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Posts Tagged ‘FW Murnau’

I wrote some time ago about how a series of my paintings from several years back, the Outlaws series, had been influenced heavily by the imagery from a number of silent movies.  One that I mentioned specifically was Sunrise, the 1927 film from the great German Expressionist director FW Murnau of Nosferatu fame.  I mention this today because TCM is showing the film tonight at 9 PM EST.

The film was made at a really interesting time in the history of films.  Just as talking pictures were emerging ,  silent films were reaching their apex of artistic expression.  Within a few years they would be gone completely.

This film is the answer to a trivia question in that it won won the award for Best Picture  at the first Oscars ceremony in 1928.  Trivia fans will be shouting at this point saying that I’m wrong, that Wings won the first Best Picture award.  Well, they’re correct but I so am I, as Sunrise won the award for Best Picture: Unique and Artistic Production. There were originally two awards to honor two separate  aspects of the industry- the popular and the artistic.  This practice ended after this ceremony and  Sunrise became the only winner of the award for a unique and artistic film.

The cinematography in this film is beautiful and there is a long continuous shot from inside a streetcar that shows the city passing by that is breathtaking for its freshness, even by today’s standards.  The story is a fable telling the story of farmer and his wife and his struggles with a big-city temptress who nearly lures him into murdering his wife.  It is beautifully expressed and is a must-see for anyone who has seen more than enough special effects extravaganzas of the Transformers sort.  It is considered by many critics to be the finest silent film ever made and some even rank it up there with Citizen Kane as one of the greatest films ever.

I always hesitate in recommending films because we all have such different and subjective preferences, but if you get a chance and have any interest, take a look tonight on TCM.

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The FearA few days back I talked briefly about a series of pieces from 2006 called Outlaws, small and dark figurative paintings of individuals sometimes looking out windows, sometimes holding handguns.  They were a departure and some followers of my work were a bit put off.  Some were fearful of the figures, seeing them as menacing.  Most saw the fear in these characters, their past haunting them.

There was an observation I made concerning people’s reactions.  Those who were disturbed by the images saw the central figure as an intruder peering in through the window.  Those who were more empathetic with these figures saw them looking out the window.  They saw that these characters were the fearful ones.

These pieces were inspired by some silent films I was watching at the time.  These films from around 1918-1927 were made in the aftermath of the first World War, a time when expressionism emerged.  Many of these films were dark and gritty, filled with raw emotion and violence.  When two figures fought, it was not the clean, one-punch knockouts of later films.  They grappled, clawing at one another in a horrible realism.  One that stands out is  Sunrise  from the great F.W. Murnau, probably best known for his vampire classic,  Nosferatu.  It is the story of a married farmer seduced by a city woman who conspires to kill his wife and go to the city.  It’s a great story that is dark and full of wonderful imagery.  There is a train ride into the city that is a great piece of film.  Though most people think that Wings won the first Oscar for best picure, Sunrise won the award that year as Most Unique and Artistic Production, a short lived award that basically  split the Best Movie award into two parts.  It was great then and is still quite moving.Confession

Also, around that time I saw a group of Goya’s small pieces at the Frick in NYC.  They were done by covering  ivory palates with carbon and dripping water on to the surface then manipulating the puddle until an image emerges.  I was taken by them, mainly because I fully understood the technique.  It was how I had taught myself to paint.  I saw it as an opportunity to express the faces and figures that have inhabited my mind for decades.

I only do a few of these a year now and the handful I have in the studio are what I consider personal treasures that still provoke thought from me, time and time again.Night and the City

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