Monday, December 12, 2011

It's about time: 'Metropolis' (1927) on NYE

What better way to ring in the new year than with yesterday's view of tomorrow? That's the thinking behind our upcoming screening of 'Metropolis' (1927), the great German silent sci-fi epic from director Fritz Lang, on New Year's Eve at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H.

As I quoted myself in the press release below (and I love doing that), "'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future that came to pass, which means us."

The screening, with live music, is on Saturday, Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St. in Concord, N.H. Admission is $15 per person and seats are limited, so call the theater at (603) 224-4600 or visit right away to reserve right now.

The press release is below, but one thing I love about this film is the sheer athleticism of the performers, especially Brigette Helm. If you see this, watch the way she throws herself around the screen, putting her whole body into everything she does! Silent film never came as close to ballet as it did with her performance in 'Metropolis.' It's graceful and seemingly effortless, but not outrageous or over-the-top, and fits the character of the film perfectly, I think. Even her small gestures, such as an eye-blink that assumes much significance, are somehow big.

As for the music, this is a kickass film to score live, with just the right kind of pacing for things to build and develop nicely, and the kind of dramatic scenes that music can add a lot to if it all comes together. I've got several themes I've used in the past ready to go, and I'm developing a couple more to round things out. I might try to push the digital synthesizer a little beyond the traditional orchestral sound I go for, given the film's unusual setting. One of the major challenges is to hold back. The film is just one amazing visual after another, and there's a temptation to go too far too fast. Things do build, however, and you've got to have somewhere to go for the climax.

And finally, though 'Metropolis' is billed as a science fiction flick, the newly restored version we're showing (all 2½ hours of it!) reveals it to be heavy on the Christian spiritual allegory. Don't let that scare you, but any film that includes major scenes in underground churches and on cathedral rooftops has more than technology on its mind.

Still, the movie is jammed with enough proto-televisions and futuristic elevators and 10-hour clocks and massive machinery halls to delight any steampunk geek.

But it's more than that. So come see it!

And if all that's not enough, I'm told that the good folk at Red River have arranged for 'Metropolis' to be followed by a champagne toast to welcome in 2012. (Better brush up on the words to 'Auld Lang Syne,' too.)

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For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Red River Theaters to screen restored 'Metropolis' on New Year's Eve

Landmark sci-fi fantasy movie to be shown with live music at Concord, N.H. cinema on Saturday, Dec. 31

CONCORD, N.H.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15 general admission.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a futuristic city where a privileged elite pursue lives of leisure while the masses toil on vast machines and live deep underground. The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and flying cars, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.' The story centers on an upper class young man who falls in love with a woman who works with the poor, and encompasses mad scientists, human-like robots, and industrial espionage, all set in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened at Red River is a newly restored edition that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage cut following the film's premiere in 1927. The footage, discovered in 2008 in an archive in Argentina, has since been added to the existing 'Metropolis,' allowing plot threads and characters to be developed more fully.

The restored 'Metropolis,' now 2½ hours in length, will be accompanied by a score created live by New Hampshire-based silent film musician and composer Jeff Rapsis.

When 'Metropolis' was first screened in Berlin, Germany on Jan. 10, 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes. After its premiere engagement, the film's distributors (including Paramount in the U.S.) drastically shortened 'Metropolis' to maximize the film's commercial potential. By the time it debuted in the U.S. later that year, the film ran about 90 minutes.

Even in its shortened form, 'Metropolis' went on to become one of the cornerstones of science fiction cinema. Due to its enduring popularity, the film has undergone numerous restorations in the intervening decades in attempts to recover Lang's original vision.

In 1984, the film was reissued with additional footage, color tints, and a pop rock score (but with many of its intertitles removed) by music producer Giorgio Moroder. A more archival restoration was completed in 1987, under the direction of Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Archive, in which missing scenes were represented with title cards and still photographs. More recently, a 2001 restoration combined footage from four archives and ran at a triumphant 124 minutes.

It was widely believed that this would be the most complete version of Lang's film that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see. But, in the summer of 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative of 'Metropolis' that was considerably longer than any existing print. It included not merely a few additional snippets, but 25 minutes of "lost" footage, about a fifth of the film, that had not been seen since its Berlin debut.

The discovery of such a significant amount of material called for yet another restoration, which debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored version that will be screened at Red River Theatres.

"We felt New Year's Eve was a great occasion to screen the restored 'Metropolis,' as it's a film all about the future and things to come," said Jeff Rapsis, who provides live musical accompaniment to silent film screenings throughout New England. "'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future that came to pass, which means us."

To accompany a silent film, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The score is created live in real time as the movie is screened. Rather than focus exclusively on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

"Silent film is a timeless art form that still has a unique emotional power to move audiences, as the recent success of 'The Artist' has shown," Rapsis said. "With original silent films, which were made in another era, my goal is to help them come to life by using music to bridge the gap between the film and today's audiences. If you can show them as they were originally intended—on the big screen, in a restored print, with live music and an audience—they create the same kind of excitement that made people first fall in love with the movies."

The restored 'Metropolis' will be shown on Saturday, Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H. General admission tickets are $15 per person. For more information, call (603) 224-4600 or visit For more information on the music, visit


“'Metropolis' does what many great films do, creating a time, place and characters so striking that they become part of our arsenal of images for imagining the world.”
—Roger Ebert, 2010, The Chicago Sun-Times

“If it comes anywhere near your town, go see it and thank the movie Gods that it even exists. There’s no star rating high enough.”
—Brian Tallerico,

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