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Metropolis (1927)

A pillar of expressionism! A fantastical projection of the future through the lens of a 1920s epic melodrama! An expressionistic base gives science fiction sets a unique quality that still stands apart from other passť examples made through a span of decades afterwards. Unlike much sci-fi, the backgrounds here are often minimal, king-sized, and even integrate some Gothic imagery. Much of the stuff accommodating the labor-intensive lower class has a nuts & bolts industrial look as well. Of course, science fiction still bears Metropolisí hefty boot prints. The ubiquitous sprawling cityscapes are stuff of legend.

Metropolis follows a now common theme of technology gone awry, and underlines the unscrupulous fellows abusing its power. The subordinate side of society sees strict uniformity among workers driven by mindless duty, while the dissenting humanist morale of the lead attracts the laborers search for solace. Itís either that or his dashing 1920s German balloon pants and six pounds of makeup.

The melodrama here seems taken right off the stage, and exaggerated even for the 20s. Lang even later relegated the stories message a Ďfairy tale.í For modern audiences, that may make it a tough first foray into silent cine, but the wild gesticulations and histrionics stress the grandiose subject matter in a fun way.

The editing and cinematographic techniques can also be wonderfully disorienting (perspective shots, a quaking cam, multiple exposures, surreal montages). Moreover, metaphorical death is seen unleashed upon the city, men become a salacious hivemind driven to lunacy, synced up machine-like workers are seen encompassed by the steam of industry and labor, and thereís more than enough climactic bombast to satisfy the epic label. The flexible imagination accommodates the exalted rep.

So, itís been considered historically significant for a long time, and then a sizable chunk of new footage was uncovered a decade ago. Timeworn footage normally appeals to me, but when juxtaposed to a clean, remastered transfer, the damage of the tacked on extra footage can take you out of the moment. Iím grateful that itís at least there now though.

Restored footage.