Made in Germany and directed by Fritz Lang, this remarkable and influential film is set in a segregated, dystopian future–one where wealthy citizens live a life of luxury above ground in an ultra-modern city and where a large group of hidden enslaved workers live underground to keep everything running. When one of the city’s rich kids learns about the plight of the underground workers, he and a woman from the underground plot a rebellion. However, the rich kid’s father and his employed evil scientist have something else in mind…
The film is revered for its themes, art direction, and special effects–all of which are stunning. There have been multiple cuts of the film. I watched the 2010 version that I rented on Apple iTunes which includes 25 extra minutes of footage that was found in 2008 and considered by film scholars to be one of “the most important film discoveries in history” according to The Essentials author Jeremy Arnold.
Here’s a trailer for the 2010 restored version.
And here’s a cool poster for the film, too.
Metropolis is definitely worthy of its reputation—a monumental and astounding film that stands the test of time.
It’s been fascinating to me to learn more about and to finally see Orson Welles’ final film The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix, 2018).
A biting satire of Hollywood and sort of a film-within-a-film itself, The Other Side of the Wind is about a legendary film director named Jake Hannaford (played by the real-life legendary director John Huston) who is attempting to resuscitate his languishing career by making an avant-guard film called, well, The Other Side of The Wind. Hannaford needs an influx of cash to finish the project, so he throws a screening party at an expansive home in Arizona and invites potential investors and various members of the Hollywood media to show them parts of the unfinished film.
Orson Welles began shooting the film in 1970. Filming continued sporadically for six more years. From what I’ve read, it sounds like a combination of Welles’ temperament along with a series of complicated financial deals brought the work on the film to a standstill. Welles died in 1985 and the film remained in an unfinished state and became a “holy grail” of sorts for devotees of Welles’ work.
Multiple attempts have been made over the years to complete the film. Finally, the deep pockets of Netflix along with the work of director Peter Bogdanovich (who also stars in the film) and movie producer Frank Marshall (who was an assistant on the film) were able to get the job done.
While Welles supervised some of the editing himself when he was actively working on the film, what we have for our viewing pleasure now is an attempt by multiple filmmakers, artists, and technical experts to recreate a work by a notoriously fickle auteur. Writer and self-professed Orson Welles “obsessive” Alex Ross in a very interesting article in The New Yorker wrote:
“Welles buffs will long argue over their choices, but the film is a major addition to the director’s canon, offering a sometimes harrowingly personal vision. Hannaford is hardly a self-portrait, but his predicament is not unlike Welles’s own: he is a legend whose past overshadows his present. At the same time, ‘Wind’ is an exhilarating forward leap, its rapid-fire editing and pseudo-documentary format heralding modern styles. Ultimately, it has the Wellesian quality of not caring what you make of it. As one of Hannaford’s minions says, bringing out a stack of film cans, ‘Well, here it is, if anybody wants to see it.'”
Ross also details in his excellent piece about the physical and technical challenges of assembling the film. “[Sound supervisor Daniel] Saxlid, a wizardly Swede, spent more than three months cleaning up the dialogue, working seven days a week in a windowless room in Technicolor’s post-production facility on the Paramount lot. Multiple transfers of the soundtrack had caused a build-up of noise and distortion…Saxlid developed a…program, “a kind of forensics,” to expand microscopic portions of the track and reduce noise while preserving the voices. All this solitary activity gave him a curious sense of interaction with Welles himself. ‘So much of this we couldn’t have done even a few years ago. All these endless delays drove everyone crazy, but maybe the thing had to wait until we had all the right tools for it. I kept having a funny feeling that Welles had tossed all this to the future, for us to figure out.'”
They definitely figured things out technically. The film is fascinating to watch—almost as if Welles had come back from the grave to give us one last film. The imagery is sometimes a bit challenging and unplesant, but is also sometimes absolutely revelatory in its composition, style, and technical excellence. I wonder if we’ll ever figure out all of what Welles was trying to say. To me, it was like Welles taking his hands off the steering wheel of a speeding car, giving the middle finger to Hollywood, but then crashing and, sadly, losing his life in a rather self-consumed and futile way.
The film is currently available on Netflix. Also of interest is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the creation of the final cut called They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, which is currently on Netflix as well.
The plan is to watch one film a week from the list below (which is taken directly from Jeremy Arnold’s Essentials book), read Jeremy Arnold’s take on what makes the film “essential,” read any other pertinent writings and relevant information about the film, and then blog and/or podcast about my experience and learnings.
The always awesome Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival is happening next April 11-14, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Today, six more titles were added to the list of films being screened.
The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926), a silent western film starring Tom Mix and Dorothy Dwan; directed by Lewis Seiler
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), a comedy starring Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson, and Alec Guinness; directed by Robert Hamer
Marty (1955), the Academy Award-winning romantic drama starring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair; directed by Delbert Mann
Open Secret (1948), a film noir starring John Ireland, Jane Randolph, and Sheldon Leonard; directed by John Reinhardt
Outlaws of Red River (1927), another silent western starring Tom Mix, Marjorie Daw, and Tony the Wonder Horse; directed by Lewis Seiler
Winchester ‘73 (1950), a western starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters; directed by Anthony Mann
With the theme of “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies,” the festival lineup keeps getting better and better. For the latest information and updates, visit tcm.com/festival. We hope to see you in Hollywood next April!
The magical and mysterious Mary Poppins is back again in London to help out the Banks family in Mary Poppins Returns, a new sequel from Walt Disney Pictures.
Yes, this film is a sequel to, not a remake of, the classic 1964 film which starred Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, et al. Author P.L. Travers wrote eight Mary Poppins books, so it’s not like it’s a totally out-there idea to do a sequel, even if it’s been over 50 years since the first film was released. However, with the current remake-happy management team running the Walt Disney Studios, a sequel originally sounded like a creatively bereft idea, at least to me. The 1964 film is such an iconic work that I felt this possibly could be a very misguided, reductive, and disastrous project.
However, now that I’ve seen the film, I have put those worrisome thoughts to rest because this sequel is pure delight. It’s definitely an homage to the 1964 original (I believe the filmmakers have been referring to this new film as a “love letter” to the original), but it also stands on its own as a high quality, highly entertaining, and highly emotional (in a good way) classic Hollywood musical.
Here’s a fun little featurette about the film:
The story picks up 25 years after the original. Jane and Michael Banks have grown up. Michael (played by Ben Whishaw) is, sadly, a widower who is raising his three children on his own and has also fallen on hard financial times. Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) is an activist (taking after her mother) and a devoted sister and aunt, but the family is still in a bit of a crisis.
Enter Mary Poppins (wonderfully played by Emily Blunt), who flies back in to 17 Cherry Tree Lane to get the Banks family back on track in her own unique and enchanting way. Also along for the ride is Jack the lamplighter (or “leery”; expertly played by Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda) in the sidekick role similar to Dick Van Dyke’s Bert in the original.
The entire cast is stellar. It also includes Julie Waters as the Banks’ family maid, Colin Firth as president of the bank where Mr. Banks used to work and where Michael Banks is currently employed, Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins’ cousin Topsy, Angela Lansbury as the balloon lady, and even Dick Van Dyke himself shows up in a brief but meaningful cameo.
Along with the great cast, the film’s creative team are the ones who really brought this positive and whimsical film to life. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods) along with the terrific songwriting team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman (Hairspray) have been able to create a new film in which everything old is new again and which, like the original, doesn’t have a snarky or cynical bone in it.
Take your family and friends over the Christmas holiday to experience this charming, cathartic, and optimistic film together.
Mary Poppins Returns is rated PG by the MPAA for “some mild thematic elements and brief action.”
My score: 5 out of 5 stars
And as an added bonus, here are a couple of fantastic posters for the film.
A new poster, trailer, and official name dropped today for Marvel Studios‘ next Avengers movie, Avengers: Endgame. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love these Marvel Studios movies?!) We’ll find out what our superheroes do to defeat the evil Thanos on April 26, 2019.