SXSW + OAM: Metropolis Buzzes With Golden Hornet

SXSW gave us the double-edged sword of joy through the heart known as Metropolis with the addition of a live performance of an all-new original score for the film. Plus, we drank beer during it. Only in Austin.
By  · Published on March 22nd, 2009

Every week, Film School Rejects presents a movie that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies teams up (unofficially) with SXSW to present:

Metropolis (1927)

If you’ve never seen Fritz Lang’s classic silent film Metropolis, then the only image you’ve probably taken away from it is the feminine sight of the Machine Man (or Woman, if you will) who inspired the look of everyone’s other favorite feminine robot, C3P0. Although if that’s the only thing that’s burned into your brain, it’s a real shame. She’s only an extremely tiny part of this epic film.

Leave it to Austin and SXSW to plan a screening of Metropolis, complete with a live band providing an all-new score for the film. They topped it off by having it at the Alamo Drafthouse, which we haven’t sung the praises about nearly enough. Classic scifi movie, live band, and beer? Check, check, and check. This was one of the niftier pieces of programming at SXSW, and it fuses the whole idea of music and film together nicely.

The Golden Hornet Project worked up an original (and fantastic) score for the movie, and played it on the stage just in front of the theater at the Alamo Ritz. Playing new scores for Metropolis is nothing new, but after recently hearing the Moroder version that was filled with pop songs and artists from 1984, it’s a nice return to basics, even though the Golden Hornet version features an electric guitar.

The ultra-curious can still pick up the Moroder version on of the soundtrack on CD, or the entire movie on DVD, but it would be fantastic if The Golden Hornet would release their version as well, either on a CD or via a download service. It struck all the right notes, used sound effects where necessary, and even had a frenetic xylophone plonking along in perfect syncopation with the film. With all respect, I was doubtful I’d love their composition going in, but they really did knock it out of the park.

The only thing holding this back from being a perfect experience was that the movie is still the much shorter version without the lost footage that was recently discovered in a complete (but damaged) negative of the film. Much of Metropolis was considered lost for decades, but this new version will be complete after the restoration is finished, and should be available in standard and Blu-ray versions as well. For this screening, they used the Kino standard definition DVD version, which is largely considered to be one of the most complete (and coherent) cuts of the film. It’s a terrific looking version of the movie, but features a lot of intertitles, which explain the action that occurred on the missing pieces of the film.

If you haven’t seen the movie at all, you might as well wait until the complete cut comes out, or if you’re dying to see it you can rent the Kino version, which is thankfully also on Netflix. It’s a gorgeous, bleak, and stunning vision of the future through the eyes of German neo-realism and Fritz Lang. Pitting the social struggle of the city of thinkers and planners who live in luxury above the city against the city of workers far below the surface who toil to keep the rich living in splendor. The lone voice of reason, a worker named Maria with a message of mediation, becomes an extremely instrument of perversion when a robot is crafted in her image and used to sow dissent amongst the working class. And believe me, there’s nothing more sexy and sinister looking than the robotic version of Maria (Brigitte Helm) with her one-eyed evil stare smirking at everyone.

The movie has inspired everything from Blade Runner to The Matrix to Brazil, and really needs to be seen by fans of scifi and cinematic history. If you’re interested in hearing the Golden Hornet’s score, I’d encourage you to email them and ask for it nicely. If I’d known it would have been so good, I would have recorded a bootleg of it. Of course, with the new version coming out, maybe they’ll do a completely new take on the score for us. In the meantime, go treat yourself to a double-feature of the 1927 version of Metropolis, along with Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis from 2001, which was inspired by the poster from the original film. You’ll thank us later.

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