If you need an introduction to silent cinema, F.W. Murnau's 1927 milestone remains a piercingly direct universal drama, as well as a rebuke to anyone who says the inner workings of the mind and heart cannot be captured on film. Faced with a come-on from a cosmopolitan hussy, a brooding farmer (George O'Brien) considers drowning his seemingly simple, trusting wife (Janet Gaynor). But killing isn't as easy or common as pulp fiction makes it out to be, and what happens is surprising on every level--technically (the director built a mile-long trolley track and used forced-perspective sets to make the city seem enormous), visually, artistically, and above all, humanely. The movie continues the Downtown Presbyterian Church's Lenten Film Series, which in these cash-strapped times offers a bargain no cinephile should pass up: a movie preceded by a light supper, both free of charge.
Thu., April 2, 6 p.m., 2009