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REVIEW: Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis (1984)

July 23, 2012

FilmJuice have my review of Giorgio Moroder’s eighties remix of Fritz Lang’s immortal Metropolis.

Lang’s Metropolis is a science fiction fairy tale dealing in class warfare, economic collapse and the power of compromise and understanding to deliver a world that is at the very least tolerable to all. Grounded in the cinematic techniques developed by German Expressionism to increase the bandwidth of silent film and unlock new depths of emotional complexity, the film is two and a half hours of directorial brilliance. However, though the original cut of the film has now been recovered, there were decades during which people believed it would never be seen again. Given that Metropolis is not only a beautiful but also an intensely important film, it was perhaps unavoidable that attempts to restore it would stir up strong feelings. In fact, the debate over what should be done with the Metropolis fragments rapidly coalesced into a bitter confrontation between those who wanted the original film left as it was and those who wanted the meddle with the footage in the hopes of recapturing some dim afterglow of Lang’s genius. Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis is not only the best known and most interventionist of the alternate edits of Metropolis, it was also the most widely seen version of the film as the ‘hip’ scoring by eighties pop stars combined with the short running time ensured that copies of the film flew in and out of video rental stores throughout the eighties and nineties. Now that the original cut of the film has been recovered, it is tempting to simply consign Moroder’s edit to the bin and move on but this cut has historical merit on its own.

Moroder’s Metropolis is a short and punchy affair that feels very much like an extended trailer for original version of the film. Moroder solves the narrative problems of the various re-cuts by stripping out much of the dialogue and drama in order to focus upon the big cinematic set pieces and emotional moments. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this results in a film that bubbles with the same hysterical energy and visual spectacle as the Michael Bay Transformers movies. However, rather than leaving his characters to scream and flail about like Shia LaBoeuf, Moroder attempts to fill in the emotional gaps by scoring the film with a series of somewhat heavy-handed eighties power ballads performed by the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Freddy Mercury and Pat Benatar. Moroder also colourises the film in an attempt to convey changes of mood which, though obvious from the context of Lang’s longer film, struggle to emerge from the mangled cinematic vocabulary of the truncated versions.

Watching this film, I couldn’t help but wonder what other alternate edits of classic films are out there… the film is being re-released today by Masters of Cinema in a limited edition steel shell thingy. Release of the standard edition is coming later this year according to the Brazilian river place.

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