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One of the perils of making a masterpiece is that subsequent films that might once have impressed tend to disappoint, and that's certainly the case with F.W. Murnau's City Girl, which had the misfortune to follow Sunrise. Not that Sunrise was well received when it came out or even that City Girl is quite the film that Murnau intended - he disagreed with Fox over making a concurrent and now lost talkie version and the film was finished by other anonymous hands, which might explain the somewhat more conventional editing (Murnau apparently had somewhat more elaborate plans in mind). But even had Murnau finished, this wouldn't be on the same level, though the director does try to let audiences know this is a different kind of film in the opening scenes, where a vampish woman of the city (not the title character) tries to lure Charles Farrell's country boy off the straight and narrow only for him to seemingly not get what she's driving at. Instead he falls for Mary Duncan's lonely waitress dreaming of something better than city life, who in turn notices him when he says grace before eating at the subterranean joint she works in.

Unfortunately their meeting cute and not-quite courtship is rather formulaic Hollywood fare and it's this section that at times feels most like the work of another director: the same could be said of Ernest Palmer's cinematography and Edgar G. Ulmer's design, with some mostly striking work marred by surprisingly flat ones. Despite some nice moments, it tends to drag its heels and doesn't entirely sell the idea that these two are soul mates. Things pick up when they get hitched and head out to the farm, where stern pa David Torrence doesn't approve and the local farmhands (Guinn `Big Boy' Williams and John Ford's regular ugly mug Jack Pennick among them) think she's more their type than Farrell's. But while the filmmaking and lighting improve immeasurably over the sporadically flat city scenes, the plot remains firmly in stage melodrama gear as everyone conspires to tear them apart while Duncan waits forlornly for Farrell to stand up for her and for himself. Worse, despite the promise of events coming to a head just as an oncoming storm makes it critical to gather in the harvest at nightfall, we're not treated to the kind of visually striking man-versus-nature setpiece the film seems to be building up to, with everything neatly resolved rather more economically.

It's not so much that City Girl is a bad film, more that it's a rather conventional one that at times feels like it could have been made by any capable director. It's a film with nice moments, like Duncan returning to her lonely city apartment by the elevated railroad tracks and dreaming of an idealised country life, something Murnau manages to convey without dream sequences but with her face and her environment, and the vivid sequence of them running and playing in the wheat fields when he takes her to the family farm has a real sense of joy and freedom that makes her rejection all the more crushing, but there aren't really enough of them to turn this into something special. It's a minor Murnau, though not an entirely negligible one.

No qualms about Eureka's beautifully crisp and clear BluRay transfer, however: using the same restored print in Fox's Region 1 Murnau/Borzage DVD boxed set, it's quite possibly the finest silent movie transfer you'll ever see on any home video format, letterboxed in its original 1.19:1 ratio and with no distracting blurry Dolby Noise Reduction to contend with. The only extras are an audio commentary by David Kalat and a 28-page booklet.
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on 16 April 2013
Whilst not his most celebrated film, Murnau's 'City Girl' is a great watch, no proclaimed masterpiece, but significant in being a very late silent and his last American film. Often compared to 1927's 'Sunrise', it's running theme is that of the differences, and more evidently the simularities, between city and country life. It has a nice story - Kate (Mary Duncan), a street-smart waitress from the city dreaming of a life in the country meets the attention of a sweet and naive country boy called Lem (Charles Farrell), on his first trip to the city. They marry after two days, and head back to his home in the country, where his dominating father (David Torrence) crushes Kate's idea of a dream rural life. The film is superbly made and full of brilliant imagery and techniques, my only criticisms being Duncan's occasional overacting and a lack of zeal that has left this film in the shadow of 'Sunrise', in my mind the better film, but not by far.

As usual with Masters of Cinema silent releases, the film is presented sensitevely restored with a very suitible score, accompanying the images with a nice country twang.
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on 23 November 2011
This is a re-release of the earlier Blu-ray only version, which was subsequently released separately on DVD. Now, those editions have been deleted and re-released as a Dual-Format edition. So the content on the discs is exactly the same. Because of this, the review below is mainly taken from the Blu-ray review I submitted.

City Girl was released in 1930, just as the silent film began to fall into rapid decline with the advent of the 'talkies'. However, by this time Murnau really was a master of his craft, having cut his teeth with 1922's eerie Nosferatu, by the time he released Sunrise six years later he had cemented his position as one of the world's most important (not to mention successful) filmakers. It was also, tragically, his penultimate film, as he was to die in a car crash the following year. Comparisons with 'Sunrise', then, are unfair, as Murnau wanted to create a different kind of film here.

The story is simple but extremely effective. A farmer's son, Lem, is sent to the city to sell the families' harvest of wheat. Whilst on his eye-opening business trip, he meets Kate, a cafe worker. A wonderful sequence ensures, resulting in the girl being taken back to the farm with Lem as his wife. However, Lem's uncompromising father is deeply suspicious of this city girl, and the film follows Kate's attempts to become accepted by the father. The early interchanges between Kate and Lem are beautiful, and the scene with them playfully running through the wheatfields ahead of meeting Lem's family is one of the purest, happiest scenes ever committed to film.

This film is a great starting point for anyone interested in silent cinema - there are title cards throughout, and with a fantastic soundtrack recorded in 2008, it is easy to forget you are watching a film 80 years old. Though the film is available in this package both as Blu-ray and DVD, the Blu-ray is certainly the one to go for. The 1080p transfer is truly breathtaking, I guarantee that only a few years ago no one would have ever imagined a film of this vintage could look so good. The image is clear and vivid, and really does give the impression of playing the original nitrate film through a projector, so stunningly sharp is the picture. Words can't do it justice - this really should be seen to be believed. Though the DVD is obviously no where near as sharp, and can't hope to reproduce the film-look like the Blu-ray does, it is still perfectly functional, and the film is generally in excellent condition, free from tears or scratches. The menus continue the theme of quality, depicting a number of stills from the film. As far as extras go, there is a fantastic commentary by David Kalat, who obviously knows the subject inside out. Though I thought this would be a very dry commentary, I was pleasantly surprised - this interesting and informative commentary provides detail on everything you would want to know about the film. There is also a booklet inside, containing essays and some stills from the film.

If you are already a fan of silent film, you will undoubtedly know of Murnau, and the quality of both the film and the transfer are both high enough for me to unreservedly recommend this title. If, however, you are new to silent cinema, this is an excellent place to start, and this release really does breath new life into this vintage classic.
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on 3 February 2012
This film is a beautiful work by F W Murnau. There is no need to explain the plot or other elements discussed elsewhere. This is an excellent transfer with no over clean up of the picture which could destroy its integrity. For me the acid test is projecting the blu ray on an HD projector on to a big screen as it was always meant to be seen. The results are like watching a pristine 35mm print - which we all know would be impossible today. The film is equally complemented by a very intelligent and wonderfully fitting music score. Priceless!

If you enjoyed the wonder of `The Artist` which by today`s standards should never have been made , you will love City Girl.
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on 3 March 2016
Beautiful print and great service of an excellent movie.
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on 24 March 2015
lovely little film from masters of cinema
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on 19 November 2014
Lovely print and to be expected by Eureka Masters of Cinema.
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on 20 December 2014
stunning bluray quality very fine silent movie
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on 22 December 2014
simply a great film by a great director
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on 3 July 2014
Murnau was a genius of the silent era
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