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1. Metropolis (1927), dir. Fritz Lang

As for the books I read this year, I'm also going to record the films I see. First up is Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which I saw in the 2-hour 75th anniversary restored version, on a DVD burnt for me by my Dad.

Despite the icon used here, this is actually the first time I've seen this film. Previously, I had only seen the anime remake, Metoroporisu (2001), which is absolutely stunning in its own way, but so different from Metropolis that it's almost better viewed as being simply creatively inspired by the original, rather than actually being a remake of it. I have wanted to see the original for years, though (hence the icon). I've read quite a lot about it online, and was pretty certain I would love it.

Thankfully, the film entirely lived up to my expectations. I can really understand now why it is considered so important, particularly in terms of cinematic style and techniques. Its scale and scope are so ahead of its time that it often felt like I was watching a much more modern film that was merely imitating the stylistic character of 1920s cinematography - like the film of Call of Cthulhu which I saw recently. I suppose the real message there is that I shouldn't complacently underestimate what people were capable of doing in the 1920s - as it is very easy to do, especially in the context of a genre that was relatively new at the time.

High points included Brigitte Helm's magnificent portrayal of both the Real and the False Marias - histrionic, of course, in keeping with the style of the time, but showing a great range, and doing a marvellous job of bringing out the Virgin Mary and the Whore of Babylon inherent in the two characters. I am astonished to learn now from the IMDb both that a) it was her first ever film role and that b) she gave up her film career only eight years later - partly due to the coming of Nazi Germany, but obviously not entirely, as she had already been offered roles in America before then. I also enjoyed the use of allegorical visions - for instance, Feder seeing the Heart-Machine as Moloch the destroyer, the dial he is labouring over turning into a gigantic ten-hour clock to represent the tortuous length of his shift, or the montage of lustful eyes which appears around the False Maria as she dances seductively in the night-club - very much à la Josephine Baker.

Perhaps most importantly, though, I'm now in a much better position to appreciate other works of cinema for having seen this: 1984, for instance, almost any Frankenstein movie, or Dark City. I feel like I've been handed a missing piece of jigsaw puzzle - though of course the output of human creativity is so great that no-one could ever hope to see the whole picture.

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
gylfinir
Jan. 6th, 2007 11:10 pm (UTC)
I've owned a copy of the restored version of Metropolis for about 18 months, but haven't watched it yet as I wanted to be in the right mood to appreciate it properly. I must definitely watch it in 2007.
strange_complex
Jan. 6th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, it does require proper attention, particularly because it's silent - you can't just listen to the dialogue while doing other things! I think you'll enjoy it when that mood comes to you, though.
gylfinir
Jan. 6th, 2007 11:32 pm (UTC)
I think that's what's putting me off watching it, in a weird way. I've got a feeling that it's a film that's going to consume me utterly, and I need to be prepared for that!

I've also got a copy of Spione which remains unwatched for much the same reason.

After I've braved these two, I must buy a copy of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

Incidentally, having noted your Roman connections, I've been dying to ask whether you like Viaggio in Italia?
strange_complex
Jan. 6th, 2007 11:53 pm (UTC)
I've been dying to ask whether you like Viaggio in Italia

I'm afraid the simple answer to that is that I don't know, because I haven't seen it! I would like to though - it sounds like it would be right up my street. I take it you'd recommend it, then?
gylfinir
Jan. 7th, 2007 12:06 am (UTC)
It's very typical of its time (the denouement is completely unbelievable), and plays out on screen the (real life) tumultuous decline of Rossellini and Bergman's relationship.

However, the film shows the Bay of Naples in all its glory, with particular emphasis on the most prominent archaeological sites. I'd just returned from my second trip to Pompeii when I saw that the BFI had released a new print of the film, and I loved it; I watch it often. I remember seeing the scene where a body is uncovered in Pompeii when I was very young, but couldn't for the life of me work out what the film was. It didn't help that I thought Katharine Hepburn was the star rather than Ingrid Bergman...
nigelmouse
Jan. 6th, 2007 11:59 pm (UTC)
Have I missed it again at a local cinema, or did you catch it on tv or dvd ?

It's a film I've love to see at the hyde park with a piano accomliament but I miss it each time it happens. I'm not sure the version with queen doing the soundtrack is quite the same.
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 10:34 am (UTC)
No, don't worry - my Dad burnt me a copy of it on DVD.

I'd absolutely love to see it on the big screen, though, so if they do it again at the Hyde Park, I'm there! I first saw Nosferatu that way, and it was ace!
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
Yes - it's not the same, and not as bleak as 1984, but they are thematically related, and I'm sure the former fed into the latter. I think some films of 1984 pick up on visual aspects of Metropolis as well (I'm mainly familiar with the 1954 version with Peter Cushing, but I haven't seen even that for a while).
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 12:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is indeed. We actually saw that at school, when we were studying 1984 in English Lit. But I've seen the Peter Cushing one at least twice, and the 1985 version only the once I think.
(Deleted comment)
dadi
Jan. 7th, 2007 09:31 am (UTC)
Now you have made me want to go and see it too. I don't even remember how long ago I watched that.. but it somehow it is always present, it is one of those films that just doesn't go away once you have seen it!
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC)
Yes, I got the feeling it would be when watching it yesterday.
gillywoo
Jan. 7th, 2007 11:37 am (UTC)
Metropolis is one of my favourite films, it's amazing. I've been fascinated by Fritz Lang ever since seeing it for the first time.

Have you ever seen M? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022100/ that is a truly wonderful piece of cinematography and a social commentary. I did my disseration on cyborg theory and covered metropolis extensively in it. As you say you can see how the film has influenced so many other films it's unbelivable.
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
Oh, gosh - no, but it's another one I've read a lot about and know I would love! Not least because of it having Peter Lorre in it - I think he is really amazing.

Don't suppose you have a copy of it, do you? If so, might I be a bit cheeky and suggest perhaps coming round to your place one time to see it? Often I don't really get much chance to talk to you when we're out clubbing, as you're obviously busy helping to run things, so it would be nice to have an evening where we could chat a bit more. I'd certainly like to hear more about your dissertation, for a start. :)
gillywoo
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yes I do! and a film night would be a wonderful idea, I'm away next weekend but we should arrange it soon,

xx
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
Great! big_daz and I will be heading off to Lincoln for the day on the Saturday of the weekend after (the 20th), but maybe the Sunday of that weekend would suit us, as a sort of post-Wendyhouse chilled-out afternoon?
gillywoo
Jan. 7th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a great idea! it's a date : )
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
Kewl! :)
big_daz
Jan. 7th, 2007 11:53 am (UTC)
I've not seen "M" in years- I think they used to have some of the early horror films on late on a Saturday night in the late 70s/ early 80s which is when I first saw the likes of Dracula/ Frankenstien, etc (Big_dad used to let me stay up and watch them). I don't think I've seen M since then though- its not summat that would bring in high ratings on the telly these days unfortunately :-(
gillywoo
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
well if you fancy watching it again you can come and watch it when penny comes round?
big_daz
Jan. 8th, 2007 10:39 am (UTC)
That sounds like a spiffing idea :-)
big_daz
Jan. 7th, 2007 11:46 am (UTC)
What an excellent film Metropolis is- The version I have on video was released in 1992, so its unrestored and all fuzzy and crackly- I'd be intrigued to see how it looks restored and in its full version (having seen what can be done with old Dr Who and Quatermass episodes, I would imagine it'll be crystal-clear).

I did see the Moroder version on the telly a few years back an'all- part of it had been colourised in a 1980s kinda way. I think technology has moved on quite a bit since then..
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 11:53 am (UTC)
Yes, it's really amazingly good quality, actually. That's part of why I sometimes felt I wasn't really watching a '20s film at all, but a modern imitation. You would be welcome to either a) borrow my DVD or b) wait until I'm ready to see it again myself (probably not too long) and come round and watch it with me.

I've read bad things about the '80s Moroder version online! Although some people really like it, too - just goes to show that there's someone for everything!
big_daz
Jan. 7th, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)
Well as my DVD player is b@ggered at the mo, I might well take up your invitation of coming round to watch it at some point :-)
strange_complex
Jan. 7th, 2007 12:40 pm (UTC)
I'll let you know when I next fancy seeing it, then. :)
xipuloxx
Jan. 14th, 2007 03:40 am (UTC)
I know I'm coming to this very late, but I'm massively behind on LJ after the holidays...

I've only seen the Giorgio Moroder version of Metropolis (and, despite what some think, that isn't Queen on the soundtrack - Freddie Mercury does sing one track (which he co-wrote), but that's it). However, Queen did use clips from Metropolis and visual references to it in the video to Radio Ga Ga, which was done shortly after IIRC. As it happens, that video was my introduction to Queen, and I've never looked back. :)

But in any case, I thought that version of Metropolis (at the time the most complete version there was) was great, though I wasn't too sure about the colour tints used (not true colourisation, just a single colour for the entire screen). But, like gylfinir, I've had the new version on DVD for about 18 months and haven't got round to watching it yet! But I will. I imagine I'll enjoy it more now (it was about 15 years ago, and even then I could see how seminal it was).

And then I'll probably have to get a copy of M. :D
strange_complex
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC)
a single colour for the entire screen

Wow, that sounds really weird! Why would anyone do that? *is puzzled*
xipuloxx
Jan. 17th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
I dunno, I guess they thought it looked cool! Or that, since a lot of people, especially younger people, are put off by B&W (I know, I know, but it's true), it might make it look more "modern" and hence get more bums on seats. I just thought it was a bit annoying.

Just in case I wasn't clear, I don't of course mean that the whole screen is a single block of colour with no picture, rather that within a scene everything is tinted, like sepia pictures, except with the colour differing from scene to scene; blue one scene, then yellow the next, etc. I suppose by matching the colour to the mood and/or location of the scene it could be an artistic device, but I don't remember if that was the case.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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