The Sunday Intertitle: McTropolis

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To St Andrews Square in the heart of our fair city for an outdoor screening (part of Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Film in the City event) of METROPOLIS, Giorgio Moroder version. Don’t ask me why they screened this one. I guess they didn’t have a three-hour slot for the restoration, or they thought this version would go down better with the kids, who are into all that Queen and Bonnie Tyler and Adam Ant stuff.

Fiona quite likes this version because it’s how she first saw the film. She defends Moroder slightly — “He wanted to show the film to a new generation.” But that’s Ted Turner’ colorization argument — you get more people to see the thing, but what they’re seeing is NOT the thing. Still, he did put out a version of the film that restored Von Harbou’s plot, which had been moronically rewritten in English-language territories. (The female robot is presented, in that rewrite, as “The worker of the future,” and the city’s ruler has her incite riots for no discernible reason. Complete nonsense, concocted by some Hollywood Pat Hobby who felt the original story was “silly.”) Moroder’s electronic scoring is acceptable, though I think a little disappointing considering how good Moroder was at film composing when he had a living director to collaborate with. The songs are bloody awful. The tinting is overenthusiastic. The synth sound effects just work as score so they don’t upset me. The end titles that credit Fritz Raspe’s character, “the Thin Man,” as “Slim,” are acceptable. It’s a valid translation, with noir resonances just as strong as the more familiar one…

The Moroder version actually begins with a title announcing that much of Lang’s footage has been lost, “probably forever,” delightfully announcing its obsolescence with its opening frame. Kind of poetic: Lang’s movie triumphs over time, time triumphs over Moroder’s edit. I give Moroder enough credit to believe he’s delighted to be proved wrong on this occasion, so everyone’s a winner.

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Fiona enjoyed the show, I mainly read Raoul Walsh’s autobio, the clouds threatened rain but held off until later, and there was applause when evil Maria’s eyes opened, and when the film ended. So, even under rather odd conditions, Lang’s film still impresses.

Buy the right version (UK): Metropolis [Reconstructed & Restored] (Masters of Cinema) [DVD] [1927]

And US: The Complete Metropolis [Blu-ray]

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16 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: McTropolis”

  1. There’s still something lovely about a group of people gatherred together to see a film. Sorry it looks like I can’t make any today looks like rain…

  2. It’s a good place to people-watch also.

  3. The best bit of people watching was the toddler staggering around trying to extricate a cherry tomato from the bottom of a plastic container with her tongue. And yet she could pick it up with her fingers! But no. That wasn’t a big enough challenge. It was the tongue or nothing.

  4. The only song I really like in the whole movie – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rzs8jgIxKA

  5. You’ve kind of failed as a film composer when your music makes a better accompaniment to a fifteen-month-old girl trying to suck a cherry tomato from a piece of tupperware than it does for fhe classic sci-fi movie you intended it for.

  6. good choices, Fiona – I’m also partial to “Here She Comes,” which makes for an effective setting for the Evil Maria’s debut. As trashy/kitschy/quatschy as it is, I think many of us children of the ’80s have a lingering fondess for the Moroder version. I must have seen it a dozen times the summer it came out (it helped to have a friend who worked for the local arthouse. Lord how I miss those!).

  7. Fiona W Says:

    I must have seen it at The Steps Cinema in Dundee, the only arthouse joint in the area.

  8. I feel disappointed that they would show that version in Edinburgh. It’s almost like saying you’re gonna show the star wars trilogy and then turn around and show the prequel movies.

  9. Well, at least they were open in their publicity about which version was showing, to be fair.

    A better analogy might be to advertise the Star Wars trilogy and then show the revised, CGI-infected re-rereleases, but in fact those are the only ones available.

  10. That is actually a far better analogy. Way to make me feel embarrassed. But regardless it’s still great to have such an important piece of film being shown in the center of Edinburgh for the public to view.

  11. These screens open up new and exciting possibilities for outdoor events. They give a strong image even in the brightest sunlight. A really interesting curated programme of features chosen to suit the places their show in could be quite something.

  12. David Boxwell Says:

    For Moroder, the film was simply a proto-music video–a succession of iconic images. And many of us don’t mind this approach so much, since the more we see of the intended film, the more its ideological confusions and naivety rankle.

  13. Lang was happy to admit that the film’s “message” was childish. But with all of his films, the meaning is really in the images and emotion, not what the script tells you it is. So the Mabuse and Nibelungen films are not “political” or “about” Germany, except that they are.

    I don’t think Moroder harmed the film’s meaning at all — in fact, he restored it from the Hollywood rewrite it had suffered from, and made it make MORE sense than it had before.

  14. Penfold Says:

    There are more than a few in the silent film/film history/archive community for whom the Moroder version was their first exposure to silent drama……

  15. Yes, I suppose we have to give him credit for that too…

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