Saturday, January 21, 2012

Once again, 'Metropolis' (1927)

An encore presentation of the restored 'Metropolis' (1927) is up for tonight at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. Our screening on New Year's Eve was a sell-out, and so the folks there were kind enough to schedule a follow-up to give others a chance to see this great picture with live music.

What's unusual about this screening is that 'The Artist' (2011) is now playing at Red River, which means that tonight, two out of the theater's three screens will be running silent film. Never thought I'd expect to see that happen, but it is kind of a nice piece of synchronicity.

I do look forward to doing it again tonight. The press release that went out earlier this month is below, but here are a few additional notes.

For one thing, I continue to marvel at the strong interest in relatively limited science fiction section of the silent film library. 'Metropolis' has always been popular, but last year I did music for a 1916 version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' for the Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, and the folks at Arisia, another sci-fi/fantasy gathering in Beantown, are talking about running 'The Lost World' (1925) at their 2013 gathering. And Fritz Lang's 'Woman in the Moon' (1929) is a film I would love to score someday. It all seems so counter-intuitive: an obsolete art form (silent film) telling futuristic tales. But the folks who are into it are really into it.

One thing about presenting silent films with live music is that every venue has its own characteristics, and I'm never sure how things are going to sound, even from screening to screening. So many variables go into it, including what season it is. If it's winter, then heavy coats tend to absorb sound. In a small room, that can make quite a difference.

With my synthesizer's stereo output and my two Roland speakers, it seems the sound is at its best when a room has some reverb and also there's some distance for the two channels to mix. A lot of old New England town hall auditoriums work great. But modern function rooms, with their low ceilings and carpeting, not so much.

Acoustically, Red River is a challenging place to do a silent film, at least with my equipment. The place we do them in, the "screening room," has carpeting and fabric on the walls and it all just soaks up sound. And because the room is so small (maximum capacity 60 people) and has a low ceiling, if there's any kind of audience, that further absorbs the sound. Also, when playing, I have to be off to the right side, so I'm not hearing what others hear. So all in all, it's a tough room.

A big problem is getting the sound volume right. Because of the smallness of the room and all the issues problems listed above, things can easily seem too loud, especially over the course of a two-and-a-half hour film. And Metropolis, with its extended three-part climax, can easily add up to too much in terms of music. So it'll be really important to pace myself at tonight's screening - to not go too far too fast in the opening scenes, however tempting, because I need to have places to go later in the movie.

Here's the press release. Hope you can make it tonight! It's a snowy day today in our part of the world, so if nothing else we'll see if 'Metropolis' is more of a bad weather draw than 'Birth of a Nation' in Plymouth, N.H., which attracted all of five people last week after a day of steady snow.

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

Red River Theaters to run encore screening of restored 'Metropolis'

Landmark sci-fi fantasy movie to be shown with live music at Concord, N.H. cinema on Saturday, Jan. 21

CONCORD, N.H.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. The encore screening was scheduled after a New Year's Eve showing sold out. 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 underground communities, 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 ministers to the oppressed workers, 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' become one of the cornerstones of science fiction cinema. Due to its enduring popularity, the film has undergone several 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 by music producer Giorgio Moroder. An 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 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.

"The 'encore' screening will give local fans to see 'Metropolis as it should be seen: on the big screen and with live music," said Jeff Rapsis, who provides live 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.

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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For more info, contact:
Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •
Images attached.
More high-resolution digital images available upon request.

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