I can only partially concur with David Smith in his condemnation of the
Moroder restoration of "Metropolis".
Yes, the soundtrack was largely worthless, committing the cardinal sin of
introducing vocals over a silent film.
The changing of the full-screen titles to sub-titles is controversial, but
personally, I do not mind it. Silent film titles were always, at best, an
awkward substitute for dialogue and exposition, even though the sub-titling
art reached some rare heights once in a while. The titles are usually so
spare that superimposing them on the image does not unduly intrude, in my
opinion. Furthermore, the pace of the film does pick up using this method.
And the extremely leisurely pace of German silents often mitigated their
Moroder did, however, seek out and restore, using modern restoration methods,
many scenes from the film which had been missing from standard prints for
decades. Several sequences are markedly improved by these additions and also
by the enormously high quality of the 35mm material he unearthed (and, by the
way, preserved which, but for him, might have deteriorated.)
The use of tinting is also problematical, but most people are not aware of
how commonplace tinting and toning was in the silent cinema. Most modern
prints simply omit it. There were dozens of shades of tinted stocks in the
silent era and the toning of the emulsion often provided stunning two-color
effects. I do not see the harm in adding some of those effects to a
commercial re-issue of the film.
Finally, hundreds of thousands of people who might never have been exposed to
any film of that era were exposed to the new version of "Metropolis". I find
that to be a good thing. It is a simple matter to "turn off" the track, the
film's most annoying attribute. And then what you have is a visually stunning
restoration of this great film, preserved for many years to come.
In this era of dwindling interest and funding for classic films, I think this
a rare positive step.
Gene Stavis, School of Visual Arts - NYC