Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' - RESTORED!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Edwin Pereyra, Jul 1, 2002.

  1. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    After making its festival rounds, the restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis will be coming to my area next month complete with what is being billed as a 65-piece orchestral score. One of the screenings might even be with a live orchestra but that is still tentative at this point.
    Has anyone else seen the restored version? I know Mark Pfeiffer has and would like to read your comments.
    Also making its rounds will be the restored prints of Conrad Rooks' Siddharta, Julien Duvivier's Pépé le Moko and Ron Fricke's Baraka. What a great month for films.
    ~Edwin
     
  2. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    I saw the restoration in Madison with Dennis James at the organ and theremin, performing his score based on the original and it was wonderful. The film looked terrific at 20 fps---since you're getting a live orchestra be hopeful that you'll be seeing the 20 fps version instead of the comical 24 fps that will be making the rounds with a canned score. The restoration is very nice; we had the original German intertitles, with a local radio personality reading the English versions, which made for an interesting experience (similar to that on All Day's Fall of the House of Usher DVD).
     
  3. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    I've only seen 16mm prints of this benchmark classic. I envy those who get to see a fresh 35mm print struck from restored elements. Lucky you!
     
  4. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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  5. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Yep. I'll likely hold off a decision on the DVD until I've seen the restored (24 fps) version at The Brattle this August/September. I'm not sure exactly what speed it was running at when I saw it at the Harvard Film Archive last fall.

    The soundtrack may just be that the projection equipment can only do sound at 24 fps - running it at 20 fps wouldn't just slow it down, but would also mess with the pitch, right? (And that's assuming modern projectors won't balk at doing any sound at all at that speed)
     
  6. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    Here's hoping that we'll get the 20 fps version.

    ~Edwin
     
  7. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    I just saw Metropolis at the Film Forum in New York City. It's playing till July 25.

    This is the first time I've seen it, but I assume it's playing at 24fps, as certain parts did go by pretty fast, with some laughter from the audience .
     
  8. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    Here is the programming notes for my upcoming screening that confirms the 24 fps presentation:
     
  9. John Miles

    John Miles Stunt Coordinator

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    Anyone know if this is coming to the Seattle area?
     
  10. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    I'll ask again - since the 24fps is a concession on behalf of the score, are the tempi so inviolable that reducing them to sync-up at 20fps isn't aesthetically feasible? Would it be too plodding at the slower tempo? Was this even taken into consideration when the score was re-recorded?

     
  11. Chuck L

    Chuck L Screenwriter

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    All I have seen so far is the trailer (on the net)and it looks like a wonderful clean up job. I honestly didn't expect for it to look as good as it does.

    Sadly, it will be skipping the Carolina's...but I can't wait to finally own a decent version of this landmark film.
     
  12. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  13. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Maybe I've misunderstood your point, Damin, but the speed of projection of METROPOLIS is NOT faster than that which we are used to for modern films... the point is that it's exactly the same speed!

    But the problem is that the film wasn't shot at the same speed (24fps) that we shoot/project modern films, the result being that the action is sped up when projected at the same speed as modern films.
     
  14. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  15. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  16. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  17. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    I can understand Damin's colorization argument, but the fact remains that modern audiences, even educated ones, get a comical feeling from running at these faster-than-shot speeds. That's fine for a comedy, but in a serious drama (and Metropolis more than anything besides maybe Sunrise takes itself very, very seriously) that's just deadly. I've seen Nosferatu run at sound speeds and the audiences are in howling stitches all the way through. I find it hard to believe that a 26 fps Metropolis was tolerable in 1927, and I know for a fact that it isn't in 2002--heck, even these restorers know better than to try to run it at 26 fps, which if you believe the notation on the score, should be right. If that notation's wrong, then it's worthless evidence altogether and we're back at square one. As I noted above, there are some segments that are still faster than correct at 20 fps; they'd be completely unreadable at 26 fps (much as are the undercranked segments in Nosferatu where Orlock is stacking caskets in the wagon, when run at sound speed).

    There are some proponents of 24 fps over in alt.movies.silent as well, and my thought is that for the most part 24 fps is deadly to the silent film heritage. Hardly any of these films will be (or even should be) taken seriously at this speed. It looks ridiculous. As a consequence, these films will be improperly left in the dustpile, when there is substantial merit to many of them.

    The fact that there is a great deal of flexibility inherent in silent film exhibition is for me sufficient justification to run the films at a visually normal speed, and distinguishes it from the colorization situation.
     
  18. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  19. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I was hoping to be able to add some personal observations, having rearranged my schedule so that I could see the restoration at Film Forum this afternoon. Unfortunately, my trip was unsuccessful due to the transformer fire that knocked out power to most of the East Village, where Film Forum is located, about 20 minutes before today's first scheduled showing of Metropolis. Con Ed still doesn't know when power will be restored.

    I won't get another chance to get back before Metropolis leaves Film Forum; so I'll have to wait for a DVD release of the restored version.

    M.
     
  20. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Film Forum held over the restored Metropolis for a few more weeks, so I ventured down this weekend, and this time the power stayed on. So I was finally able to see it.
    On the speed issue: I claim no knowledge -- zero -- on how films were projected in Europe and America in the 1920s. I can say that large sections of the restored Metropolis have action that appears to be happening at normal speed. In the sequences where there's clearly been a speed-up, it's minor. It certainly didn't strike me as a "Keystone Cops version" (to borrow Rich Malloy's phrase), and it certainly didn't prevent me or, as best as I could tell, the rest of the audience from taking the film seriously. There was sporadic laughter, but that was obviously provoked by the broad acting style typical of silent films.
    The restoration is truly astonishing. I had no idea there was so much plot in Metropolis. For the segments that have been lost forever, the restorers have included brief textual inserts summarizing the action, and I really wish I could see some of the missing segments. The story makes a great deal more sense now, and the characters (all of them, but especially Freder and Maria) seem much more real, because you see more of the actions that express who and what they are.
    Reflecting on the film afterward, I was struck by the fact that I didn't see any big "effects" that I couldn't remember from previous shortened versions. Everything that struck me as new related to character and story development. It seems that, even as early as the 1920s, distributors were happy to sacrifice narrative coherence and character exploration for the sake of getting the running time down and concentrating on the "ahh!" factor. Short attention spans predate MTV by many decades.
    It's amazing how much influence the film has had. I never realized until this viewing how much Tim Burton borrowed for the cathedral finale in the first Batman. See it if you can.
    M.
     

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