Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Coming Thursday, March 6 in Plymouth, N.H.:
'Sunrise' (1927) at the Flying Monkey

George O'Brien and Margaret Livingston get to know one another in 'Sunrise' (1927).

I've often said it: there's no better film for Valentine's Day than one in which a husband contemplates killing his wife and running off with another woman.

Alas, our Valentine's Day screening of F.W. Murnau's 'Sunrise' (1927), considered by some to be the finest silent film of all, was postponed last month by a snowstorm.

But you can't kill romance, and so the show got rescheduled to Thursday, March 6. Bring your sweetie down to Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center and take in a flick that's sure to warm you up at least a little, even as the cold weather overstays its welcome in these parts.

Here's the press release with all the details. See you at the theater!

* * *

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Academy Award-winning romantic drama 'Sunrise'
coming on Thursday, March 6 at Flying Monkey

Silent film won three Oscars at first-ever Academy Awards,
including 'Best Actress'; show features live music

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Silent film on the big screen with live music returns to the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center with the Academy Award-winning romantic drama 'Sunrise' (1927) on Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10 per person.

The screening of 'Sunrise,' starring Janet Gaynor and George O'Brien, will feature music by silent film composer Jeff Rapsis, who will accompany the film live.

The event, previously scheduled for Valentine's Day, was moved to Thursday, March 6 due to inclement weather.

Gaynor, a popular female star of the silent film era, won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in 'Sunrise.' The movie took top honors in cinematography and was also recognized for "Unique and Artistic Production" at the first-ever awards.

"It's a great way to follow the annual Academy Awards, which take place the Sunday before," said Rapsis, who creates live original scores for the Flying Monkey's monthly silent film series. "If you've never experienced silent film with live music in a theater, this is a good opportunity to check it out."

'Sunrise' tells the story of a young country couple (played by Gaynor and O'Brien) whose marriage is threatened by the presence of a woman from the city (Margaret Livingston) who convinces the man to abandon his wife. Will the young husband go through with a plan to kill his wife? Will true love overcome the obstacles of temptation and the promise of short-term pleasure?

'Sunrise' was made by F. W. Murnau, a German director and one of the leading figures in German Expressionism, a style that uses distorted art design for symbolic effect. 'Sunrise' was made when Murnau was invited by studio chief William Fox to make an Expressionist film in Hollywood.

The resulting movie features enormous stylized sets that create an exaggerated, fairy-tale world. The city street set alone reportedly cost over $200,000 to build, an huge sum at the time. Much of the exterior shooting was done at Lake Arrowhead, Calif.

Full of cinematic innovations, the groundbreaking cinematography (by Charles Rosher and Karl Struss) featured moving cameras and impressive tracking shots. Titles appear sparingly, with long sequences of pure action and the bulk of the story told in Murnau's signature style. The extensive use of forced perspective is striking, particularly in a shot of the City with normal-sized people and sets in the foreground and smaller figures in the background by much smaller sets.

The story of 'Sunrise' is told as a visual allegory with few specific details. The characters have no names, and the setting is not named in order to make the tale more universal and symbolic.

With a full title of 'Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans,' the film is regarded as one of the high points of the silent cinema. In 1988, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress for films that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The Sight and Sound poll of 2012 for the British Film Institute named 'Sunrise' the fifth-best film in the history of motion pictures by critics, and 22nd by directors.

Critics continue to hail 'Sunrise' as one of the best films of all time.

"F.W. Murnau's 'Sunrise' conquered time and gravity with a freedom that was startling to its first audiences," wrote Roger Ebert in 2004. "To see it today is to be astonished by the boldness of its visual experimentation.

The Flying Monkey originally opened a silent film moviehouse in the 1920s, and showed first-run Hollywood films to generations of area residents until closing several years ago. The theater has since been renovated by Alex Ray, owner of the Common Man restaurants, who created a performance space that hosts a wide variety of music acts.

Movies of all types, however, are still a big part of the Flying Monkey's offerings, and the silent film series is a way for the theater to remain connected to its roots.

Rapsis, who uses original themes to improvise silent film scores, said great silent film dramas such as 'Sunrise' used their lack of dialogue to create stories that concentrated on the "big" emotions such as Love, Despair, Anger, and Joy. Because of this, audiences continue to respond to them in the 21st century, especially if they're presented as intended — with a live auience and live music.

"Dramas such as 'Sunrise' were created to be shown on the big screen as a communal experience," Rapsis said. "With an audience and live music, they still come to life as their creators intended them to. So the Flying Monkey screenings are a great chance to experience films that first caused people to fall in love with the movies," he said.

The Flying Monkey usually shows silent films on the second Thursday of each month. Other upcoming films in the Flying Monkey's silent series include:

• Thursday, March 20, 6:30 p.m.: 'The Lost World' (1925). Long before 'Jurassic Park,' Hollywood discovered the power of dinosaurs on-screen in this ground-breaking adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's bizarre tale of prehistoric creatures found living in remote South America.

• Thursday, April 10, 6:30 p.m.: 'Our Hospitality' (1923). Buster Keaton's classic comedy/drama about a long-running family feud in Appalachia of the 1830s. Filled with great gags and a timeless story that culminates in a dramatic river rescue where Buster almost lost his life for real!

• Thursday, May 8, 6:30 p.m.: 'Intolerance' (1916). D.W. Griffith's early blockbuster about man's inhumanity to man weaves together four stories spanning four eras of civilization. Filmed an a vast scale, setting a new standard for Hollywood extravagance.

'Sunrise' will be shown on Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H. Admission is $10 per person. For more information, visit or call (603) 536-2551. For more information about the music, visit

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