The Eye of the Fish

November 7, 2011


In place of the usual big bangs and anti-catholic burning of an anti-royalist effigy on Saturday night, some of the Fish crew saw the film Metropolis at the Michael Fowler Centre. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, but it is the first time I’ve seen it that has really done it justice. The film has been restored, almost, to a state of perfection – the edited version we have all seen for the last 80 years now replete with an extra half hour of footage, sourced from Argentina (16mm, grainy and badly scratched), with 11 snippets from New Zealand (presumably 35mm, and in much better condition). Huge round of applause for Frank Stark and the New Zealand Film Archive, and the frankly wonderful job they are doing, rescuing our filmic memories from the nitro-fuelled dustbin of the past.

What really made this film screening great was the full orchestra from the NZSO who, along with Maestro Strudel, kept a perfect accompaniment. The MFC is not the best place to see a film perhaps – especially for those of us in the cheap seats who really only had a view of the balcony soffit, and some celloists knees, but this luckily got sorted out before the start.

The first time I saw this film it had a backing soundtrack from David Bowie and Georgio Morodo, which made it funky, but only in a Tears for Fears type bad 80s mullet haircut way. Much the same way that the post-modernist architecture of the 80s thought it could do better versions of the 30s and 50s, with disastrous results like – well, much of Miles Warren’s work in Christchurch (that sadly, will not have to be pulled down…), the 80s refurbished copy of the film was groovy at the time, but sadly awful in retrospect.

The next time I saw the film was with a solo piano player, and it was good, but lacking the depth of soundscape that this production unleashes. It also was played back at the speed that made people waddle faster – and for the first time ever, I heard an explanation – from Mr Stark – that while it is shot at 16 frames per second, it is played back at 24 fps, and so, yes, it does get quite speeded up in the process, inevitably inducing fits of giggles from the tiddlers. Here, on the night, we finally saw a black and white production where people walked and talked at normal speed – and oh my goodness, what a difference a few more / less frames per second make.

It is remarkable really how the production still stands up to scrutiny, even today, with its depiction of evil capitalistic overlords forcing the 99% of the rest of the population to strive away in the gutter for a mere pittance while the white-trousered elite play tennis or hide-and-go-seek. Hmmm, yes, it really is like today, complete with disorganized Occupy Wall Street protests, and ineffectual wrangling over who has what shift on the McDonalds hamburglar chain. Sadly, in comparison to Fritz Lang’s masterpiece, the 1% are still screwing the rest of us, the traffic conditions have got even worserer, the architecture has gone downhill, and even the robots we are dredging up are patheticly unlifelike compared to the beautiful evil Maria-robotta. Can’t we get anything right?

If you are in Auckland this coming weekend – go see it. Last NZ performance on the 12th. It’ll never be quite as good on DVD as it is live…

7 - 11 - 11

did anyone else notice how much that 3rd photo down, looks just like the guys from the adidas Stand in Black campaign? or is that just me…?

7 - 11 - 11

and… just because i was astounded that grumpy old Westfold is still banging on about the pope, here’s his latest letter from the Capital Times:

“Halloween rot
I note your October. 26 issue once more rubs our noses in the Halloween rot that stems from our current aping of the Yanks, from okaying paganism, and from deliberately displacing Guy Fawkes Day as the popular fun and games for this time of the calendar year.
The excuse for the plan to phase out and then forget the 1605 gunpowder plot is that the observance is a real fire-hazard, so that our firefighters have to put out a lot of scrub-fires etc., during the night of November 5. My conjecture is that this is just a stalking-horse for a plan to make sure that nobody will know that GF and his fellow-plotters were all Papists desperately planning to kill the king and queen plus all those assembled at the opening of Parliament, and then to effect a coup d’etat that was to restore the Pope’s rule in England, Scotland and Ireland.
Halloween is also the Popish All Souls’ Day, which promotes the false doctrine of what brave Hugh Latimer rightly called Purgatory Pickpurse – payment for Masses for dead kinsfolk, a racket that still continues here and now.
On top of all that, we oughtn’t to make light of witchcraft which is flatly anti-Christian; so taking part in Halloween mummery isn’t right for people claiming to be Christians.”
H Westfold, Miramar (abridged).

7 - 11 - 11

I managed to watch the restored Metropolis at the Embassy during the 2011 Film Fest, and the story is a lot more coherent, despite the uneven quality of the previously missing scenes.

As for our old friend H Westfold, well, Poe’s Law applies.

7 - 11 - 11

Whoever chose MFC as the venue seriously needs to be shot. If the show had been sold out then the poor ushers would have had no way at all to rectify the issue stemming from the poor staging. As it was one of the reasons people were able to be moved from the sides is because they shut the auditorium doors and refused to let anyone else in. It’s worth noting that none of the first three rows returned to their seats after intermission, and we in the fourth row back were unable to read the subtitles through the strings section! Thankfully my husband and I have seen the film enough times to know the story, and a quick Google search at intermission brought up enough info to reassure me that my recollection of what was going on on the big screen was correct.

That aside, the restored print is a marvel, and the orchestra did a stellar job and well deserved the extended applause. If only there had been a more suitable venue!

8 - 11 - 11

Pip – couldn’t agree more – although the venue did work well, once they had eliminated the no-viewers. Being sold a ticket on the basis of “restricted visibility” is a little different from being sold a ticket with “no visibility of the screen whatsoever”. Perhaps the darlings at the MFC need to have different seating maps of visibility restrictions for different situations. If it had been orchestral only, I would have sat happily in my restricted/no view seat, closed my eyes and listened. A bit difficult to do so when the whole point is visual…

8 - 11 - 11

for those, like me, that thought that Poe’s Law must apply to something by Edgar Allen, you (and I) are quite wrong. Nathan, apparently, from rational wiki's_Law

“Poe’s Law is an axiom suggesting that it’s difficult to distinguish between parodies of religious fundamentalism (or, more generally, parodies of any crackpot or extremist belief) and its genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane.”

24 - 11 - 11

…and curiously, still no comments here from starkive. Did I perhaps never say the one, massive, unstated thing i meant to say:
Thanks Frank !

What a fantastic treat for all of us, and made even more special because of the actions of those friendly bods at the Film Archive. We drink to you! We, who are about to die in a hideously blue election, Salute you !