it slipped to #16, which is still incredibly high).
William Holden portrays Joe Gillis, a screenwriter who is out of money and out of optimism. While trying to lose some repo men, he happens to find himself on Sunset Boulevard at the luxurious mansion of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Norma used to be big in the era of silent films and has since become a forgotten figure with the advancement of films into the talkie era. In order to come back into the public spotlight, she gets Joe to write her into a remake of the film Salome. As Joe tries to juggle keeping Norma happy along with his own life, he eventually gets in over his head . . . literally, and with water in the pool he always wanted.
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 94 minutes / 1.57 hours
“Laden with happiness and tears” is the perfect description of this classic by famous silent-era director, F. W. Murnau. While not receiving the award for overall Best Picture (claimed by Wings in the first Academy Awards), Sunrise received an award for Best Picture with the caveat of “Unique and Artistic Production.” Indeed, Sunrise deserves every bit of that distinction. The cinematography and special effects for this film made it feel much further beyond its time, spurned on by the skills of Murnau and his German expressionism (most evident in Nosferatu (1922)). By far one of the best dramatic silent films made in America, the American Film Institute has placed Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans at #82 on its top 100 list.
The plot of Sunrise is as basic and as timeless as they come. A country man is being tempted by a local seductress, who convinces him that he needs to get rid of his wife. While out on a boating trip to the big city, the man comes close to killing his wife, but cannot go through with it. Despondent at what he almost committed, he finishes the trip to the other side, where a carnival awaits. Through some amusing events, including the chasing of a drunken pig, the couple falls back in love with each other. However, on the stormy return to their town, the boat capsizes, leading to a very touching ending. Indeed, it is a song of two humans laden with happiness and tears.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 transitions of the sun