Author Topic: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"  (Read 5764 times)

Santa's Boyfriend

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Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« on: February 08, 2010, 11:14:23 PM »
Hey folks, you may or may not know that a full-length uncut version of Fritz Lang's seminal masterpiece Metropolis was found last year in Buenos Aires.  As far as I remember it was in pretty poor condition, but was nevertheless a complete cut, the only known to exist anywhere in the world.  Since then people with long white beards have been locked in dungeons with mystical instruments, feverishly working to restore the previously missing sections of the film.

Well apparently they've finished, and the first showing in over 70 years is going to be screened publicly in Berlin on Friday.  (The 12th Feb.)

It's way too soon for me to go over there for the premiere.  Besides, I don't speak German and I'm not actually that obsessive about film to make the journey anyway.  But it's still pretty exciting stuff, and I'll definitely be watching it at some point.  The most complete version prior to this was 118 minutes long - this version is 210 minutes.  That's a hell of a lot of extra footage.

kittens

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2010, 12:38:30 AM »
I was just in Berlin. Not adding anything here, just showing off.

Lee

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2010, 12:46:17 AM »
Is there any word of a DVD or blu ray?

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2010, 03:31:13 AM »
Good news that they finished it.  When they found it in 2008 a DVD release date of early 2009 was suggested which seemed a tad too soon.  Hopefully it'll be released soon.

vrailaine

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2010, 08:28:41 AM »
Couldn't give two f*cks about it, but this kind of stuff is always very cool. Was it standard practice back then for directors to make films twice as long as they should be?

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2010, 09:17:51 AM »
It wasn't standard practice, no.  It also wasn't standard practice to make a film so horribly expensive that it came close to singlehandedly destroying the entire German film industry!

It was made in 1926, which if I remember correctly was shortly after the US bailed out Germany financially.  Before then inflation was very much comparable to Zimbabwe today, and people were so poor they paid to go to the cinema with lumps of coal.  (Unless you were rich, in which case you were the richest you'd ever been.  The themes of the film are very much the themes of Germany at the time.)

I'm not sure why so much of it was lost, but I know that the version we had before was the cut made for US release - so it seems likely the original version was lost because of the war.  Hitler was a big fan of the film (being a bit of a film buff), and Goering asked Fritz Lang to make Nazi propaganda films.  Lang, to his great credit, refused and fled to the US before things got too nasty (along with many other German artists and film-makers).  He ended up making anti-Nazi propaganda films in Hollywood.

I have no doubt that there'll be a DVD and Blu-ray, but I don't know when.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2010, 09:29:55 AM by Santa's Boyfriend »

vrailaine

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2010, 09:36:04 AM »
It wasn't standard practice, no.  It also wasn't standard practice to make a film so horribly expensive that it came close to singlehandedly destroying the entire German film industry!
It seems damn close though, always hearing about how films back then went over budget several times over.

Was this version released commercially in Germany then?

Edit-Just read an article and this version was apparently discovered by the manager of the place it was in complaining about the film's length? That's pretty great.

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2010, 09:56:39 AM »
Christ, that makes you think.  Do many lost treasures still exist, held on to by people who think they're shit and don't realise what they've got?  Is the full version of The Wicker Man held by someone who thinks it's a crap film about a bunch of hippies?

biggytitbo

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2010, 10:13:37 AM »
I'm really interested in the restoration of old films, but god oh mighty is that film boring. 118m was tedious enough, 210m of it?!

rudi

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2010, 11:20:15 AM »
You disgust me. I can't wait to see it; I wonder what they'll do about a soundtrack. The Giorgio Moroder one holds a special place simply as it was the one that accompanied my first flush of love with the film. The Jeff Mills effort was pretty pleasing too.

biggytitbo

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2010, 01:00:33 PM »
I love the Moroder soundtrack, but having had the displeasure of sitting through the film several times for various reasons I find it almost unbearably tedious.

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2010, 02:36:18 PM »
I wonder if they'll do a 3D edition.

(Maybe with a new soundtrack by Metallica.)

An tSaoi

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2010, 04:02:26 PM »
My problem with extended versions of old films is that you can usually tell which bits have been inserted (oo-er) into the new cut, even if you've never seen the film before. It's okay for something like the Lord of the Rings, where the extra material is of the same picture and sound quality as the theatrical bits. Apocalypse Now Redux is pretty seamless too. But if you take The Good the Bad and the Ugly, the 'new' scenes look a lot worse than the 'old' scenes because they've been neglected so long.

If the discarded elements of a 1966 film can look so bad, I can't imagine that the bits that were lost from a 1927 film would be up to scratch. Unless they've done one hell of a restoration, you're going to see the dip in quality. My policy is to showcase the new-found bits as special features, rather than trying (in vain) to make them match up to the familiar elements.

Note: I haven't actually seen the film, so I don't know how good/bad the previous edit looks.

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2010, 05:08:31 PM »
Metropolis is one of the most important films ever made, though - with the added (and frankly bizarre) twist that almost nobody has ever seen the full version.  The version now being released is the director's cut in the proper sense, it isn't a special extended edition made to get extra cash.  It's the original version of the film.

The film is so important as a historical document that I'd be amazed if they didn't pull out all the stops and use every resource necessary to make a top quality reprint.  I don't know if it's a negative they found, I suspect not (that would be unbelievably lucky), but I'm sure there's a lot they can do these days with restoration of a standard print.  Removing dust and scratches, although laborious, isn't that difficult.  The problem is to do with how much visual information is actually in the print at all.  Can they generate information that isn't there?  I know you can upscale images but that's not quite the same.  (Like that magic computer moment in films where they get a grainy image and say "can you clean this up a bit?")

Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2010, 05:13:28 PM »
Couldn't give two f*cks about it, but this kind of stuff is always very cool. Was it standard practice back then for directors to make films twice as long as they should be?

If he's called Fritz Lang - oh yes... sir should try sitting through the 1959 version of The Indian Tomb for example.

Or rather, sir shouldn't because that's four hours of your life you'll never get back...

To be fair, the man is a genius and he could make great movies - Spione, The Big Heat, any of the Dr Mabuses which includes the 1924 version which ran for four hours and had to be shown over two successive nights at the time but, unlike some of his other films, is so packed with incident and exciting visuals it seems far too short...

But he could also get carried away and, as with Metropolis, could mistake length for significance. I'll be first in line to buy this when it comes out, or near the front anyway, but whilst it'll be visually a treat I suspect that it'll be longer but not significantly better- Zu lange und Zu Lang as Ernst Lubitsch once put it.

Mind you, can one improve on greatness ? More greater ?

An tSaoi

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2010, 05:51:08 PM »
Metropolis is one of the most important films ever made, though - with the added (and frankly bizarre) twist that almost nobody has ever seen the full version.  The version now being released is the director's cut in the proper sense, it isn't a special extended edition made to get extra cash.  It's the original version of the film.

I wasn't suggesting that at all. Going back to The Good the Bad and the Ugly example, the restored version of it was the original version as well, but the previously absent elements weren't of sufficient quality to be included with the rest of the film. It was simply too late. They had to rerecord the audio track, so it wasn't fully representative of the original version.

Which brings me back to Metropolis. There's no way that retrieved footage is going to be in good shape, so even if they do a hell of a restoration, it's not going to be 'the original version', just a badly degraded film polished up a bit and incoroprated into... argh I've just noticed that it's a fully uncut print they've found; I assumed they just found the lost bits and were splicing them into the last fullest edition of the film. Aaah. Ignore everything I've said.

The benefits of learning to read, children.

Edit: Although you could argue that anything which uses a score other than the one that was played when the film was first released isn't the 'original' version. Was there a set score to accompany the film, or did each cinema's pianist do his own thing?

Edit 2: The best option would be to release a DVD which has the shorter, but best quality version of the film with the new (but degraded) scenes as special features, with the option to view the film with those scenes intact (as per Blade Runner, where they stuck three versions of the film on one disk). Asking people to fork out for a longer but patchier version is a bit much.

Edit 3: I should probably watch this film at some point.

Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2010, 05:53:33 PM »
… I don't know if it's a negative they found, I suspect not (that would be unbelievably lucky), but I'm sure there's a lot they can do these days with restoration of a standard print….
From what I’ve read, it’s a 16mm reduction negative – which would have been copied from a 35mm print (used to be a very common format in schools). There’s a bit about it here - http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/sep2008/metr-s16.shtml

Before the version released in the mid-80s (which was taken from a 35mm print), I believe that most of the additional footage that had surfaced over the years  of Metropolis was taken from other 16mm reduction negatives 

This latest print was meant to have been a shocking state so it would have taken a hell of job to restore – although one scene is too damaged to reproduce.

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2010, 06:08:38 PM »
Ah, didn't realise that.  So it is sort of a negative, which means they will be able to do a lot of restoration on it, but one scene will most likely always be missing.  Still, not bad.  16mm is nearly full HD too (35mm is double what HD TVs can do, but realistically only in a good quality cinema) so a Blu-ray with the new scenes seems a distinct possibility.  I'm sure there'll be a copy of the missing scene on the DVD too, unrestored.

EDIT:  Oooh...



EDIT 2:

Apparently in one of the cut scenes, some giant men rampage around the city like Godzilla and point at cars with sticks.


biggytitbo

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2010, 06:32:21 PM »
Metropolis is one of the most important films ever made
It is but that doesn't equal good. Some DW Griffiths films are incredibly important in film history but they bloody stink as films you'd sit down and watch for entertainment.

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2010, 10:39:36 PM »
True, but Metropolis is actually quite good.

It's not a perfect film by any means, but a good story with some exceptional visual design work, and has some scenes in it that are jaw-dropping even today.

rudi

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2010, 12:42:11 AM »
The copy found, though, was in a shocking state; I've seen it. I'm assuming they're only gussying up the bits they don't already have in workable form (although I really don't know this to be the case, by the way)?

Lee Van Cleef

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2010, 12:58:33 AM »
The copy found, though, was in a shocking state; I've seen it. I'm assuming they're only gussying up the bits they don't already have in workable form?

I imagine they'll get the CSI and NCIS computers that fantastically enhance images to super detail from mere glancing shots.  That'll do the trick nicely!

rudi

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2010, 01:24:21 AM »
I imagine they'll get the CSI and NCIS computers that fantastically enhance images to super detail from mere glancing shots.  That'll do the trick nicely!

:-)

"Zoom in. No, more than that. Oh my god, he's carrying a microdot!"

An tSaoi

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2010, 01:27:24 AM »
And the shiny surface of the robot means we'll be able to watch the film from all different angles and reflections.

Lfbarfe

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2010, 01:59:14 AM »
My policy is to showcase the new-found bits as special features, rather than trying (in vain) to make them match up to the familiar elements.

While there will undoubtedly be dips in quality, I disagree with your policy wholeheartedly. The point of the restoration is to see the film in its entirety as the director wanted it, and that means having the grotty bits where they are regardless of the picture quality, rather than tacked on the end.

Ooooh, it's being shown by the German channel Arte at the same time as it's being shown live in Berlin. I can get Arte on my satellite box.

JesusAndYourBush

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #25 on: February 10, 2010, 02:11:33 AM »
I'm really interested in the restoration of old films, but god oh mighty is that film boring. 118m was tedious enough, 210m of it?!

Ashamed to say I've not even seen the 118min version.  I think the longest version I've seen is the Moroder version which I'm led to believe, tinting and soundtrack aside, was in it's time the most complete version.

When the Aikman version came out in 1993 was anyone else as gutted as I was to discover it contained the same amount of footage as a 75~80min version (albeit with an extra 1 min of footage) slowed down to woefully sluggish 2h19.

although one scene is too damaged to reproduce.

Does that mean they couldn't play that part of the film, or they could play it but it looks really badly damaged.  Personally I'd rather see that scene regardless of what it looks like unless there really are no discernible images.

Was there a set score to accompany the film, or did each cinema's pianist do his own thing?

Pretty sure I read somewhere that there was a score, although whether it's just for piano or a whole orchestra I don't know.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 03:12:50 AM by JesusAndYourBush »

Lfbarfe

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #26 on: February 10, 2010, 02:33:08 AM »
German news report here, with some glimpses of the unrestored footage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCXyJJAjpUc

Santa's Boyfriend

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #27 on: February 10, 2010, 09:24:07 AM »
Thanks for that!  The quality doesn't look as bad as I had feared actually.  If most of it is that kind of static, then computer programmes can indeed clean it up by the same standard cleaning process they use for most films today.

Here's a trailer for the restored version of the film Babylon that came out on DVD not long ago, a film made in 1980 about the lives of a group of young Jamaicans living in Brixton and for a long time unavailable.  The trailer shows how much of a difference the restoration process can make.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEK2ObIlTAA

Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #28 on: February 10, 2010, 03:57:12 PM »

Apparently in one of the cut scenes, some giant men rampage around the city like Godzilla and point at cars with sticks.
 
I can see that a few film historians will have to rewrite their analysis.

It is but that doesn't equal good. Some DW Griffiths films are incredibly important in film history but they bloody stink as films you'd sit down and watch for entertainment.
Not a very good example picking Griffiths because:

Griffiths’ contribution to cinema is arguably rather slight – Birth of a Nation and Intolerance are the most significant films he made and this is largely down to their length. More than a few people, such a Budd Schulberg (who knew a thing or two about the film industry, not just for his writing but because of his parents) argue very persuasively that Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (http://www.archive.org/details/the-great-trainrobbery) captured people’s imagination and had a far bigger impact on the evolution of cinema than anything that Griffiths did.

Griffiths’ films, as a whole weren’t entertaining to contemporary audiences – a major reason why so many of his films failed commercially, especially his later ones. Audiences seemed to prefer watching slapstick comedy rather austere moralising – for some reason – so if people didn’t find them entertaining to watch then, it’s not too surprising that they’re not entertaining to watch now.

Of course, Bill Fields did make a couple of comedies with Griffiths, a genre that the latter was totally unsuited for – but still worth watching.


The copy found, though, was in a shocking state; I've seen it. I'm assuming they're only gussying up the bits they don't already have in workable form (although I really don't know this to be the case, by the way)?
From what I’ve read – and I make no claims how accurate this is – that they were restoring all off it from that negative and to show this on the big screen. There was talk that the newly recovered footage was going to be inserted into existing versions for DVD/Blu-rays, but I this might just be speculation/Internet chatter – more than a few people have said this is why there was inaccurate claims that this newly extended version would be available to buy on DVD/BR at the end of last year. 

…Does that mean they couldn't play that part of the film, or they could play it but it looks really badly damaged.  Personally I'd rather see that scene regardless of what it looks like unless there really are no discernible images…
Just going what I’ve read, it’s too badly damaged to restore properly – but I would think/hope that they would make it available. I want to see the legendary lost custard pie finale.

German news report here, with some glimpses of the unrestored footage:..
Cheers!

…Here's a trailer for the restored version of the film Babylon that came out on DVD not long ago, a film made in 1980 about the lives of a group of young Jamaicans living in Brixton and for a long time unavailable.  The trailer shows how much of a difference the restoration process can make….
Interesting comparison – there was something similar to one of The Goodies releases and the original print in such a dire state, it was amazing to see what they did.

biggytitbo

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Re: Metropolis - the restored "directors cut"
« Reply #29 on: February 10, 2010, 04:19:34 PM »
Quote
Not a very good example picking Griffiths because:

Griffiths’ contribution to cinema is arguably rather slight – Birth of a Nation and Intolerance are the most significant films he made and this is largely down to their length.

My film studies course assured me that Intolerance was an extremely influential film in terms of its sheer scale and ambition, not to mention its technical qualities, its editing and production design. It was certainly a key film, not just in America, but in Europe and Russia in pushing cinema away from a bloke kicking a policeman up the arse in a park to something that could tackle complex stories and ideas with the thematic ambition of a novel.

I've seen it and its absolute shit.