Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

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Brianruns10
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#301 Post by Brianruns10 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 12:48 am

It was a good documentary, though it sadly confirmed what I expected: that the argentine version was derived from a B or C negative for foreign prints, meaning it is comprised entirely of alternate takes and angles.

Why am I saddened? Because it is sadly ommitted from the coming blu-ray, aside from those scenes needed to fill the holes in the Murnau restoration.

I've already decided I won't be buying Kino's release, because I regard it to be a rather sloppy, rushed job, in comparison to their stellar recent releases of Buster Keaton's films.

None of the special features of the original have been carried over, and even the Alloy Orchestra's score was left off, because of issues with the Murnau foundation.

A film like "Metropolis" deserves a multi-version "Bladerunner" type treatment. If I were doing it, I'd have the comprehensive, restored version on disc one, the complete Argentine print with its alternate takes on disc 2 and the public domain,American version on disc 3. Now, I'll be the first to say the American cut is a bastardization, but considering many of us (myself included) were first exposed to Metropolis through this truncated version gives it a certain historic value, not to mention it would make a fine comparison.

And since we're working in the realm of fantasy, I'd also get the rights cleared up for a legal release of Moroder's version on a 4th disc. Then, a 5th disc of making of documentaries, production still, advertising memorabilia, and an examination of the film's impact on sci-fi in cinema and literature. Anything less than that, for me, is not definitive.

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#302 Post by Robert Wheeler » Tue Nov 09, 2010 7:02 am

Brianruns, I think you may be under the wrong impression about some of the facts of this release of Metropolis. All versions produced by Prof. Martin Koerber are based where possible on the American version held by the MoMA. As I understand it, the conclusion he reached upon close examination of all the material available was that version for the American market was probably the one that Lang decided to put all of the best takes in. The MoMA version is also the original camera negative, so it has the best photographic quality. The Moroder and Enno Patalas versions are both based primarily on the versions of the film retrieved from the Soviets, descended from the German premiere cut, and therefore comprised of mostly completely different takes and angles.

Shortly after the news arrived of the complete take, and the announcements of the Blu-ray and DVD releases of the new material, I wrote to Prof. Koerber regarding the potential of the Argentinian print for a release as an original uncut version of the film on my own label as an educational product. The response from Prof. Koerber was that the Argentinian film print was not complete, there were many cuts, it is just cut mainly in places where the other material is not cut. If you watch the restoration you can see this, there are cuts all over the place in the new material, and still unfilled cuts in the parts carried forward from the 2002 restoration. The opening Gardens scene still seems very disjointed and fragmentary to me, even though there are several shots and slithers of film restored by the Argentinian material. The Georgy 11811 car scene also seems to have been heavily censored. There is blatantly a cut at the point where the girl in the adjacent car gives Georgy the come on, and in the subsequent montage of shots, there is a jump cut just as the girl is about to expose herself (that one is not marked by black leader but I am guessing that Prof. Koerber's team decided to leave that one as a straight jump cut ratehrthan have the even more jarring slab of black in the middle of the shot).

The other fundamental problem with the Argentinian print is that without extensive restoration, is it unwatchable to the point of being practically fraudulent trying to sell it as a film. Professor Koerber has described it as the worst condition he has seen of any film ever, and it is not hard to see why. The original unrestored material is in a shockingly bad state. There are relatively consistent vertical scratches that run through practically every scene. Even a nutcase like me, or people that have been used to watching homemade VHS transfers of films projected onto bedsheets, would struggle to watch that thing. The restoration of this material as it exists is the result of a challenging battle to trade off gaining as much watch ability and image detail as possible while reducing the appearance of the image damage. Even when restored, you still get the feeling that you are watching through a set of iron bars and there are far more visible artifacts of the restoration present in the finished product than you would expect in a Prof. Koerber restoration.

Also, the Argentine print idid not provide all of the new scenes. Some of the new scenes in the print were also found in the New Zealand print, but in better quality, and so they were the source. The were also a few seconds in the New Zealand print that were not present in the Argentinian print.

This restoration cost around £800,000, which they seem to regard as working to a tight budget, but mathematically for the footage per minute runs about the same cost as the 2002 restoration. Any suggestion that it is a rushed job is really very unfair. It was largely the same team as 2002 worki ng on it, with elements of the work sent out to specialist labs.

The score on the new release absolutely wipes the floor with the previous restoration.

I think a multi-version release that gathers all available material is a nice aspiration. I personally would like to see a education version based around a PC application that allows you to cut your own version of the film. However, I do not think this can happen until a cleaner print of the Argentinian version of the film appears. And I am fairly sure this will happen at some point. As far as I am aware, nobody has actually done an extensive search of all the Argentinian archives and private collections as of yet. The 16mm Argentinian print discovered in 2008 represents the actual version of the print that was distributed across Argentina. I find it hard to believe that in a country that was crawling with hiding Nazis with nothing much to do through the late 1940's and beyond that there would not be another surviving copy of the film sitting in someone's archive.

I did actually ask Prof. Koerber by email prior to him having seen the Argentinian print film whether this was the third version of the film, and he said that at that point he was not sure. Having watched the new documentary that comes with the DVD, it seems that he says it was the version that was sent to New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Britain, but I am still in the dark as to whether it is the third print, or a copy of the American or German prints. I am guessing that the versions went to New Zealand, Australia and Britain cut to the Paramount specification - but then why would the New Zealand version have more footage? Possibly the New Zealand print was copying from the negative and sent out prior to the cuts being completed?

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#303 Post by Roger Ryan » Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:26 am

I think it would have been appropriate to include the 90 min. cut on the Blu-ray if only to demonstrate how much story was lost to the previously missing 55 minutes.

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#304 Post by Robert Wheeler » Tue Nov 09, 2010 11:18 am

The 2002 cut is edited quite differently to the 2010 cut. A lot of the shots are re-ordered. There are several different shots used as well (for example the Zeppelin shot which is present in Moroder cut appears in the 2010 cut - this led me to believe that the Argentinian print descends from the negative that made US master, as the Argentinian cut seems to have informed the change of selection of the shot.). The Argentinian cut was used as a guide to fill in a lot of the guesses of all the previous restorations. With all that, I can not see them including a blu-ray version of the 2002 cut, being that it would now most likely be regarded as a superceded work-in-progress. I do however like the decisions that the Koerber team made over Lang's in some circumstances - that is if the Argentinian print really does represent an accurate picture of how the film was originally edited. Maybe they might release the 2002 cut in a higher resolution or film studies students at some point?

Brianruns10
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#305 Post by Brianruns10 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 11:47 am

@ Robert Wheeler,

Robert,

I may not have been clear enough in my original posting, but I never meant to criticize the restoration itself. I've viewed it several times, and regard it to be excellent. And given the quality of the Argentine print, I actually found the restoration work done on the new material to be quite admirable, given what they had to work with. It was actually a bit better than what I had expected.

My criticism was directed entirely at Kino, for releasing what I feel is a substandard treatment, given what they've done for "Steamboat Bill, Jr." and the impending "Sherlock, Jr." and "The Black Pirate." And given that Metropolis has arguably the most complex editorial history, and long reaching influence, it deserves far better.

The current release has no commentaries, none of the extras from their previous release. It has fewer features than MOC's version, which ironically, has a commentary with an American, Jonathan Rosenbaum. I just can't believe Kino couldn't get SOMEBODY, or at least, licence the MOC tracks.

I love Kino, and will be buying many of their titles this year, but I won't be getting Metropolis, because I don't think it is an adequate treatment, and I'm content to wait until a proper one is created...

I meant no slight against the work of the restorers themselves. They've worked a miracle, and because of them, I now know a film far beyond that beaten up, dim, edited, almost incoherent VHS tape I watched as a middle schooler.

BR

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dx23
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#306 Post by dx23 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:06 pm

I haven't checked the specs of the new release, but if what Brian says is true, then is truly a shame that Kino didn't release complete Metropolis collection, including the several cuts of the film and ported the extras from the previous releases. Metropolis is arguably their biggest title in their collection and they should give a treatment to the film similar to what WB has done with some of their classics like Citizen Kane, Wizard of Oz and Blade Runner.

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aox
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#307 Post by aox » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:12 pm

Yes, the specs seem paltry according to Amazon. It was already going to be a less important sting in regards to the cover art vs. MOC's... but alas, No sale. :sigh

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markhax
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#308 Post by markhax » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:16 pm

Thanks to the recent posts in this thread, I just canceled my pre-order with Amazon. I had wanted blu-ray, and don't have a region free blu-ray player. I guess I'll go for the MOC on DVD.

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#309 Post by Robert Wheeler » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:03 pm

Where are you guys getting your information? I am looking at the spec here: http://www.kino.com/video/item.php?film_id=1162

I have the Masters of Cinema release, and the only difference I can see between the two is the commentary. To be fair, the commentary on the 2010 MoC is much better than that from the 2003 MoC release, but that is the only difference I can see between the US and UK releases. All the other features are the same. Maybe they will be different in framerate, I'm not sure. I have the blu-ray too, but I actually have to borrow a blu-ray player to see what is actually on the disc! :)

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#310 Post by Robert Wheeler » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:20 pm

BTW, in my opinion the new documentary is much better than that supplied with the previous editions.

Brianruns10
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#311 Post by Brianruns10 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:21 pm

The MOC version preserves the original, German intertitles, and has a supplemental book of essays and extras.

But you are right that it is not much different from Kino. And I'm not singing praises about MoC's version. If Kino gets a C- for their release, I'd only give MoCs a C+ or B- because they added a commentary.

BOTH releases are lackluster, IMO, given the wealth of information and materials and history surrounding this film.

As I've said, to do this film justice, it needs a multi-disc, multi-version treatment on par with that of Bladerunner (which, ironically, was heavily influenced by Metropolis). And I don't think it would be too difficult. I would even accept a blu-ray/DVD combo:

Disc 1 (Blu): The restored version with Huppertz score and commentary track
Disc 2 (DVD): The Argentine Version. As has been pointed out, this film is in poor condition, but the fact that it contains many alternate takes and angles (revealed in the documentary about its recovery) makes it an important inclusion. I think its poor quality would make a SD-DVD release acceptable.
Disc 3(DVD or Blu): The American edit. It's a bastardization to be sure, but vital to really see how it was altered. It also has great cinematic importance in its own right, because for the majority of its history, it was THIS version that was available, and subsequently influenced later filmmakers. I believe this version is public domain (correct me if I'm wrong).
Disc 4: Extras: Stills gallery, advertising materials, documentaries. The sky's the limit on the content you could generate here.

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#312 Post by Robert Wheeler » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:00 pm

Brianruns. I think you are under some misapprehensions about what actually exists and what this product is. I think it is a bit unfair to call this release lacklustre. I only have a promo of the MoC versions with a press release and a cardboard facsimile of the cover, so I do not have the packaging, but from what I have seen of it in photographs the cardboard and steelbook versions look very nice. I really do not think it is fair to expect them to make the first release of this film and omnibus edition with every single foot of available footage available. It really is not as easy as taking the footage and bunging it on the disc, there are a range of licensing and legal issues. And I will repeat, although I would like to see the Argentinian print in its entirety, it would take a lot of work to make it ready for the commercial market. The clips of the untreated material that have been released show that it is completely unwatchable without remedial work. But yes, it would be very interesting to see it.

I am not sure if you have realised that the alternate shots are not restricted to just the Argentinian print. The Enno Patalas and Moroder versions are based on the Soviet print, the Prof. Koerber restorations are based primarily on the American MoMA camera negative. Most of the shots Koerber use are different to the Moroder and Patalas shots (although a few more seem to be the same in the 2010 restoration). One of my favourite shots from this film is in the Moroder version, the swinging camera shot into Maria's face as the lift falls down. In the Koerber print it is a much tamer shot.

Either way, this is certainly not the release to do the omnibus treatment on. Maybe they will do the ideal release for fanatics for us in the future, but it seems hard to criticise this release for more or less not being a box set. To be frank, in this market we should be glad people release any titles at all, let alone lavish this much attention on a 93 year old film.

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skuhn8
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#313 Post by skuhn8 » Wed Nov 10, 2010 6:51 am

Let's face it: if you release the Argentine version without restoration the target audience would bitch that the label stiffed them for not restoring; sink a million or so into such a restoration and the likely majority would cry "why did you bother? Now the set is overpriced!"

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#314 Post by Robert Wheeler » Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:21 am

I think that is a fair prediction. The material is in that bad shape that it would also be unwatchable if they slapped an automated process across the whole thing just to reduce the appearance of the damage a bit. The image remaining would likely be obliterated along with the noise. It will take another generation of image restoration tools to make a significant improvement on what they have done so far, and I expect it will take an equal or greater amount of hands on effort to apply it.

SuperBlu
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#315 Post by SuperBlu » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:18 pm

dx23 wrote:The documentary "Metropolis Refound", which aired after the film on TMC was also pretty good. Interesting to see how that film was re-discovered in Argentina of all places with the missing scenes.
And it seems this is a different documentary from the one included on the upcoming blu-rays, even though both have similar running times.

"Voyage to Metropolis" (on blu-rays)
aka. Die Reise nach Metropolis
dir. Artem Demenok
IMDB page

"Metropolis Refound" (shown on TCM)
dir. Evangelina Loguercio, Diego Panich, Laura Tusi, Sebastián Yablón
IMDB page

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MichaelB
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#316 Post by MichaelB » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:51 pm

Robert Wheeler wrote:I think that is a fair prediction. The material is in that bad shape that it would also be unwatchable if they slapped an automated process across the whole thing just to reduce the appearance of the damage a bit. The image remaining would likely be obliterated along with the noise. It will take another generation of image restoration tools to make a significant improvement on what they have done so far, and I expect it will take an equal or greater amount of hands on effort to apply it.
To be honest, I'm amazed they were able to extract what they did - and I seriously doubt that even the next generation of image restoration tools would make a really significant difference.

Ultimately, you can't restore what isn't actually there, and you're going to hit that absolute buffer at some point - this is a 16mm dupe of a badly damaged print, so the usual restoration tools don't work because the damage is actually printed into the image and therefore part of it: you can't wet-gate or use any other chemical process that's designed to minimise the effect of actual physical damage. And how do you restore the content of the parts of the image that were cropped off?

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movielocke
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#317 Post by movielocke » Sun Nov 14, 2010 8:57 pm

glad to see that kino does it right and presents the intertitles translated as audiences in america would have seen them in the original release.

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Tommaso
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#318 Post by Tommaso » Sun Nov 14, 2010 9:02 pm

movielocke wrote:glad to see that kino does it right and presents the intertitles translated as audiences in america would have seen them in the original release.
Well, German audiences today have to see practically any foreign film in a dubbed version. That doesn't mean that this was the intention of the filmmaker, or if I may speak for myself, the way I want to see it. One of the reasons why I almost never go to the cinema these days.

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Yojimbo
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#319 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:22 pm

Antares wrote:
dad1153 wrote:The restored version of "Metropolis" (1927) has its American US TV premiere on TCM (USA) Sunday Nov. 7th at 8PM ET (5PM PT).
I had been holding off for years watching this film, hoping that somehow they'd find the lost footage. After finally getting to see it last night, I was completely blown away by it. Lang is a freakin' genius!
I'm eagerly awaiting receipt of my Masters of Cinema DVD; I was originally expecting it next week, but as the release of the Ophuls that is part of the same order, has been put back a week, I may have to wait that much longer.
'M' remains Lang's 'Meisterwerk' for me, though, pending any revision arising from this 'Metropolis'
(and thats after seeing all extant Lang Masterpieces)

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MichaelB
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#320 Post by MichaelB » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:48 am

movielocke wrote:glad to see that kino does it right and presents the intertitles translated as audiences in america would have seen them in the original release.
That's not an argument that can be sustained very far, unless you really do prefer MPAA or studio-censored versions of films.

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#321 Post by Robert Wheeler » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:50 am

MichaelB wrote: Ultimately, you can't restore what isn't actually there, and you're going to hit that absolute buffer at some point - this is a 16mm dupe of a badly damaged print, so the usual restoration tools don't work because the damage is actually printed into the image and therefore part of it: you can't wet-gate or use any other chemical process that's designed to minimise the effect of actual physical damage. And how do you restore the content of the parts of the image that were cropped off?
Actually, you can sometimes restore things that are not there, or make a decent prediction of what could go there without being too distracting to the eye. There are some very interesting things that have come out of the labs in the last few years. However, I think the best bet for this film is to find another print. I am utterly convinced there will be further prints in Argentina or elsewhere in South America (maybe Brazil?). I honestly can not see how in a country that was crawling with Nazi's for so long, that there can not have been another copy of that print made, or that there is not another surviving print from another lineage, bearing in mind that the full Metropolis was the version distributed in Argentina, and the version that was discovered appeared to have come from at least two separate sources. If someone went over to Argentina and did a thorough search I am convinced they will turn up new and superior elements. At the very least they will come up with elements with different damage.

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Feego
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#322 Post by Feego » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:59 am

Robert Wheeler wrote:Actually, you can sometimes restore things that are not there
Oh good, now maybe someone will restore London After Midnight.

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aox
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#323 Post by aox » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:23 am

While I appreciate anyone's optimism for finding all of these 'new' prints of Metropolis, or any other film lost or not, I would like to remind everyone that it took 80 years to find this print. I am thrilled that we have this and that the film is almost complete for the first time. Let's not put the cart before the horse.

Robert Wheeler
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#324 Post by Robert Wheeler » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:44 am

aox wrote:While I appreciate anyone's optimism for finding all of these 'new' prints of Metropolis, or any other film lost or not, I would like to remind everyone that it took 80 years to find this print. I am thrilled that we have this and that the film is almost complete for the first time. Let's not put the cart before the horse.
The key thing is, while they were looking, they were not apparently looking in Argentina. One of the problems was that researchers were claiming an extensive worldwide search had been done, and really they were over playing their efforts. As soon as the print turned up and researchers started actually looking at Argentina, there was considerable fairly easily available evidence that showed that the full version of the film was distributed there, totally contradicting the previous widely touted story that all versions of the print were cut prior to international distribution. As far as I am aware, an extensive search of the archives, and most importantly, private archives, has never taken place in Argentina. Any Tom, Dick or Harry could have strolled into that film archive at any point in the last thirty years and discovered that print. I am telling you now, if they look properly, they will find better or alternate sources for that footage.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

#325 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:39 am

If we're going to be that optimistic, screw a slightly better print of the full Metropolis- I want 4 Devils.

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