Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Metropolis Restored

Fritz Lang's unbelievably progressive film Metropolis has long been a favorite of movie buffs all over the world. Made in 1927, Lang anticipates skyscrapers, television, elevators and highways in this story of industry and corruption.

However, since its original premiere in Berlin, most viewers have found the film confusing and a bit aimless. After the movie was released, there were complaints about its length (2 1/2 hours) and it was cut down by thirty minutes, and the excised film was presumed destroyed. Not so! In 2008, Fernando Pena, a film archivist, found a copy of the complete Metropolis in the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aries. Film Forum in New York and select theaters across the United States are now showing the restored version during the month of May, with a DVD release to follow.

I saw the restored version on Monday night, and it was well worth it. What's interesting: the missing parts only survive as 16mm transfers, so it's easy to discern as you watch the film which are the new scenes. The character of The Thin Man, who was practically removed from the last version, plays a much larger part. The acting abilities of the main characters are fully exhibited, and major plot points that seem completely essential to the understanding of the film's vision have been restored. This film is now engaging and heartfelt. I spent most of the time gasping and wondering how the hell Fritz Lang managed to film scenes that feature angry mobs, burning at the stake, and large-scale Ayn Rand like cities without the help of special effects. Metropolis is truly a marvelous example of ingenuity and cinematic genius.

The restoration is not only a triumph for film scholars - it's an absolute delight to any audience member. Go and see it now!

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