City Girl Blu Ray Review

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Masters of Cinema continue their promising output on the blu ray format with F.W. Murnau’s City Girl from 1930. It seems appropriate to have this release with the current focus on Fritz Lang and his rediscovered uncut Metropolis, debuting in Berlin this weekend. For many years City Girl was also feared lost, until it was found in 1970 and only then was it critically appreciated.

Murnau is arguably best known for Nosferatu (1922) and was a leading figure in German cinema of the period before trying his luck in Hollywood with Fox Studio. Sunrise (1927) is one of the greatest films of all time and received acclaim from the Academy Awards. In comparison his subsequent Hollywood productions are overlooked and only City Girl now exists, although we can only hope Four Devils (1928) turns up someday. Murnau died in 1931 denying us the opportunity to see what this master could do with the arrival of sound in film.

City Girl is a simple story based upon the play ‘The Mud Turtle’ and is a tale of true love, upheaval and escaping the chores of city life. Mention silent films nowadays and unfortunately most responses will be negative. I find this deeply disappointing, as City Girl is a many tremendous journey and visually beautiful. Presented in its original aspect ratio this is no widescreen presentation yet it is of stunning quality for such an age. The detail, contrast and lighting are a real surprise and mesmerising. MOC’s decision to release this film on blu ray is hugely welcome and confirms the wisdom to use the format when the source materials allow.

City Girl contains several highlights but I really enjoyed the piece with the couple running towards the farmhouse. The camera movement, framing and emotion are of the highest standard and the city scenes capture the chaos and hardship of the period. The release also contains a picture packed booklet, with accompanying essay and an excellent commentary track from scholar David Kalat.

City Girl shows the format can offer a new lease of life for classic films. I’d recommend this release to anyone that enjoys films and is interested in discovering overlooked works. The added benefit is that by supporting Master of Cinema’s releases this will ensure more films receive this welcome treatment.

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