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Friday, February 22, 2013

METROPOLIS (1927)

Fritz Lang’s famous film about a fantastic Utopian City of Tomorrow, and the working-class who slave below and make it run, has seen more restorations than most silent classics get showings. But a 2010 KINO release is no simple repackaging, but something of an archival miracle, curated out of the murky world of film hoarders. Long story short is that the fine 2002 Murnau Foundation restoration, pieced together from superb physical elements, has been amended to (near) full length by merging it with 25 minutes of missing footage from a scratchy, but watchable, 16mm dupe print from Argentina of the full premiere cut. (Details @ http://kinolorber.com/metropolis .)  Even those who know the film will be astonished at the improvement in structure, pace and (dare one say it?) logic in what remains a pretty simplistic piece of socio-political pablum. Of course, the visual display remains as awe-inspiring as ever, but even simple effects, like the waking statues of the Seven Deadly Sins, are just as impressive. And now, with the editing choices clarified by additional footage, Gottfried Huppertz’s magnificent 1927 symphonic score can make its full effect. Smashing! Certain details remain puzzling: The side-switching ‘Thin Man;’ Those silly jodhpurs on our hero; The foreman who’s informer to the Boss and voice of the masses. Odder still to contemplate the career path of head cinematographer Karl Freund who wound up at Desilu Studios in the ‘50s, more or less inventing the still-standard three-camera sit-com technique for I LOVE LUCY.

DOUBLE-BILL: It’s tough to get mainstream audiences to watch any silent pic, let alone one that’s not in the Comic, Horror, or Sci-Fi genre. But anyone responding to Lang’s work here should at least try DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER/’22 (astonishingly advanced filmmaking for its time) and SPIES/’28, an oddly overlooked late-silent masterpiece.

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