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Lem goes to Chicago to sell the wheat his family has grown on their farm in Minnesota. There he meets the waitress Kate. They fall in love and get married before going back to the farm. Kate is accepted by Lem's mother and kid sister but is rejected by his father, who believes she married for the money. (And the fact that Lem didn't get a fair price for the wheat is her fault too). The reapers arrive and quickly they make things even more complicated by making their move on Kate. Lem misunderstands the situation and believes Kate is actually interested. In despair Kate leaves the farm and Lem goes looking for her. Written by
Frank Dabelstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fairly familiar story, but told with real intimacy, restrained acting, and Murnau's always sensitive and virtuoso direction.
Murnau has been compared to Welles, since both directors have cultured, poetic sensibilities, work brilliantly with actors, and constantly experiment, testing and expanding the expressive possibilities of the film medium, but here is the difference:
Welles was an extrovert, a showman, parading his brilliance. Murnau, no less brilliant, is more subtle. His SUNRISE is to the silent era what CITIZEN KANE is to the sound era, but even in that film his innovations are "the art that conceals art".
A casual viewer will see nothing in CITY GIRL but a nice story, well-executed. But the film is full of technical bravura for cinema fans: notice the perfection of the process shots in the opening train sequence. You didn't see this done as well in many major Hollywood films made even in the 1950s. Notice the farmhouse scenes where both the interiors and the brightly sunlit exteriors, visible through windows and doors, are PERFECTLY exposed. Even today, in the 21st century, we see films in which this isn't handled as well as Murnau & Co. do it here in 1928.
I saw the 90 minute silent version, which is the one to seek out -- not the shortened, half-talkie version.
Murnau's combination of technical brilliance, bold experimentation, superb direction of actors, and deep emotional sensitivity is practically unique in film history. He did EVERYTHING well. And if you have a chance to see his much earlier DER BRENNENDE ACKER (THE BURNING EARTH) see how much of this he was already achieving even with the primitive techniques and equipment of 1922. What a tragedy such a genius had to die in a car accident at the youthful age of 42.
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