21 August 2002

Me-trop-olis, Me-trop-olis ...

If I had to pick a favourite all-time movie, Fritz Lang's Metropolis might well be my number one choice (but please don't ever make me choose!). That movie was so far ahead of its time that it still amazes viewers 75 years after its initial release. For me as for many, it is both one of the most ambitious visions ever painted onto the silver screen, as well as being the very pinnacle of 20th century futurism and the underlying influence of almost every sci-fi or fantasy movie made since.

I first saw Metropolis during a silent film festival in Atlanta at the now-gone Rhodes Theatre many, many, many years ago, and I was absolutely blown away. If you've never actually seen it (and most people haven't), you really should give it a spin. For once, it's okay to talk during the movie! :)

But don't rent it just yet.

My biggest frustration with Metropolis has been the absolute dearth of quality prints. Even the DVD versions that are available just look horrible. Even the 1984 Giorgio Moroder version, which used the best available print at the time, looked awful (and sounded worse, but that's another story). And, it turns out, the film was seriously cut shortly after its original release (from 153 minutes to 87 minutes), so I nor anyone save people who saw the original first release have ever even seen the complete film!

I have always hoped with each new release of Metropolis that somebody would finally compile a definitive version and digitally clean it up and restore it back to it's full grandeur. The prints that exist today only give us a hint of how magnificent this film truly was. Happily, I am pleased to finally announce that somebody has granted my 20-plus year wish.

Just in time for the 75th anniversary of the film, work has been completed on a complete, definitive restoration, thanks to Kino International. They apparently found an original camera negative (!!) in the former East Germany film archives and painstakingly went through the following steps:

1. Cataloguing and cross-checking the original negative against known prints and negatives
2. Carefully crafting a new and complete version of the film, retaining the greatest image quality possible
3. Scanning every single frame of the complete film for digital cleanup (which was done by hand and not automatically as is usually the case)
4. All-new recreation of the full set of English intertitles
5. A complete re-orchestration of the full original score, recorded with a 65-piece orchestra

The official movie website has all the details, and there's a trailer for the film available as well. The mega-amazing high-bandwidth version is available from Apple's Quicktime movie trailer page (a great site to bookmark for all the latest trailers, btw, even if you don't yet own a Mac). The digital cleanup and restoration is nothing short of shocking, restoring my sense of amazement at this film even after so many viewings. There are presently no plans to show the film in Florida, but that should eventually change thanks to our outstanding local art house, the Enzian Theatre.

When it comes to your town, go and see it. When it eventually comes out on DVD, buy at least two copies and thank me later. You'll be astounded, I promise.

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