Sunday, August 15, 2010


First up, I saw Inception again, this time in IMAX. Definitely worth seeing a second time (luckily, it held up much better than the Dark Knight), and while I'm not sure IMAX is necessary, it was great seeing the hallway fight writ large.

I had a chance to see The Complete Metropolis at The Brattle last week. Metropolis hasn't been seen in its complete form since its premiere due to studio editing. The missing footage was assumed to be lost (much like the Magnificent Ambersons). But, in 2008, 25 minutes of the missing footage was found in Buenos Aires and has been cut in to the film that most people know. (There's a good article on the restoration here.)

Now, I had actually never seen Metropolis, so I can't say whether I would have noticed a much more coherent plot or tonal changes with the new footage. What is important to note is that there are still some scenes missing (the missing action is described on inter-title cards created from film notes). Furthermore, the new footage is a different aspect ratio and comes from a terrible print. The film is grainy and dirty and therefore you can easily tell when you are watching one of the 'new' scenes. While it is great to see the film in its near-entirety, these sections do pull you out of the action a bit and remind you that your are watching a restored piece of film history.

The grainy sections are especially easy to notice because so much of the rest of the film is beautifully shot and well preserved. Metropolis is known for its ambitious visuals and it doesn't disappoint. The lighting in certain scenes was especially stunning and certainly of a much higher quality than most of the films we see today.

Tonally, I found the film to be wildly variable. There are some scenes which are high melodrama and seem to be a holdover from stage acting. These scenes elicited a lot of snickering from the audience I was in. They were particularly jarring because they were juxtaposed with much more naturalistic, subtle acting which holds up well for modern tastes.

The only other piece which I don't feel held up well was the message of the film, which is repeated ad nauseum. I kept picturing the Animaniacs using a sledgehammer on the audience every time it was repeated. Okay, okay! We get it already!

I was surprised, based on my cultural knowledge of the film, that it wasn't more sci-fi. I had thought the film dealt with a city of androids and humans, when there is in fact just one android in the story. That wasn't disappointing, though, since Brigitte Helm throws herself into the role. (She really was the best part of the film, other than the cinematography).

Overall, it is well worth seeing and it (mostly) stands the test of time as a classic. Visually, it is stunning, wildly original and a work of art.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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