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Alone Across the Pacific (Taiheyo Hitori-Bochi) – The Masters of Cinema Series #69 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Entertaining! Kon Ichikawa’s “Alone Across the Pacific” is a film based on the real life solo trip made by Kenichi Horie from Japan to San Francisco back in 1962.  While a straightforward and predictable film, its execution of flashbacks, character development and beautiful cinematography made this film enjoyable.  “Alone Across the Pacific” is a different kind of Ichikawa film, but still an upbeat and entertaining film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 1963 Nikkatsu Corp., Ltd.  2009 Eureka Entertainment Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Alone on the Pacific (Taiheiyo Hitoribocchi)

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 1963

DURATION: 97 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic, 2:351 OAR, Progressive Transfer, Region 2,

COMPANY: Eureka!/The Masters of Cinema

RATED: PG

RELEASE DATE: February 23, 2009

Directed by Kon Ichikawa

Story by Kenichi Horie

Written by Natto Wada

Produced by Akira Nakai

Associate Producer: Isao Zeniya

Music by Yasushi Akutagawa, Toru Takemitsu

Cinematography by Yoshihiro Yamazaki

Edited by Masanori Tsujii

Art Direction by So Matsuyama

Starring:

Yujiro Ishihara as the Youth

Masayuki Mori as Youth’s Father

Kinuyo Tanaka as Youth’s Mother

Ruriko Asaoka as Youth’s Sister

Hajime Hana as Youth’s Friend

A powerful hymn to the human spirit, Alone Across the Pacific – by renowned Japanese director Kon Ichikawa (An Actor’s Revenge, The Burmese Harp, Tokyo Olympiad) – tells the extraordinary real-life story of one man’s obsessive quest to break free from the strictures of society.

In 1962, Kenichi Horie (Yujiro Ishihara) embarks on a heroic attempt to sail single-handed across the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Osaka in an ill-prepared vessel – The Mermaid – the young adventurer must overcome the most savage of seas, the psychological torment of cabin fever, and his mental and physical breaking point, if he is ever to reach the fabled destination of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Using Horie’s best-selling logbook as his source, Ichikawa portrays the epic struggle of man against nature. ‘Scope cinematography – with Horie isolated in the oceanic expanse of the frame – and a score by celebrated composer Toru Takemitsu, add to the drama of a film for which Ichikawa received a Golden Globe nomination, among other accolades. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Alone Across the Pacific for home viewing in the UK for the very first time.

In 1962, a yachtsman named Kenichi Horie rose to prominence when he illegally sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Nishinomiya, Japan to San Francisco, California.

It was a different time back in 1962 as postwar-Japan had strict rules on its citizens sailing but for three months, but no Japanese has attempted to sail that far but for Horie, it was an obsession, a goal that he had to make happen.  So, Horie braved bad ocean conditions with no passport, not much money and eventually arrived in the United States where he was arrested. But because of the extraordinary feat. which Horie accomplished, he was given a 30-day Visa and awarded a key to the city by the mayor of San Francisco.

Since then, Horie has continued to sale the seas solo in boats that are environmentally friendly, which included a recent 2008 trip in a wave energy-based boat from Hawaii to Japan.

But back in 1962, what Horie accomplished was not only news in America, also in Japan as people were shocked of what he did.  Horie wrote a book titled “Taiheyo Hitori-Bochi” (Alone Across the Pacific) and a year later, the book was adapted into a film by Natto Wada (“Fires on the Plain”, “The Burmese Harp”, “Tokyo Olympiad”) and directed by multi-award winning director Kon Ichikawa (Fires on the Plain”, “The Burmese Harp”, “Otouto”, “Kagi”).  The film marks the first and only collaboration between Ichikawa and cinematographer Yoshihiro Yamazaki  (“A Promise”, “Women Who Do Not Divorce”).

“Alone Across the Pacific” revolves around a youth (played by enka singer and actor Yujiro Ishihara) who is determined to sail the seas from Japan to America illegally.

The youth has worked for his father (played by Masayuki Mori, “Rashomon”, “Ugetsu”, “The Bad Sleep Well”) to save money for the parts needed to build a yacht.  For the youth, he has no interested in college, nor is he driven to have a full-time career.  His  only goal is to travel from Japan to the U.S. and all his family and friends think he’s crazy.

While we watch the youth travel and confront various weather conditions as he is on his way to the U.S., we are greeted with flashbacks of the youth as he confront his father, his worrying mother (played by Kinuyo Tanaka, “Ugetsu”, “Sansho the Bailiff”, “The Life of Oharu”) and his sister (played by Ruriko Asaoka, “Goyokin”, “Toubou”).  His mother worries that he will get arrested or something bad will happen, but no matter what she says, the youth is determined to make his dream a reality.

Even his friend (played by Yujiro Ishihara) tries to dissuade him but everyone knows that the youth is driven by his ambition to sail from Japan to America that there is no stopping him.

For the youth, he is a rebel towards Japanese society and eagerly waits to get away from the growing metropolis, business of the city.  But will the stubborn youth discover something new throughout his difficult journey, especially when he does reach America?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Alone Across the Pacific” marks the first time a Japanese film was shot in America and also marks the first and only collaboration between director Kon Ichikawa and cinematographer Yoshihiro Yamazaki.

The film was shot in Hawaii and San Francisco but also out on sea and while, I’m not too sure how much Nikkatsu put into the visual effects at that time and what was shot out in sea, Yamazaki was able to obtain the effect of a man in solitary, a man who is lonely and capturing the anguish he feels out on sea alone.

The film which is presented in 2:35:1 (original aspect ratio) still looks great for a film that is nearly 50-years-old and the Masters of Cinema did a fantastic job with this new high definition transfer.  There is a sort of softness when it comes to the overall picture quality but considering so many classic Japanese films in color that are laden with dust and scratches, the fact that this film looks very good on DVD is a major plus for me.

As for audio, audio is presented in Dolby Digital monaural.  Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Alone Across the Pacific – The Masters of Cinema Series #69″comes with the following special features:

  • Japanese Trailer – (3:42) Featuring the original Japanese theatrical trailer.
  • Teaser #1 – (2:46) The first theatrical teaser of how “Alone Across the Pacific” was the first Japanese film shot in America.
  • Teaser #2 – (1:38) Featuring the second theatrical teaser for “Alone Across the Pacific”.

EXTRAS:

“Alone Across the Pacific” comes with a 24-page booklet featuring an article “Escaping Japan: The Quest in Ichikawa Kon’s Taiheyo Hitori-Bochi” by Brent Kliewer which was published in the Cinematheque Ontario in 2001.  Plus a reproduction of the original Japanese poster and archival publicity stills.

“Alone Across the Pacific” could have been a clean-cut film and made the character of an ordinary yachtsman traveling the high seas to the United States, and literally making him a hero.

But with Kon Ichikawa films, his characters are never that clean-cut, nor are they shown as perfect individuals.  Natto Wada does another fantastic job of fleshing out the script in providing us an interest and entertaining character narrative for the character of the young man.  The portrayal of the 23-year-old shows a young man against the current trend of Japan.  To be a hardworking person, who goes to college, listens to his family and take on a career or to inherit the family business.  But the youth is a rebel and this is what makes “Alone Across the Pacific” an ideal Nikkatsu film.

Whereas many Nikkatsu-related films on young rebelliousness can be seen in many of their films, what makes “Alone Across the Pacific” satisfying is that there is no society to rebel against in the film.  The young man’s rebelliousness is against his family and by showing it by pursuing his obsession of traveling across the Pacific Ocean.

The young man feels the isolation of riding 92 days in his yacht, braving dangers and realizing that his life can end anytime.  His memories of his family, his dog are all he has and because of the water that enters his ship, he starts to lose any comfort and is left with himself.  Talking to himself, remembering moments he had with his family and coming to a full realization of what mattered more to him when he does reach his goal and arrive in America.

As for the DVD, while not heavy on special features, you do get the two teaser trailers and the theatrical trailer plus the 24-page book.  The 24-page book really goes into detail on the talent and Brent Kliewer’s thoughts about the film.  But the truth is that many Japanese filmmakers aside from Akira Kurosawa, have films that have not been easily accessible to International viewers and “Alone Across the Pacific” is one of those films.  So, for us to have the chance to see his films courtesy of the Masters of Cinema and with a solid presentation in quality is fantastic!

“Alone Across the Pacific” is definitely a film that one can find entertaining and fun in contrast to “Fires on the Plain”, “Kokoro” and “The Burmese Harp”.  And even when compared to Ichikawa’s later works such as “The Makioka Sisters” and “47 Ronin”, “Alone Across the Pacific” is a film that manages to have creativity due to the tight cinematography and making the viewers feel that isolation and tightness of the area.  That there is nothing but that yacht and endless ocean.  The cinematography manages to capture that feeling of the young man, being alone, quite well.

But what I felt was important to the film was its flashbacks.  These flashbacks give depth to the character and in my take, shows that even through the challenges that this man goes through, how he was before, is how he will be after.  For some people, standing in the frontline of death can definitely change ones perspective towards life and one’s habits, but not everyone and in this case, considering the character is based on Kenichi Horie and Horie is still doing this nearly 50-years after he made his first solo trip, we can realize that this is his dream and he’s living it.  In many ways, it goes against traditional Japanese and traditional Japanese ways of doing things.

Granted, the film is quite predictable but I still found “Across the Pacific” quite entertaining.  It may not be the best film from Kon Ichikawa but it still manages to contain the elements of character building that his films are known for.

If you enjoyed Kon Ichikawa films in the past and want something different and more upbeat, definitely give “Alone Across the Pacific” a chance!


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City Girl – The Masters of Cinema Series #8 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“City Girl” looks gorgeous on Blu!  Eureka! strikes gold again with the latest in their Masters of Cinema Series.

 

© 1930 FOX Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: City Girl – The Masters of Cinema Series #8

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (24 pfs AVC Feature Encode/1:19:1 Original Aspect Ratio), DD2.0, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audo Soundtrack

COMPANY: 20th Century Fox/Eureka!/The Masters of Cinema Series

RATED: UNRATED (Contains Very Mild Violence and Innuendo)

Directed by F.W. Murnau

Written by arion Orth, Berthold Viertel

Titles by H.H. Caldwell, Katherine Hilliker

Dialogue based on the play “The Mud Turtle” by Elliott Lester

Music by Christopher Caliendo

Cinematographer by Ernest Palmer

Edited by H.H. Caldwell, Katherine Hilliker

Production Design by Edgar G. Ulmer

Art Direction by Harry Oliver

Costume Design by Sophie Wachner

 

Starring:

Charles Farrell as Lem Tustine

Mary Duncan as Kate

David Torrence as Lem’s father

Edith Yorke as Lem’s mother

Anne Shirley as Marie Tustine

Tom McGuire as Matey

Richard Alexander as Mac

Patrick Rooney s Butch

After the visual fireworks of Sunrise and the now-lost splendour of 4 Devils, F.W. Murnau turned his attention to this vivid, painterly study of an impulsive and fragile marriage among the wheatfields of Minnesota.

During a brief stay in Chicago, innocent farmer’s son Lem falls for and weds Kate, a hard-bitten but lonely waitress. Upon bringing her home at the start of harvest time, the honeymoon soon turns into a claustrophobic struggle as they contend with the bitter scorn of his father and the invasive, leering jealousy of the farm’s laboring community.

With the success of F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” back in 1927 and following up with two more Hollywood productions with “4 Devils” and “Tabu”, the filmmaker wanted to work on his next film titled “Our Daily Bread”.

The film was made in 1930 and was renamed “City Girl” and two versions were made.  One that is a silent and one with sound.  Unfortunately, for 40-years, no one one knew what happened to the film until the silent version was found in 1970 but the version with sound has never been found to this day.

But the film received restoration and now Eureka! is releasing a HD version of “City Girl” on Blu-ray as part of the company’s “The Masters of Cinema Series”.

“City Girl” is often compared to “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”.  With the latter being known as one of the greatest silent films ever made, “City Girl” is not as deep and was not as appreciated back then as it is now.

Where “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” featured a vamp from the city tries to cajole a farmer to kill his wife and move to the big city with her.  In “City Girl”, it’s the opposite.

The film revolves around a young man named Lem Tustine (played by Charles Farrell) who’s father is worried about the family wheat business and noticing the price of wheat plummeting.

The father (played by David Torrence) sends Lem from a small town in Minnesota to the big city of Chicago to sell the wheat for a good price.  Upon arriving to the city,  and when Lem grabs a bite at a restaurant and this is where he meets a beautiful waitress named Kate (played by Mary Duncan) and both literally fall for each other.

Meanwhile, as  Lem tries to sell the wheat, unfortunately prices continue to plummet and he sells it nearly $800 less than what his father wanted.  Lem knows his father is going to be unhappy and he’s absolutely unhappy that he has to go back home after he has fallen for Kate.

When he asks Kate about the big city, she’s not so thrilled about living in it and when Lem tells her that he wants to marry her and bring her back to the country, she agrees.

As the newlyweds go back to the country, unfortunately things are not going as smooth as the couple would want.  Lem’s father is beyond angry that he sold the wheat for a low price and thinks that Kate is a vamp who is trying to get a piece of the family business (which she is not) and during an argument, Lem’s father slaps her across the face.

Kate explains to Lem…and upset as he is, he knows that he is unable to do anything about it which shocks Kate.

Meanwhile, the hired hands who work on the wheat hear that Lem has brought his beautiful young wife to the country and that the father is trying to split them up.  Immediately, the men start to find a way to get closer to Kate, especially Mac (played by Richard Alexander) who falls for Kate and will do what he can to steal her away from Lem.

Will Lem and Kate stay as a couple?  And can the city girl survive in the country?

VIDEO:

“City Girl” receives its first major 1080p High Definition treatment (24fps AVC).  Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:19:1 , “City Girl” looks absolutely awesome on Blu-ray for a film that is 80-years-old.

A fine layer of grain is included on the picture and a few dust particles can be seen with a few lines going down.  But Eureka! has done a fantastic job in showcasing the FOX restored version of the film.  Blacks are nice and deep while whits and grays  look very good on Blu-ray.

According to Eureka!, for the 2010 Masters of Cinema Series Blu-ray edition, the company decided against HD-DVNR, MTI or other forms of digital resotration or grain removal as test revealed noticeable disruption in tonal quality.  Similar to their release of Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “Vampyr: The Strange Adventure of Allan Gray”, the decision was to keep the level of damage still present to what one would see if  the same 35mm restored film was projected theatrically.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Eureka! via “The Masters of Cinema” has released “City Girl” in Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  This silent film features a new 2008 score composed and arranged by Christopher Caliendo.

The soundtrack by Caliendo works well with this film but I do wish that Eureka! added several more choices for audio score.

There are no subtitles but English Intertitles are included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“City Girl – The Masters of Cinema Series #8” comes with the following special features:.

  • Audio Commentary – Full-length audio commentary by film scholar David Kalat.

EXTRAS:

A 28-page booklet with “Reaching Beyond the Frame – Murnau’s City Girl” by Adrian Danks (head of Cinema Studies at RMIT University) which is a reprinting of an article published on “Senses of Cinema” back in 2003 and also featured in the booklet are images from the film.

“City Girl” is an enjoyable film and of course, compared to Murnau’s masterpiece “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”, comparisons of these two films are like apples and oranges.  Both are Murnau films, both can be enjoyed but one you may like more than the other.

Where “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” was like an adventure full of gags and an elaborate set design showcasing Murnau’s creative style of filmmaking, “City Girl” is more dramatic and focuses on the love between a man and a woman, a husband and wife and the challenges that they face.

I felt that actress Mary Duncan shined for the role of “Kate” and performances by both Duncan and Charles Farrell (Lem) and David Torrence (Lem’s father) was well-done.

But when you start to look back in the past of when “City Girl” was released, it was years when people were becoming excited with the introduction talkies (audio on film).  With the success of “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, films were somewhat in a limbo because people either loved or started to lose love for silent films and then the emergence of the talkies were typically bad and many theaters couldn’t support Vitaphone or Movietone.

And unfortunately, like many films during this era, they were lost and not seen for decades.  Despite the 1937 fire that destroyed 80-90% of Fox’s silent films, fortunately the discovery of Murnau’s underrated film “City Girl” can be seen via this restored version for the masses.

The Blu-ray release of “City Girl” looks absolutely divine and sure, there is going to be scratches and dust that can be seen on print but for the most part, the detail and clarity of the film is absolutely beautiful.  Eureka! has done a fantastic job once again for this Blu-ray release.

Overall, if you are a Murnau or a silent film fan, this is a highly recommended film.  And the fact that it’s not region-coded means you can play this on any Blu-ray player.   In the end, “City Girl” may not be as deep as “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” but it’s definitely an entertaining, romantic film worth watching.

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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – The Masters of Cinema Series #1 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” is not only just a F.W. Murnau masterpiece, it’s simply a classic film that is the epitome of a “must-see film”.   The Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release of the film  is the definitive version to own! Simply magnificent! If we had to give a score for this film, then definitely an A+.

© 1927 FOX Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – The Masters of Cinema Series #1

DURATION: 93 Minutes (Movietone Version), 79 Minutes (Czech Version)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:20:1 and 1:37:1 original aspect ratios), 24fps AVC encodes for both features, 480p extras, Dolby TrueHD with Dolby Digital 2.0

COMPANY: 20th Century Fox/Eureka!/The Masters of Cinema Series

RATED: UNRATED (Contains Mild Thread and Violence)

Directed by F.W. Murnau

Written by Hermann Sudermann (Die Reise nach Tilsit), Carl Mayer (Scenario), Katherine Hilliker and H.H. Caldwell (titles)

Produced by William Fox

Cinematography by Charles Rosher, Karl Struss

Edited by Harold D. Schuster

Art Direction by Rochus Gliese

Movietone Score by Hugo Risenfeld and Olympic Chamber Orchestra

Starring:

George O’Brien as The Man

Janet Gaynor as The Wife

Margaret Livingston as The Woman from the City

Bodil Rosing as the Maid

J. Farrell MacDonald as The Photographer

Ralph Sipperly as The Barber

Jane Winton as the Manicure Girl

This new 2009 reissue of Sunrise (for the first time anywhere in the world in 1080p HD on Blu-ray, in addition to a newly mastered 2 x DVD set) contains two versions of the film: the previously released Movietone version, and an alternate silent version of the film recently discovered in the Czech Republic. The Blu-ray edition includes both versions in 1080p HD.

The culmination of one of the greatest careers in film history, F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise blends a story of fable-like simplicity with unparalleled visual imagination and technical ingenuity. Invited to Hollywood by William Fox and given total artistic freedom on any project he wished, Murnau’s tale of the idyllic marriage of a peasant couple (George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor) threatened by a Machiavellian seductress from the city (Margaret Livingston) created a milestone of film expressionism.

Made in the twilight of the silent era, it became both a swan song for a vanishing medium and one of the few films to instantly achieve legendary status. Winner of three Oscars for Best Actress (Gaynor), Cinematography, and a never-repeated award for “Unique and Artistic Picture”, its influence and stature has only grown with each passing year. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present a new 2xDVD and Blu-ray special edition of the film, including an all-new alternate version recently discovered in a Czech archive of a higher visual quality than any other known source.

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” is not only just a F.W. Murnau masterpiece, it’s simply a classic film that is the epitome of a “must-see film”.   The Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release of the film  is the definitive version to own! Simply magnificent!

In 1927, German film director F.W. Murnau (known for his role in German Expressionism) was invited by William Fox to make an Expressionist film for Hollywood and in return, Murnau created a film that would simply become a true classic and a true masterpiece with “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”.

The film is highly regarded as a masterpiece and is featured in the American Film Institute’s “100 Movies List of Great Films” (#82) and the British Film Institute’s critic’s poll as the seventh best film in motion pictures.  The film won an Academy Award for “Unique and Artistic Production” at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929 (including “Best Actress in a Leading Role” for Janet Gaynor and “Best Cinematography” for Charles Rosher and Karl Struss) and was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Although the film was highly regarded then and now, the film was not a success at the box office because of its creative and artistic interpretation while critics were calling it a true masterpiece.

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” was the first film with a soundtrack of music and sound effects utilizing Fox’s Movietone souund-on-film system and for its creative and artistic style, the use of groundbreaking cinematography during that time would influence many filmmakers and even has been referred to as the “Citizen Kane” of American silent cinema.

Despite the original negative for the film being destroyed in 1937 due to a major nitrate fire (nearly 80-90% of Hollywood’s silent films by Fox Film Corporation’s created between 1910-1920’s were destroyed) at Fox’s storage facility in New Jersey.  Fortunately, a 1936 print held by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the NFTVA were still present (the UCLA print was later destroyed due to advance decomposition in 1992).  In 1995, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill of Photoplay Productions prepared a new print for the 1995 London Film Festival using the NFTVA print and in 2002, restoration talks for the film began.  A fifth generation 1940 nitrate negative print was found in 2002 and then a 1927 print loaned by the Narodni Filmovy Archv in Prague featured a Czech version of footage not featured in the American release.

Eureka! via “The Masters of Cinema” has released “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” featuring both Movietone and Czech films on the Blu-ray release and with a choice of the monaural Movietone score and the stereo Olympic Chamber Orchestra score.

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” is a film about a man (played by George O’Brien) who is a farmer and is married to his loving wife (played by Janet Gaynor).  Both raise their child but things have not gone so well for the farming business and the man has been having an affair with a woman from the city (played by Margaret Livingston).

The woman from the city wants him to end his relationship with his wife and suggests that he kill her by taking her out to the ocean via a boat and pretending that the two have drowned but he can survive by holding on to branches.  But he is not sure if he can do it… but knows that if he is going to have this new life with the woman from the city, he must.

So, he takes his wife out for a boat ride with the intent to kill her and as he is about to, she prays for him not to and then the sound of a church bell changes his mind.  He can’t believe what he was about to do and nor can his wife, who upon reaching to shore, runs away from him.

He goes to chase her to apologize but she is too frightened.  She takes a train for the city and he follows.  He tries his best to apologize but his wife is so saddened and fearful that her husband had tried to kill her and he regrets everything that he had done.  But during a stop when the two go see a wedding and a priest is saying the vows, that is when the man realizes that he has done his wife wrong and realizes that he loves her.  The two then spend a day together in the city and to rekindle the love they had when they were single and to show each other their love.  Meanwhile the man’s mistress from the city awaits at his home to see if he went through with killing his wife and so they can be together.

VIDEO:

“Sunrise: A Song for Two Humans” were shot with two cameras thus one has the aspect ration of 1:20:1 and the other with 1:37:1  According to Eureka!, the Blu-ray version of the films were encoded with both HD masters in 1080p AVC format on BD50.   Eureka! decided against HD-DVNR, MTI or other forms of digital restoration or grain removal after tests revealed noticeable disruptions of the film’s “Sfumato” qualities in many scenes.  And thus, their hands off approach was their respect to the filmmaker and the patina of the image. The level of damage still present is exactly what you would see if the film was projected via 35mm theatrically.

Having not seen any previously DVD or VHS release of “Sunrise: A song of Two Humans”, I can tell you that from what I saw… despite it having some scratches and dust, I was very impressed with the picture quality of the film on Blu-ray considering the film is over 80-years-old.  According to my associates who have compared this film to the previous standard definition releases from Fox and Eureka!, this HD release of the film is absolutely fantastic!

I will say that the Czech version is a bit much more difficult to watch because it’s missing frames and thus I prefer the Movietone version.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Eureka! via “The Masters of Cinema” has released “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” featuring both Movietone and Czech films on the Blu-ray release and with a choice of the monaural Movietone score and the stereo Olympic Chamber Orchestra score by Timothy Brock.  According to Eureka!, the absence of any surviving soundtrack for the Czech version led Fox to roughly approximate the Movietone score to it in 2008.

Original English intertitles on the Movietone version are featured and optional English subtitles on the silent Czech version.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – The Masters of Cinema Series #1” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Full-length audio commentary by ASC cinematographer John Bailey on the Movietone version.  Interesting to hear Bailey’s comments, especially on the camerawork and effects used.
  • Outtakes – (9:57) Outtakes with optional John Bailey commentary.  It’s amazing that a film of this age has any outtakes.  So, I was surprised to see this on the Blu-ray.
  • Murnau’s 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film – (40:55) Janet Bergstrom’s updated 40-minute documentary about the lost Murnau film “4 Devils” featuring still pictures, art and details of scenes from the film.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (1:50) The original silent theatrical trailer.
  • Original ‘photoplay’ script – The original “photoplay” script by Carl Mayer with Murnau’s handwritten annotations (150 pages in pdf format).  You can download these from the Masters of Cinema website as well.
  • 20-Page booklet – Illustrated booklet with film restoration and DVD/Blu-ray transfer information, along with a comparison between the two versions.

I have wanted to see “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” for such a long time.  I’ve waited with heavy anticipation for UK-based entertainment company Eureka! to release this film via Blu-ray courtesy of their Masters of Cinema series and I am so grateful that they decided to release this film with no region encoding, so anyone from all over the world that has a Blu-ray player can enjoy this film.

After watching the film, I can’t help but gush about how fantastic this film is.  From the crowded streets in the city to the innovative camerawork and editing, I was simply amazed of what was accomplished back then.  The film is literally gripping as the film has its share of action and drama and literally from beginning to end, “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” manages to captivate you courtesy of George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor.

O’Brien plays the man from the country with such a great presence as Gaynor transforms from this sad housewife to this vibrant woman, especially in one scene with the crowd ask the two to dance.  But the camera work and artistic presentation was just phenomenal.  The whole city sequence created on the Fox back lot with hundreds of extras and cars from that era in a traffic jam to the man and wife attending a fair.  I don’t know how much was spent on this film but everything on camera just worked. I was overwhelmed by how magnificent this film was but then watching the special features that came on the Blu-ray release, especially the slight differences from the Movietone and Czech version was quite interesting to see, especially to know that we will never be known of what was the final cut that Murnau had wanted due to the original print being destroyed in the Fox Warehouse and many other prints out there suffering from major deterioration.

But what we are able to see on this Blu-ray release, again…I’m grateful for Eureka! for releasing this Blu-ray via non-region but most importantly, choosing a silent film for its first major release on Blu-ray.  If anything, I am more inclined to purchase the Murnau DVD box sets out right now and look forward to watching the Master of Cinema’s next Murnau Blu-ray release “City Girl”.

Overall, “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” is simply magnificent and this Blu-ray release is just outstanding! If I had to give this film a rating, then definitely an… A+!

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