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AICN's Mastidon Reports From The METROPOLIS Restoration Premiere In Frankfurt!!

Merrick here...
...with a report from our man Mastidon, who was in Frankfurt for the reveal of the newly restored METROPOLIS. Mastidon's done a bit of work for us in the past - reporting from some pretty cool places (like THIS write-up of QUANTUM OF SOLACE's London premiere). But I don't think I've ever been as jealous of him as I am this weekend. To have been have been there... This said, we'll have another round-up of AICN reader's reactions to this startling new version of METROPOLIS - probably tomorrow morning(ish). For now, here's my buddy Mastidon with some thoughts on Friday's experience. Enjoy!

Hi Guys! Mastidon here with a report about the World Premier of the newly restored Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece METROPOLIS. It had been 14 months since I last saw METROPOLIS on the big screen (BNAT X). I was looking forward to this for months on end for the chance to finally see the newly restored version. Most of you know the story of how a print was found just sitting in a museum in Buenos Aries. What you may not know is that there is just over 30 minutes of new footage bringing the run time to 147 minutes! There are still 6 minutes missing from the original print as the 16mm copy from BA was in very poor quality and difficult to restore. In fact, special software was custom written just to get the most out of this print. A new score was written to fill the gaps of the new footage. Total cost for the restoration was 500,000 Euros ($700,000). Well worth it in my opinion. Germany realized the importance of METROPOLIS and wanted to handle its re-release with the respect it deserved by releasing it as part of the Berlin film festival. As such, there were simultaneous world premiers in both Berlin and Frankfurt where live orchestras performed the new score. In addition, the Berlin performance was streamed to the Brandenburg Gate where 2,000 or so people watched in the cold and snow. It was also broadcast in HD on ARTE who then streamed it on the net for all to see. Merritcat and I were lucky enough to have tickets to the Frankfurt premier. This means you also have some great photos from her.

The premier happened at the Alte (Old) Opera House. If you put a stereotypical picture in your mind as to what an old European opera house looks like, this would be it. As you can see from the photo, they even rolled out the red carpet for the event.

Inside the opera house, the place was decorated with stills from the film.

Before the film started, there was the usual set of speeches. The announcer for the evening described METROPOLIS as "The AVATAR of its time." A great compliment for AVATAR in my opinion and a fair comparison since METROPOLIS invented special effects techniques used for decades later and I am sure this will also be true for AVATAR. Then there was a sit down interview session with the BA museum curator who found the print. She talked about how when the print was found, she watched it side by side with the 2001 DVD. She wasn't sure if this was a different copy until she saw the first new scene - 23 minutes into the film.

The President of Hessen (state which Frankfurt is in) got up and spoke. Added no value and was just your typical loud mouth politician but it made him feel important. A long winded speech later, and the orchestra walked out.

The film - First the bad. The restored footage is grainy at best. No one would could call it clean by any definition. Numerous streaks throughout. Another problem for this dumb American was that there were no English subtitles. Not a huge deal though as there wasn't that much new dialogue. The biggest problem though is that the frame rate is still not fixed. 27 fps I guess simply can not be done anymore and it is not possible to correct it without messing it up. The end scene on the roof is where it is most noticeable - so much so that the crowd laughed at it. Very disturbing. Most Germans have no normal appropriate sense of humor and this certainly wasn't funny. Now the good. The restored footage is grainy at best. This allows you to immediately see where the new footage is! Very helpful when the film is 2 1/2 hours long and sometimes the new footage only lasts one second. This cut was put together from about a dozen different sources ranging from DVD quality to faded away. The faded away came from the BA print which was not stored properly. The best effort possible was done to bring back the missing 30 minutes of footage. The team that did the restoration did a fantastic job with the source material they had. The first new scene shows up 23 minutes in while Freder plays in the garden but before Maria steps off the elevator. It is only a few seconds of a man putting lipstick on a woman's face. Most of the new footage does not show up until the 2nd and 3rd acts. Merritcat described this cut best as a Director's cut which sums it up perfectly. Entire subplots that were cut are now restored and put into the story where they had previously been missing. A fine example is the life of 11811 who is the guy Freder takes over the machine controls from. 11811 goes to the upper city and lives the life of a party animal. Whooping it up at a nightclub and going crazy with the women. He is followed and terrorized the entire time by Freder's father's assistant. This is a still where the assistant is hiding behind a newspaper while watching 11811.

There was also an entire subplot around the death of Freder's mother and a giant statue made in her honor. For me, the most amazing new footage came in the 3rd act. Substantial pieces of the flooding of the city with children hanging on for dear life were restored. Just the filming of it must have been an impossible feat in 1926. I am guessing it was cut due to the fact that it was too disturbing for the average person at the time. Also cut was a scene with Maria being chased by the angry mob through the city which leads to the eventual destruction of the robot. I read in a talkback that the USA premier would be sometime in April. My advice to you, go see it. Nothing can match the experience of seeing this on a large screen with a live orchestra. No DVD release will ever give you the same passion and feel for it. One of the greatest movies ever made, now restored to its original glory. Pure genius. Until next time. Ciao. -Mastidon

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