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"Metropolis Redux"- An Interview with Gilchrist Anderson














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A short while ago, I found out about a fellow in New Zealand who spent two years completely restoring the classic 1984 Giorgio Moroder version of the film "Metropolis".  As many of you know, this film has never yet been released on DVD, much to the chagrin of folks like me who love this version.  As it turns out, Gilchrist Anderson is a great fan of the film too, and that is why he has spent so much time and effort restoring this masterpiece.  After viewing Gil's version of the film (which he calls "Metropolis Redux") all his hard work is immediately obvious.  I have never seen such a crisp, clean version of this enjoyable film.
 
I was compelled to talk with Gil and ask him all about the process he went through to reconstruct this amazing science fiction epic.  His passion for this film is indeed inspiring.

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1.  Do you recall the very first time you ever saw the
Moroder version of "Metropolis"?  How old were you?
What sort of impact did it have on you?

I first saw Metropolis some time in the late 80s, when I was in my teens. As a Sci-Fi fan, I knew about Metropolis from books but had never seen it before - obviously. One Sunday I saw that a film called Metropolis was going to be shown in the afternoon. I was lucky that I had decided to set up a video tape because the film started early, so I only missed the first 10 seconds or so.
I thought the film was great. I remembered being impressed that, here I was, watching a Sci-Fi film that was about 60 years old! The film looked even older to me then, because the quality was nothing compared to what we're used to now :-)

The film I saw and recorded was actually the Giorgio Moroder version but I didn't know that then. I just thought someone had put a modern soundtrack to a silent film. As a Queen fan, I was surprised to hear a Freddie Mercury track in there.

That crummy quality recording with mono sound was watched many times over the years. The tape got quite worn.

2.  What made you decide to completely reconstruct this version of  the film?

I saw the restored version in about 2002 and was blown away by the  improvements in film quality. It was like watching a new film. There were details that I marveled at - so many new things to see in each frame. I'd never really seen how Art Deco so much of the design was until then (like the wallpaper in Freder's apartment).

The idea and hope that someone would restore Moroder's version occurred after that and bubbled away for years. You know, it's one of those things that pops into your mind ever year or so, and you go and check to see if anything new has developed.

Well, nothing did. Except that I got hold of a copy of a Greek release of Moroder's version on DVD and wasn't too impressed with the quality there either. It looked like a DVD rip off standard VHS to me but it was a commercial release! Even the laser disc versions weren't  up to much.

Eventually I realised that nothing was going to happen with Moroder's version, so I might as well use the restoration as a little project to learn Final Cut Pro. 'Little project', what an idiot!


3.  I think it's important for people to realize that you didn't just transfer the film from laser disc to DVD.  Please tell us about the sources you used, and how you constructed the "Redux" version.

Like Moroder, I used every source I could find. DVD, laserdisc - even VHS in some cases. I picked the best and then reconstructed the Moroder film edit shot-for-shot. I then catalogued and re-applied all  the colour tints; re-created many special effects and cleaned up the audio and synchronization issues. Basically I was trying to make the film Giorgio would have made if he'd had the technology available in the 80s.

I've been very careful about what improvements I have made of my own bat. I've always tried to keep true to what Giorgio was trying to achieve. Sometimes it was very difficult to resist putting extra tints of SFX in.

4.  Why do you think so many purists simply do not like the Moroder version of "Metropolis"?

Well, 80s disco style music isn't to everyone's taste :-) When Moroder's version came out, some people hated it immediately: "How can he added MODERN music to a 1927 classic?!" He also colour tinted a black and white film (Despite the fact that years earlier film were always tinted). Shocking!

Well he did, and Metropolis' popularity today is arguably directly attributable to Moroder taking the film out of the archives and bringing it in front of a whole new audience in 1984. Me, for one.

Metropolis is a unique film in that there is no definitive original edit around and that it has been 'diddled' with in so many ways. Only 15,000 people saw the original in Germany before it was pulled by UFA for re-editing and shortening in 1927. And then there was the debacle of the American edit, shortening the film even further and completely changing the story-line.

Interesting that Lang himself has responded to questions about Metropolis with "Why are you so interested in a picture which no longer exists?"

Some people are obsessed with seeing Metropolis exactly as it was during that first run and anything that gets in the way of that is bad. Some people also don't like remakes of old songs. Some people don't like old buildings being knocked down and new ones made. Well, yes, new things can be done badly, but the intent of Moroder was to  bring to new light a film which he loved. All credit to him, I say.

Actually, many people have commented to me that they like the pacing of Moroder's version better, as the 'original' film drags too much. I guess that's why UFA started editing it down in the first place too slow
moving for some!

5.  Have you heard about "The Complete Metropolis"?  Are you anxious to see it?

Oh yes, I've heard about it and I saw it a few months ago too.  It really adds back some parts which have always been vague. Like what happened to Giorgi after he and Freder swapped places. Moroder tried to tell the story with stills but the new footage spells it out and also adds the Thin Man's menacing adventures back in. In previous versions he seemed to disappear after Frederson called him into his office and told him to watch Freder.

The new (well, re-found) footage also explains more of the relationship between Rotwang and Frederson. There are lots of other little bits which have been re-instated too. Go see the film when you can.

The quality of the extra footage is bad though - even after digital restoration. It's really easy to see where the new parts are.

6.  How has reaction been to your work?  Do you find that there is a great interest worldwide to see the Moroder version on DVD?

Those fans who love Moroder's version love it too. They basically say thank you for restoring an old favourite and that they don't have to worry about their worn out VHS tapes dying :-) Even those people who aren't specifically fans of the Moroder edit love seeing the Redux version. Metropolis has been a cult film as well as a classic for many years.

Some are less enthusiastic - like the German copyright/license holders. I've seen no official word from them but it seems like they just don't like Moroder's version and are trying to bury it like it never happened now that they have the 'complete' version (which is still missing footage, just quietly).

There's been a petition online for some time now asking Giorgio Moroder to release his version on DVD, but I think it's out of Giorgio's hands, as I mentioned just before. People have mentioned trouble getting the rights to all the music for a reason that Moroder's hasn't appeared on DVD, etc, but the Moroder soundtrack CD 
is still available new from Amazon for about 12 bucks ... so the rights can't be that hard to get.

And an Italian friend is sending me a commercial DVD release of Moroder's version which has just come out there. Yes, a COMMERCIAL release. You may now feel a pang of jealousy :-)

People react differently to situations. Someone created a petition to get Moroder to re-release his version. I just did it myself - and improved the quality while I was at it.

7.  Are you a big fan of Giorgio Moroder's music, or 80's music in general?  What other artists do you like?

I was familiar with Moroder's work from the Freddie Mercury connection and also his Neverending Story and Electric Dreams movie soundtracks. As a child of the 80s, I do like that style and it's interesting that artists like Ladyhhwake and Ladytron are popular now, making such retro-sounding music (pop and electronic, 
respectively).

It was only since my work on Metropolis that I've heard some more of Moroder's ground-braking musical work. I hadn't previously known his "I Feel Love" single with Donna Summer was such a leap for electronic  pop music. His E=Mc2 album was the first live to digital album recorded. You can track that down on Amazon easily enough.

8.  Do you know if Giorgio has seen your work?

No idea. I did send a message about what I'd done through his official website but heard nothing back. He's probably a busy guy :-) 

Did you know years ago he designed his own supercar? ... Although it never went into production, sadly.

9.  Why do you think this film still fascinates people almost 100 years after it was made?

On a positive note, Metropolis is spectacular, ground-breaking, visually stunning, controversial, thought provoking - and not really 'of it's time'.

On the down side, it's also illogical, corny, controversial, old-fashioned, butchered - and not 'of it's time'.

Coming to grips with Metropolis is a bit like trying to hold onto an oiled snake.  I know a fair bit about Metropolis and have seen it many many times, 
sometimes frame-by-frame, and I still discover new things. Many people love a great personality, love mystery and love the unobtainable in a person. Metropolis is just like that as a film. Hugely far-seeing but also greatly flawed.

Although made in our past and set in our future (2026 - ironically, about the same year the European copyright of the film expires), the film isn't really OF a particular time or place or people and so can have many interpretations or identities read into it.

Hitler loved the film apparently and thought it supported his ideals. Lang wasn't too pleased about this and shortly after an invitation to head the Nazi film ministry, left for the US. His wife stayed in Germany to work with the Nazis, so she and Lang were divorced not long after.

10.  Where can people get more information about the "Redux" version of Metropolis?  Do you have a website?

To read more about my Metropolis 'story' you can visit: http://www.morodermetropolisdvd.com

Note that you can't just buy my DVD there. But that doesn't mean there's no possibility of seeing it.

International copyright is quite complicated. Made in 1927, Metropolis was in the public domain since the 50s in the US but was re-copyrighted in the late 90s. That law has since been found unconstitutional and the whole issue of re-copyrighting old films seems up in the air for now. In other places like South Africa, it's been in the public domain since 1977. It's enough to do your head in!

You can also read more about how I created my DVD and see updates on my blog:
http://metropolis-redux.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

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