Metropolis: L’Exposition

<i>Metropolis: L’Exposition</i>

Filmed between 1925 and 1926 in Berlin by visionary filmmaker Fritz Lang, Metropolis is a film of wild excess that became an important landmark in the history of motion pictures. Everything about it was monumental: enormous sets that took up the city’s three largest studios; 311 days and 60 nights of filming; thousands of extras; 6 million deutsche marks spent (a fortune then, and 5 million over budget); 17 reels of film in the final version. The result was a spectacular visual production that used all the available screen magic of the day to create a science fiction world in which men are enslaved by machines.

Some scenes are unforgettable: the factory, with its thousands of workers marching in cadence; the futuristic city with its superimposed levels (supposedly inspired by Lang’s arrival in New York in 1924 and his first view of the city from the deck of his ship); the eerie scenes of the sleek metallic robot coming slowly to life.

The latest exhibit at Paris’s Cinémathèque Française allows visitors to experience this historic film in a new way: by exploring each of its six major settings—The City of Sons, the Worker’s City, the Upper City, Rotwang’s Laboratory, the Catacombs and the Cathedral—through film clips, costumes, set designs, hundreds of photographs, and technical equipment used in the filming.

Metropolis was panned by most critics and was a box-office flop when it opened in Berlin in 1927 in its original two-and-a-half-hour version. But the avant-garde, led by Luis Buñuel and the French intellectual press, defended it, and a shorter version was shown in French cinemas. In the US, Paramount distributed a drastically cut version, and eventually, only severely cut versions of the film remained. Restored several times in the 1980s and 90’s, the film still had several key scenes missing until 2008, when an original version was found in a film museum in Buenos Aires, with nearly all the missing scenes intact. (The restored two-and-a-half-hour version of the film opened on October 19 at MK2 movie theaters in Paris to coincide with this exhibit.)

The Cinémathèque is fortunate to possess a unique Metropolis collection as part of its permanent holdings, including hundreds of photographs, original set design drawings and even a full-size copy of the robot. This exhibition, created by the Deutsche Kinemathek of Berlin, displays these treasures along with additional costumes, objects used in filming and projections. A final section, added just for the Cinémathèque, is devoted to the reception of the film in France.

October 19-January  29, 2012. Cinémathèque Française, 51 rue de Bercy, 12th, Métro: Bercy

€6 exhibit + museum

Hours: Mon, Wed-Sat 12 noon-7 pm; Thu 12 noon-10 pm; Sun 10 am-8 pm. Closed Tue




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