Metropolis Rediscovered

In a previous post, I talked about how excited I was for the big Metropolis restoration complete with lots of previously lost footage.  Kino International is planning a DVD/Blu-Ray release of the newly restored version for December 2010, so I just figured I’d have to wait until then to see it, unless I got lucky and got to see a theatrical screening of it before then.  So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I opened my mail and found a DVD of the new restoration from my friend Cohen!  Apparently Cohen has a friend who has a friend in Germany who recorded the restoration when Arte TV aired it and Cohen was nice enough to make me a copy.  I just finished watching it and absolutely loved it.  Having seen it, I can die a happy film nerd.  Here is exactly what you can expect:

Length: About two and a half hours.  When Metropolis premiered in Germany in 1927, it was three and a half hours long.  However, the subject of what frame rate Metropolis should be played back at is a very debatable topic.  It’s entirely likely this restoration is played at a faster frame rate than it was at the 1927 premiere, which would account for the shorter runtime even though the restoration is nearly complete.

Only nearly complete?: I’m afraid so.  However, only two scenes are still considered lost.  One missing scene is of Freder meeting the monk who warns him of the impending apocalypse.  In the other scene, Rotwang is in the attic with Maria gloating when Joh Fredersen walks by, overhears this, and gets into a fight with Rotwang and frees Maria.  These scenes are filled in with intertitles explaining the action, just like they were in the 2001 restoration.

What’s new?: In the first half hour of the movie, the new footage honestly isn’t all that exciting.  It’s all longer takes of things like a woman having her lipstick touched up in the Eternal Gardens or Josaphat leaving after being fired and Freder going after him.  The first major new scene comes in around 34 minutes in and is of the Thin Man (not William Powell) seeing 11811 wearing Freder’s clothes and getting into the car meant for Freder.  11811 tells the driver to take him to the place Freder told him to go.  Along the way, he admires a pretty woman in another car and a person throws fliers for the Yoshiwara off a bridge.  Some of the fliers land in the car, 11811 has visions of what the Yoshiwara is like, and asks to be taken there instead.  Another great, but rather long, scene comes later when the Thin Man confronts Josaphat about helping Freder.  We also get to see the scene where Fredersen discovers Rotwang’s statue of Hel, Fredersen’s late wife.  A lot of footage has been restored to the scenes where the workers are destroying the machines, as well as a scene of Freder trying to help children escape the flooding.

How does it look?: The restoration is a combination of the beautiful footage used in the 2001 restoration and the rather rough-looking footage found in Argentina. To see some before/after examples, you can find some here.  Clearly, even cleaned up, a lot of the found footage is far from pristine.  It’s totally obvious when you’re watching the newly found parts.  However, I’m just happy to be seeing this footage at all so I’m not going to complain about the picture quality.  It beats filling in the missing gaps with still photos, black leader, and intertitles like they had to do in the 2001 restoration.  It was actually kind of weird to watch Metropolis without all those intertitles explaining things that were missing since I’d gotten so used to them being there.

Musical Score: The musical score is almost the same one used in the 2001 restoration, of course only modified to accommodate the longer runtime.  I have no complaints about the musical score, it’s by far the best one around.  No Giorgio Moroder or wildly inappropriate music like what was used in that one horrendous print I had to watch in a class once.

Final Verdict: If you’re a fan of Metropolis, you’re going to want to see this restored version.  It really was a treat just to be able to see all this footage that I never thought I would be able to see in my lifetime.  I just hope someday I’ll be able to see it in a theater.