Saturday, April 02, 2011

Janet Gaynor, in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
approximately 38 minutes and 56 seconds
44% of the film

The film

A married farmer falls under the spell of a woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Of course it’s a dated film: it was made over 80 years ago. But getting past that, it does have a hell of an interesting cinematography, very intriguing shots and there are a couple of very inspired directorial choices. Even so, the story made me a bit uncomfortable and I never was fully connected emotionally.

Janet Gaynor as The Wife

Silent movies require a different commitment than a regular movie experience, and that’s not always easy to offer. Even more difficult is to judge the performances that the actors give in such film. Most of the times we don’t see the words on their lips and we can only guess how that certain line from the title card might’ve sounded like. It’s a different movie environment, but when it comes to my rating/ranking I promise I try to stay objective.

Janet Gaynor plays the wife of a farmer, in what is one of her three nominated performances for this Oscar year. She represents the good female character, as opposed to the mistress, and she’s generally presented as a quiet, modest, pretty, supportive wife. As the story takes place in about 24 hours, she goes from being the possible victim of a murder plot to a woman rediscovering the love for her husband and becoming again the object of his affection.

The role is a cliché, no doubt about it, and I would’ve rather seen a film about the Woman from the city, but one can’t deny the fact that Janet does give some warmth to the performance and somehow, at least in the beginning, makes us sympathise with this woman and feel sorry for her. Her face is very expressive and, benefiting from a great direction, the camera is always on her at the right time.

But this is mostly on Janet because the screenplay really does offer too little. In the dramatic scenes, she shines through the emotion displayed; but the more comedic ones are a bit silly and make for too much of a sudden change from the dramatically-charged beginning. The performance is inconsistent because the screenplay goes from giving her little to giving her almost nothing to work with. Her smile and her tears are winning the sympathy of the audience, and you can definitely feel her fear in the first boat scene. But the performance doesn’t have a solid writing to depend on and Janet’s charming way of acting can only do so much. I will go with for this performance, and I swear the blonde wig had no influence on my final judging.

EDIT: The rating for this performance has been changed to a before final conclusions. There are some real honest emotions in the performance.


Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree. It's a hard performance to judge, and one that doesn't have very many great moments but is just kind of serviceable throughout.

Allen said...

I AGREE 100% WITH EVERY SINGLE THING YOU SAY. I give the exact same rating as well--she's just not given anything to work with. But her homeliness is effective. Also:

- My eyeballs fell out of my sockets a couple times during the entire middle section of the film due to my incessant eye rolling.
- The wig is terrible!!!!
- The Woman from the City was fierce and deserved her own starring prequel and sequel.

I'm excited to see your thoughts on the other ladies :)

Alex in Movieland said...

I dunno, I'm curious if I'll even get to give a 3 star. I probably will, but I'm still in the dark considering I haven't seen the rest.