A Letter to Momo
Even scenes that work, such as a climax on a rain-soaked bridge, feel like they could have been trimmed by a few hand-drawn frames. Maybe…
It is the most sensational find in recent film history. A nearly-complete print of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927) has been discovered in Buenos Aires, 80 years after it was thought a quarter of the film was lost forever. Called by many the most important of German films, one of the landmarks of silent Expressionism, its plot had several loose ends that will now be repaired.
The find was made by Paula Félix-Didier, director of the cinema museum in Buenos Aires. Her story is told in an article in Germany's Zeit magazine, which traces the print from its arrival in Argentina in 1928. It found itself in the collection of a local film critic, who sold it to the National Art Fund in the 1960s, the magazine says. It arrived in the Museo del Cine in 1992.
Felix-Didier's ex-husband, director of the museum before the position was taken by his wife, "had heard from the manager of a cinema club, who years before had been surprised by how long a screening of this film had taken. Together, [they] took a look at the film in her archive --and discovered the missing scenes." Their print has been examined by experts in Berlin, where the film had its 1927 premiere. They agree it is authentic. After a restoration, the Murnau Foundation, owner of the rights, will release it to festivals, theaters and DVD.
Lang (1890-1976), was a powerful director in Germany who had the power to finance "Metropolis" one of the two or three most expensive silent films ever made. With a huge cast of extras and astonishing sets, he told the story of an underground city of workers and a city on the surface of those who benefitted by their work. The film was followed by "M" (1931) starring Peter Lorre as a child murderer.
Leaving Germany at the rise of Hitler, Lang moved to MGM in Hollywood, where Expressionism was having an influence on the developing genre of film noir. His American movies included "The Big Heat," "Scarlet Street," "Ministry of Fear," and "You Only Live Once." A scene in "M," of ranks of criminals arrayed above their boss at a dark subterranean meeting, their faces emerging from darkness, is visually quoted in the great "Dark City" (1998), a film much influenced by Lang.
"M" and "Metropolis" are in the top 100 of IMDb.com's list of the greatest films of all time. Both of those films, and "The Big Heat" (with its famous scene of Lee Marvin throwing a pot of coffee in Gloria Grahame's face) are in my Great Movies Collection at rogerebert.com. I am looking forward to re-writing the "Metropolis" review.
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