04 July, 2008


So here's the thing.

I just wanted to write a brief post about a couple of things I'm excited about.

Firstly, possibly the most important discovery in film history. I first saw Metropolis about five or six years ago, when the Film Festival showed the recently restored version. And the film, an extraordinary silent film from 1927 about a futuristic society, class divide, a worker uprising, and one of the most famous robots in cinematic history, just blew me away. Not only is it an enjoyable story, but the design and look of the film is incredible, and there is a scope and size to the film that is quite mindblowing, with some effect sequences that still hold up today.

The sad thing is that the film only played briefly in its complete version, before having cuts. The restored version that I first saw was still missing nearly a quarter of the original footage - they covered the gaps with cards detailing what happened in the missing scenes. It was an elegant solution that worked well - especially since, being a silent film, we're already watching cards for any dialogue, so no real adjustment is needed. But still, some of the scenes described sounded interesting, and so it was frustrating whenever one of those cards appeared because you would just find yourself thinking "I want to see that."

So you can understand why I'm excited. It was announced yesterday that a copy of the complete film with all the missing scenes has been discovered in a film museum in Buenos Aires. From the pictures available of the footage, it looks like it is badly scratched (and although there will obviously be restoration efforts, who knows how clean they'll be able to get it), and it is from a 16mm print (so there will be an obvious quality drop from the 35mm footage), but who cares. We'll be able to see Metropolis complete for the first time in 80 years. And that is exciting. Plus, Kino have since confirmed that they will be including the new footage in their already-announced Blu-Ray release, scheduled for next year. That's one release I'm really looking forward to.

(EDIT: It now seems it may not quite be complete. It seems there is still one scene missing - apparently it was at the end of a reel and was badly torn. But otherwise, complete!)

Now, did anyone check whether the Museo del Cine had a copy of The Magnificant Ambersons?

The other thing I'm excited by is just something cool I came across on on the Guardian website. It seems Channel 4 in the UK is having a season of showing Stanley Kubrick films. As a fan of Kubrick, I'm in favour of anything that allows people to discover the man's work. And they're clearly going all out to promote the season. Witness this ad, purporting to present Kubrick's point-of-view as he walks through the set of The Shining, past the twins, past someone painting REDRUM on a door, dodging extras practicing their ballroom dancing, through the snow-covered hedge-maze, to finally sit down at his chair, about to direct the very scary Danny-on-a-tricycle scene. And the recreation, to my eye at least, looks perfect. The attention to detail is stunning, the look-alike actors seem convincing, and the presentation of the behind-the-scenes world seems faithful to how it was presented in the documentary shot by Kubrick's daughter on the Shining set. It's a brilliant ad, and I hope it succeeds in bringing attention to the season, introducing Stanley Kubrick to many people who have never seen his films.

By the way, apparently they're starting with a new documentary, Citizen Kubrick. This interested me, and when I Googled the title for information, it seems it's based on this Guardian article from 2004. I've read the article a few times in the past, but it's always a delight to reread. Two years after Kubrick died, Jon Ronson was invited to the Kubrick house, and the story reveals Kubrick's obsessive attention to detail. (In my favourite part of the article, we discover that Kubrick keeps an archive of fan letters arranged by city, so that if one of his films is shown somewhere, Kubrick can arrange for one of those people to check the quality of the movie screen.) It's a fascinating insight into who Kubrick was, and the idea of a documentary based on that article is rather exciting.

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