Well, it was bound to happen. I’m nearly 20 movies in to my countdown and I finally had my first “WTF” moment. I can’t believe Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is on any list of top films let alone the AFI list of the 100 best American films of all time. I have nothing against so-called classics. And I don’t even mind silent films — I enjoy a good Charlie Chaplin flick and understand the cinematic importance of early films like The Birth of a Nation and Battleship Potemkin. In a 2002 critics’ poll for the British Film Institute, Sunrise was even named the seventh-best film in the history of motion pictures. I get that it was 1927 and technically the film was a first in many areas. I just don’t care — the film was ridiculous.
Here’s the entire plot (SPOILER ALERT!): A married man who lives in the country has an affair with a sexy woman from the city. The vixen tries to convince him to kill his wife so he can run off to the city with her. The next day he takes his wife on a boat ride and as he’s about to reach over and strangle her he has a change of heart. The boat docks on the shore and when she gets off she runs to a cable car…he follows…and they end up in the city. He continues to follow her until they end up at a wedding, at which the man breaks down and cries, begging his wife for forgiveness. She forgives him, and then they gallavant around the city — he gets a shave and then they take a photo — then they go to a carnival where they dance and eat a fancy meal. On the way back to the country a freak storm hits and capsizes the boat and in the morning he ends up on shore and thinks his wife is dead. A search party confirms her body is lost. The city woman is thrilled and comes over to grab her man, but he is furious and tries to kill her! Just when he’s about to snap her neck the wife is miraculously found alive. The man and wife live happily ever after and the city woman presumably slinks back to the city.
It’s a silly premise, but even more than that the guy is an ass. First, he cheats on his wife. Then, within one 24 hour period he tried to kill his wife and his mistress. And his wife forgives him FOR TRYING TO KILL HER and then moments later is all lovey dovey. It’s so unbelievable that even if it is a landmark in cinematography I could care less because the plot had me shaking my head from start to finish. This is one of those “classics” that gets listed as a “best of” based on pure industry snobbery and high brow artistic B.S.
Next Up: Spartacus!