Monday, December 30, 2019

A big finish for 2019 with 'Four Horsemen,'
now a big start to 2020 with 'Metropolis'

Nigel De Brulier (upper left) gets ready to say his big line at the end of 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.'

One reason I create music for silent films is that the experience allows me to commune with the big emotions of life: Love with a capital L, or Fear, or Joy, or Despair.

I don't get that from any other story-telling art form, with the exception of opera.

So silent film is my way to remind myself I'm still alive, and what the big emotions feel like. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it makes it all worthwhile.

Well, I'm pleased to say it happened in spades yesterday afternoon at the Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H., where I accompanied "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921) before a near-capacity crowd.

There are things in this big, sprawling picture that greatly move me. And it all leads up to one very special moment right at the end, when the Nigel De Brulier character is asked if he knew a man buried in an enormous hillside cemetery.

"I knew them all," he cries in the graveyard, and at that moment I feel like I'm connected to all of humanity, to something great and wonderful and meaningful—something larger than myself.

The crowd seemed to get it as well, judging from the response throughout and the reaction afterward. I even earned a partial "Standing O" from one side of the room.

Thank you to everyone who joined the journey, both for this screening and for more than 100 others during 2019. It's been a great year and I'm looking forward to 2020.

Speaking of which...

My next screening (and first of 2020) is 'Metropolis' (1927), which will be screened on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H.

For complete info, here's the press release. Hope to see you at the movies!

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'Metropolis' (1927) will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H.

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Restored classic film 'Metropolis' to screen at Colonial on Sunday, Jan. 5

Landmark early sci-fi fantasy epic, with half-hour of rediscovered footage, to be shown with live music

KEENE, N.H.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H.

'Metropolis' (1927), an epic adventure set in a futuristic world, will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St., Keene, N.H.

The screening, the latest in the Colonial Theatre's silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer who specializes in creating music for silent films.

Admission is $10 per person general admission. Tickets are available online at or at the door.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a society where a privileged elite pursue lives of leisure while the masses toil on vast machines and live in poverty.

The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and underground cities, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.'

In reviving 'Metropolis' and other great films of cinema's early years, the Colonial aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will improvise an original live score for 'Metropolis' on the spot. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early cinema leap back to life."

In 'Metropolis,' the story centers on an upper class young man who falls in love with a woman who works with the poor. The tale encompasses mad scientists, human-like robots, underground spiritual movements, and industrial espionage, all set in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened at the Colonial is a newly restored edition that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage cut following the film's premiere in 1927. The lost 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.

When first screened in Berlin, Germany on Jan. 10, 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes. After its premiere, 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 was only about 90 minutes long.

Even in its shortened form, 'Metropolis' became a cornerstone 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.

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, a 2½-hour version that debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored edition that will be screened at the Center for the Arts.

" '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, which means us," said accompanist Jeff Rapsis, who provides live music for silent film screenings throughout New England and beyond.

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 Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St., Keene, N.H. Admission is $10 per person general admission. Tickets are available online at or at the door. For more information, call the Colonial at (603) 352-2033.


“'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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