80 Years Later, A Real Director's Cut

Part of the fascination of writing about film is that it's an art form whose lifespan is so brief, just over a century so far, that you can see it change before your eyes. If you consider a long-lived and very active filmmaker like, say, Allan Dwan, whose career began around the same time as D.W. Griffith's and ended in the early '60s, you are looking at someone who predates feature films and is still working when the Nouvelle Vague re-imagines film grammar.

The news that triggered that thought for me can be found in today's Guardian, where it is reported that long-lost footage from Fritz Lang's original version of Metropolis turned up in Argentina and has been hustled back to Germany for a crucual restoration. The rediscovered footage supposedly makes narrative sense out of some of the film's conundrums and revivifies the rhythms of the climactic flood sequence. So, is this the director's cut?

The weather is too nice and I'm too busy and too lazy to go into a long song-and-dance about the aesthetics of multiple versions of a film. Besides, that discussion has gotten pretty old. All I will say is that I wish that when distributors do a box-set of a major film, they would include the various alternate cuts. In the meantime, I'm hoping that a restored Metropolis will be available by the time the New York Film Festival rolls around. You see, several years ago the Ira voters had an informal confessional in which we revealed the most embarrassing omissions from our motion-picture viewing. As you may have guessed, I've never actually seen Metropolis in any version. I've been waiting for the lost footage to turn up.

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And I'm waiting for that final reel before diving into The Magnificent Ambersons. Come on, Wise, I know you've got it hidden under your bed and are just too ashamed to admit it.