Saturday, February 13, 2010

Metropolis regained

Full marks to the German/French arts channel Arte for going to town with the restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The screening of the reconstructed film was preceded by half an hour of speeches and interviews, then followed by a documentary on the restoration. I had planned to record the evening's proceedings for later viewing, but I found myself caught up in the excitement of the occasion, unable to tear myself away, just about following the captions and commentaries with my rusty schoolboy German. The idea that I was sitting in my Lowestoft living room experiencing this film in something resembling its entirety for the first time in 83 years, at the same time as the audience in the Friedrichstadt Palast in Berlin, was ever-so-slightly mind-blowing. The idea that I was experiencing it in a relatively warm environment while thousands froze their extremities off at the Brandenburg Gate to achieve the same end made me profoundly grateful for my £30 Lidl satellite box and the hours I spent up a ladder aiming the dish.

What of the film? Well, I'll be honest. I'd never seen it before, not even in the 1980s pop version by Giorgio Moroder. However, having seen it now with the restored material, I can't believe that it made any sense at all in its edited form. Every single reinstated frame seemed vital to me, no matter how dire the picture quality. I say dire, but the restorers have worked miracles with the 16mm reduction print found in Buenos Aires. This clip gives a rough idea of how much work they've done.

It's like patching a 30ips audio master tape with sections from a wax cylinder, but the most important thing is the story, and the elements told in those flickery fragments were meant to be there. And now they are, again.

I'll expect the same gala treatment from BBC4 when the telerecording of Fred Emney Picks a Pop finally surfaces.

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