Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Metropolis: Head, Heart and Hands … 

You know, there comes a point when — literally —  you have to sit down with a classic or two.

No, really.

I’ve always prided myself on being something of a science fiction fan, so for me, that means sitting down with a really vintage classic or two.

Including — back in the late 1970s, when it was re-shown at my local cinema, post-Star Wars2001: A Space Odyssey.

Which is a definite experience, I should add, here.   Catching Kubrick’s work on the big screen is, I’m assured, something of a delight: which ever of his films you see.

But that one is pretty good.   Watching it on a TV — however hi-definition/widescreen that TV is — isn’t quite the same.

Hmmm … 

Either way, I should maybe sit down with 2001.   It’s been something of a dog’s age since I’ve seen it.

But I was saying about classics, wasn’t I … ?   Yes, I was …


You see, there’s a school of thought that says — every-so-often — you should make a point of seeing those films that generally feature on bucket* lists: in other words, they’re the sort of film to see before you die.

God alone knows how many of those there are.   I’m willing to bet that if you ask one hundred people for the title of just one such film … you’ll get about three hundred names.

Not many people will agree.

It possibly gets easier if you narrow things down by specifying a genre.   Even then, you’ll, probably still get an argument.

Especially if the genre in question is something like science fiction: complete with Star Wars at one end, Bladerunner at another, and — keep with me — Star Trek at a third end.   Oh, and the original Russian version of Solaris, along with 2001: A Space Odyssey forming a fourth and fifth end to a multidimensional stick.

THEN things like Weird Science floating around, giving people tension headaches.

Yeah, the less said the better, there, I think.

At any rate … ?   At ANY rate, the point I’m trying to make, is that I managed to rent one of those films that’s been seen as a classic.

If not a classic: then certainly genre defining.

The 1927, Fritz Lang film, Metropolis.

Let me try and explain, shall I … ?

Metropolis is set in a future city: where the ultra-rich rulers of the city live at the top  — literally — of tall skyscrapers, and the heavily downtrodden workers both live and work underground.

The film follows the story of Freder — son of Joh Fredersen, the city’s ruler — who lives a largely carefree life.   Until one day, he and his friends lives are interrupted by the visit of the mysterious Maria: who is showing a groups of workers’ children how the rulers of the city live.

Freder, of course, falls instantly in loveº.

And immediatly decides he has to 1) met Maria again and 2) find out more about how the workers of the city live.

What he finds out … ?   Is enough to give him a desire to want to improve their lives: AND help Maria with her mission to lead a peaceful revolution.

The only person trying to stop him … ?

Is his father, Joh: a man who, in one of the films more iconic visual moments, meets with the inventor, Rotwang.   Rotwang, in the search to replace the dead women both men loved … ?   Has made a replacement: one that can be used to replace Maria, JUST as easily … 


Now … 

What CAN I tell you about Metrolpolis … ?

Hmmm … 

Firstly … ?

Firstly, the brief bit of history: or the little I’ve understood of it.   Metropolis has had something of a rough ride, over the years: with the net result that — at some point — quite a bit of footage was missing.   Certainly enough to make the Giorgio Moroder version a viable way of telling the story Lang wanted to tell, back in 1984.   (That, if you didn’t know it, was the inspiration for the video for Queen’s Radio Gaga.)

However … ?

Back in 2010, quite a bit of the original footage was found in Argentina: enough of it to bulk out the film to 2 hours and 24 minutes, the version that’s available to rent or buy on iTunes‚ª.

Oh, granted, the footage isn’t perfect: I think the quality the restorers had to work with wasn’t as good as the BBC gets, when it finds missing Dr Who episodes.

But it IS perfectly watchable: and the film even has a short summary, at the start, explaining the history of this version of the film.


As to whether the films any good … ?

Well … 

I think I’m going to have to give Metropolis a very reluctant 3 star rating.

Yes: it’s beautiful: seriously beautiful.   To the point of double checking the spelling of the word, beguiling, simply so I can use it to describe Metropolis‡.

The only downside, from where I’m sitting is the sheer length of the piece.

Please, bare that in mind.

*        Before you kick the bucket, in other words.   Personally, I want to be immortal: or die trying … 

º        Regular fans of Star Trek will immediately realise where the show’s producers got the idea for the soft-focuse camera-work that tells you this is Captain Kirk’s latest victim.   Sorry, LOVE INTEREST … !

ª        In pretty much the same way, the BBC is always on the look-out for missing episodes of classic Dr Who.   I’ve managed to see the DVD version of the William Hartnell story, The Reign Of Terror, today: the BBC’s managed to recover two episodes of the show, and animate a further two.

‡        Part of that beauty … ?   Is simply some of the Art Deco inspired look and feel of the city itself: I’m fairly sure I read an interview with Ridley Scott, where he mentions it, in relation to Blade Runner

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