Well fuck me it’s darn weird being back here again, after many, many months of neglect. I could barely remember my password let alone the functions of writing a blog post, so please bear with me as I reconnect with an old but terminal exercise. The good news (I guess) is that I’m going to commit to a few year closedown posts of timid length and analysis, the bad news (if anyone really cares) is that this will lead to a final execution of this ten year project once and for all as the day job has officially overtaken this now redundant blog. What have I been doing? Phase 2 of this. What am I involved in from January 2018? This. As such I need to be spectacularly careful of my digital footprint, wary of the press for reasons myriad and numerous, especially since I’m more than positive that some of the comments and jokes I have made on here could easily be located and exploited out of context with horrific consequences. Anyway, back to the matter at hand, here is the usual December montage which isn’t particularly transcendent, and as such representative of a rather average year;
I have been relatively active over the axial orbit movie going wise, but due to project pressures I completely missed the LFF this year (didn’t see a single screening or event) as my schedule simply didn’t gel with other priorities. Ironically I am on target for seeing over 500 films this year on various eyeball assaulting formats, and have managed to cram in some mini seasons on Eric Rohmer, all of Soderbergh’s 21st century material, a revisit of Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy, all of the Jarmusch films on Amazon Prime, Ōkami’s Lone Wolf & Cub series and even a revisit of a John Cassavettes box-set. I still don’t chime with the love for him, as much as I can appreciate his ground-breaking achievements in championing independent American filmmaking before Sundance was a faltering glint in Robert Redford’s azure eyes. More montage mischievousness here;
So in order to temper expectations here are my films of the year thus far, presented without commentary or debate and in no particular order – make of this what you will ; Wind River, Personal Shopper, Get Out, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Moonlight, mother!, Lady Macbeth, The Death Of Stalin, Logan and maybe Malick’s Song To Song and the eerily prescient Nocturama. Alas I didn’t see The Florida Project, You Were Never Really Here, Brawl In Cell Block 99, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Good Time, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer nor The Shape Of Water, some of which I’m sure could have arisen to the 2017 Menagerie pantheon if I’d seen them at the LFF. As it stands the ultimate event of 2017 was of course David Lynch’s spectacular bookend to his incredible career, maybe there more there will be more on that……later;
Bonjour Luc Besson. I grew up enjoying and deeply admiring the likes of Subway, The Last Battle and Nikita, but once he got into his American financed groove my interest waned. I dislike the Taken and Transporter films as evidently I’m a snob, but held out some interest in Lucy which were dashed on the rocks of stupidity. Now he’s back once more but the real interesting facet of this project is not the text itself, but something else…;
What has got the industry fascinated is the business model that underpins it, and how this may finally be mounting a full assault on the Hollywood behemoth through a canny mosaic of international pre-sales, an emphasis on foreign markets (particularly China of course) and the retention of artistic control which you have to admire. I think I’ll give this a chance as the eye candy looks pleasing if nothing else, and this reminds me to watch The Fifth Element again, as a SF nerd I never liked that film, so now is the perfect time for a reapprisal…
Beyond happy that they have produced a documentary of this fantastic book which I read a couple of years ago. It’s an apt reminder of what cinema can do in difficult times, and the influence the experience had upon the five when they returned to the industry is fascinating as a historical and artistic document – their work and the world they operated in was never the same;
I want to talk. I want to talk about money. There has been something of a mini-scandal among the London film critic twitterati recently due to the arrival of a gleaming new art cinema in the capitals hinterlands, with the completed nine month facelift of the old Renoir cinema transformed into the newly anointed Curzon Bloomsbury. Naturally I’m no stranger to the old place having caught the likes of Tarkovsky’s Mirror and Herzog’s Encounters At The End Of The World there over the years, usually during discounted matinee weekend screenings. Like the recent Curzon Victoria the new site has raised eyebrows with its boutique interiors and state of the art cinema systems, enabling well heeled patrons to relax in plush splendor for the princely sum of £18 a ticket. No doubt about it that is rather steep for a movie, particularly since they’ve also axed cheaper costs for early screenings, causing real consternation as it doesn’t exactly encourage punters to ‘take a chance’ on foreign or slightly offbeat non mainstream fare. I, however, am a slave to my obsessions so I couldn’t help myself but shell out the currency for a duo of screenings to celebrate the newly minted space, firstly taking in a sparsely attended screening of Argentina’s unsuccessful candidate for the 2015 Best Foreign Language Oscar – Wild Tales.
If revenge is a dish best served cold then these furious Latin protagonists certainly don’t care for temperature, as this portmanteau series of tales angrily orbit a central conceit – venomous vengeance, vigorously executed. In one tale a waitress in a quiet restaurant recognizes an extremely rude patron as a loan shark gangster who drove her father to suicide, in another a road-rage incident screeches off the tracks like a Spanish language remake of Spielberg’s Duel. A group of seemingly unconnected aircraft passengers grow frantic when they discover they all know the same unhinged person, in another sequence a wealthy businessman persuades his gardener to take the rap for the hit-and-run killing of a pregnant woman by his substance abusing son. Cannily saving the best for last proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, particularly a bride on her wedding day when she discovers that her newly acquired husband has been playing hide the llama with an attractive, younger co-worker. These half-dozen vicious vignettes are endemic with rage and frustration, an anthology of anxiety, dripping with despair.
Being something of a jaded, cynical, dark hearted soul this film was right up my alley, and although as always with episodic structured films some threads are stronger than others this is a hysterically funny picture, a hellacious hymn to our corrupt and hades natures. The camera placement and occasional storytelling flourish from director Damián Szifron add a delicious frisson to the blackly comic proceedings, with some ironies and twists while eminently guessable would have an onyx hearted prankster like Hitchcock gleaming with pride. The standout is probably the final wedding from hell with a hilariously frenzied turn from Érica Rivas, although like most of the other sections it does run out of steam in its final contortions, rather than closing with a definitive, grotesque gut-punch. Wiser souls than I could probably identify some specific social commentary on Argentina’s recent corruption revelations and her economic woes, particularly with Ricardo Darín’s struggling everyman turned furious explosive insurgent due to endemic corruption in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of rules, regulations, and turgid civil servants.
As for the cinema facilities I test drove two screens during my duo of viewings (we have a bona-fide cult classic on the way specifically for you 1970’s petrolheads), catching Wild Tales in the splendor of the primary Renoir screen, and I have to say it is a terrific space with an appropriately mammoth screen, blessed with 4K projection capacity and the sound quality was simply fantastic – Dolby Atmos all the way. The facilities have expanded from two to six screens which is quite an achievement for the cluttered geography of the original footprint, with a promise of more bespoke film seasons alongside the high visibility art-house fare which should keep the tills twanging – they’ve commenced proceedings with a week-long auteur themed series. Maybe Curzon’s recent excursion into premium costs for a high-end experience is a metaphor for the wider 21st century divide between the rich and poor in terms of services, housing, travel and the generally frenzied cost of living in London, but there was one incident that perhaps says it all – Bloomsbury charged me £3 quid for a modest glass of coke. It’s enough to drive you mad;
One of the surprise entries on Sight & Sound’s 2014 films of the year was the inclusion of Citizenfour, Laura Poitra’s extraordinary behind the scenes expose on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s initial contact with renegade journalist Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian’s Ewan MacGaskill. Poitras is no stranger to the authorities having been clandestinely surveiled, frequently detained and questioned for having the temerity to criticize the government for their opaque prosecution of the ‘War’ on terror in previous works such as My Country My Country, and The Oath, two pieces which evidently got her registered on a number of Orwellian watch-lists. She has continued to expose the shredding of civil liberties, spot-lit the deployment of powers to repress genuine free speech rights to assemble and demonstrate, bravely engaged in a dangerous struggle with the implacable and illegitimate government edifice that cites every rape of the truth as being necessary in the name of ‘national security‘. To a paranoid Snowden then she must have seemed like an ideal candidate to approach in order to leak his insights and information from behind the veil, the revelation of a top-secret, undemocratic and out of control programme of electronic interventions which effectively gave the government the power to harvest, persue and interrogate every electronic correspondence by every citizen without a nanosecond of oversight from either legally mandated search warrant or indeed any arm of the legislature. In a quite extraordinary fashion Citizenfour walks us through the initial electronic contact between Snowden and Poritas, the initial subterfuge and mystery, before the first meetings and interviews occurred with Snowden in his Hong Kong bolt-hole as the enormous scandal slowly enveloped the globe.
This is absolutely essential viewing, a historical archive of one of the most pertinent civil rights and digital culture issues of our time, an expose of our alleged democracy and the continual threat from unobserved, unscrupulous, undemocratic and unelected officials. CitizenFour is very consciously and ominously paced and maintained, there’s no exciting crash montages of neon drenched cityscapes harmonized with pulsing techno-beats to indicate that this is the exciting cyberspace future, in fact it is a rather more chilly, mysterious urban noir as the screen scrolls with genuine cautious correspondence between Snowden and Poitras. Once he was satisfied he’d found the ideologically aligned collaborators the action shifts to the initial fly on the wall Hong Kong suite discussions, and this is where Snowden fully disclosed the breathtaking scope and illegality of programmes such as PRISM and Tempora. Poitras skillfully splices this with contextual footage of court proceedings and cultural seminars to provide the necessary context, treating its viewers as intelligent adults as it moves swiftly through the nature of civil liberties in the age of the globalized internet, of the wider remit of the NSA and explosion in private security apparatus since 9/11. Some of the footage is should make you incandescently angry, including testimony from NSA directors absolutely, 100% lying to senate oversight committees (Senator: ‘Do you harvest electronic surveillance information from US citizens in the aggregate?’ NSA Director: ‘No sir we do not’), a brave new world where from the inalienable rights of freedom of speech, right of assembly, due process and everything else we prize are under significant risk. Further glimpses of he Occupy movement whose hounding and persecution seen in the film is nausea-inducing, before the scale of the scandal irises out to include every European government as complicit in the crimes.
Like every other country on the planet I think the United States has its problems and hypocrisies but I cannot imagine many places where the citizens of one city grouping together like San Francisco does in this film, to sue the government for the illegal intrusion into their lives and forcing the authorities to expose their transgressions, a case defended by one particularly odious proto-Goebbels government lawyer who continually bleats the defense of ‘national security’ for each and every charge.When the further revelations that not only were US authorities conducting this rape of their specific constitution but also all the major European powers were indulging in identical activity, hacking democratic elected world leaders phones and correspondence of so-called allies, the impression is of an utterly paranoid shadow world, completely out of control and making a mockery of civil rights. To the ignorant and uneducated who make the claim that ‘if you have nothing to hide then why are you worried?’ the film makes the consequences of that belief system clear. It’s not just a question of private intrusion, of the holistic capture and interrogation data by current (and crucially) future governments to surveil without judicial oversight and responsibility, without legislative oversight to effectively kick in your door, rifle through all your private correspondence with your wife, husband, family, friends, mistress; to plunder your medical records and bank statements, to see what porn you jack off to, to record your political affiliations and voting history, to observe and exploit every aspect of our lives in this increasingly electronic and globalized world . And it gets worse, not only is this power granted to your government, but it is also granted to foreign governments across the Western world, so I ask how happy would you be for the United Kingdom, Canadian, American, New Zealand and Australian governments to break into your home and rape your civil rights every single minute of every day? It’s such a fundamental corruption of one of the states primary duties to its citizens liberty and security that it just beggars belief.
Amongst the political and electronic chattering Poitras mainframes a human dimension to the dossier, the simple vérité recording of Snowden as the events and scandal unfolds awards the piece with a tangible and compelling level of emotional drama. The whistleblower comes across as an intelligent, committed and slightly idealistic young man who perhaps has not fully anticipated the obliterating force of the state apparatus zeroing in on his friends, family and partner. Witnessing the incremental pressure build as the leak slowly gains traction and its effect on his speech, body language and general demeanor is quite affecting, as the realization of the irreversible sacrifices he has made slowly begin to crystalize. An Oliver Stone adaption of this crucial scandal is in the works which I’m sure will be as bombastic and nuanced as a laser guided 200lbs daisy cutter, for now this is unquestionably one of the crucial documentaries of its time, brilliantly assembled and intellectually robust, a primer for our times and a warning for the future;
When you are getting into Roman numerals I think you might be getting ugly, violent and anciently academic, but this final celebration of the year is worth celebrating, despite your choice of digital or physical delivery system;
I have two final BFI screening reviews to complete on their amazing SF season which are both quite challenging in their own political and historical ways – a 1970’s Cold War tussle if you will – but with the 21st century finally gaining some traction the Sony hack renders these films concerns as instantly quaint – welcome to the increasingly alienating future. Now where is that The Interview Unabomber screening, regardless of the film’s dubious quest it’s an instant piece of film history….
Another one of the best things about a film festival screenings is the lack of extraneous nonsense when you actually get into the theatre, otherwise known as adverts and trailers. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a well constructed, enticing trailer as much as the next cine nerd, but they’re just so damn full of spoilers and outline the entire premise of a movie these days it’s really best to expose yourself to one viewing, and making up your mind to see the picture or not from there. At LFF screenings its straight into the action, which makes for a more continent experience. Today started with a little more international action;
This was a gentle and affecting little comedy drama, although I’m not so sure the ‘weight of one’s love’ metaphor managed to squeeze through the mild mannered artifice. The movie has been selected for Norway’s Best Foreign Language Oscar which should earn a well deserved wider audience. Speaking of a man with a wide audience, here’s John Stewart’s directorial debut;
I’m not quite sure what to make of this, I think I liked it even if was preaching to the choir of fellow left of centre communist agitating libruls such as yours truly. Here is Jon Stewart on the red carpet which provide more texture;
Seemingly in perfect tandem with this months Sight & Sound election of the greatest documentaries of all time comes this expose of one of the darkest stains in Hollywood history, the notorious HUAC hearings and the blacklist;
I very much like the idea of examining the films that the likes of Joseph Losey and Jules Dassin made in Europe after their quiet exile, that’s an angle which isn’t usually examined in relation to the directors and screenwriters ostracised experiences and politics, and the fact that the terrific Thom Anderson of Los Angeles Plays Itself is behind the viewfinder doesn’t hurt….
You can you stick your Game Of Thrones up the perilous pit of Ungmar the Unameable, the real fans of high medieval fantasy know the real action is going down way back in Berlin’s UFA studios during the equidistant pre and post war year of 1925. The movie industry was a very different beast back then, when tyrannical movie directors would muster bloated, hugely expensive studio-bound epics which seemed to run for days rather than hours, where the cult of celebrity had establishing itself as the central marketing hook to spear the attention of the depression and austerity starved masses and give them a few hours respite from the economic terror of their day-to-day lives, of industrial technique and visual dazzle entrancing the senses at the sacrifice of emotional or political nuance, a cinema of sensation anxiously awaiting the new enrapture of an auditory sense which would become the industrial standard in just a few years – the coming of sound. So yes, the cinema of the 1920’s was completely different to current contemporary standards, and producers of all nationalities and geographic birth certainly didn’t have their avarice rich eyes on lucrative emerging markets beyond their borders as the Tinseltown executives are hypnotizing today. I offer this all as proof that the more things change the more they seem to stay the same, like developments and trends in any industry the market seems to ebb and flow in a cylindrical fashion, so although I am ostentatiously going to be looking at a German filmed and financed, silent five-hour epic from 1925 in this piece I’ll try to weave in some present day echoes, before we begin in earnest I have to say this review has been a long time coming, I purchased and first saw the film back in March of this year but the day job and new release priorities have interfered with this fitfully stuttering season. I must admit that the prospect of collecting my thoughts on a film of such density from a period I’m not exactly and expert within (despite studying German Expressionist cinema back in my Academic hey-day) I do think it’s good to set yourself challenges and goals, so once more into the breach dear friends…..
Over the years I have seen and even (briefly) academically studied some of Lang’s expansive, technologically paradigm busting and genre hopping optical oeuvre but this is the first time I’ve seen this particularly lengthy ‘lost’ classic, whilst many of his other films of the period such as the Mabuse series and Metropolis have received a wealth of attention and discourse, mostly related to the former’s eerie pre-shadowing of the Third Reich and the German slide into genocidal fascism and the latters long robotic shadow that is cast upon the then embryonic SF genre. At first glance Die Nibelungen can be filed away with many of the other expansive cinema epics of the same relative period, Griffith’s Intolerance, Abel Gance’s Napoleon and the early biblical epics of Cecil DeMille immediately spring to mind, as certain visionary riding crop wielding tyrants struggled to elevate the medium into what was then regarded as ‘art’. They all share common DNA in the studio-bound industrial production techniques which were at the apex of their time, this project being all the more mysteriously fascinating as it was not crafted on the glittering Western coast of America which was the pulsing global centre of film production of the era, whereas Germany was still a bruised and economically subdued empire looking internally to heal its wounds and embrace an uncertain and financially fractured future. Split over two disks and moving through two significant story arcs Die Nibelungen wails through various cantos rather than following a traditional scene juxtaposition, cleaving the heroic story of Siegfried (Paul Richter,) the son of King Siegmund of Xanten, enticed to the kingdom of Burgundy and entranced by her beautiful princess Kriemhild. Through guile and enemy subterfuge Seigried is despatched to traverse the eerie Wood of Woden, a trick that deflects him from reaching Burgundy and taking his beloved’s hand in marriage, trapping him in mortal combat with the magical creatures inhabiting the wood, including a powerful smoke belching dragon. This is just the first part of an odyssey which maps to the epic poem Nibelungenlied whose genealogy has been traced to around 1200 AD, a battle-cry charge into Götterdämmerung rather than Dungeons & Dragons;
The Tolkien allusions are as clear as a Nargothrond stream in a Melian weaved moonlight, and indeed John Ronald Reuel drew heavy inspiration from the poem as he did from other medieval texts such as Beowulf. Film-wise one assume this is one of the first fantasy movies in the vein of the LOTR saga, or The Beastmaster, Krull or Hawk The Slayer, it’s hearty companions being the Douglas Fairbanks derring-do of The Thief of Bagdad which was similarly born in the cradle of Méliès phantasmorophs, a cinema of heroic scale and mythical landscapes and creatures, rendered by technological innovation, prosthetic designs and camera tricky. Partitioned around title cards and animation asides the film constructs a fantastical infrastructure of abstraction, reminiscent of early Disney and specifically Fantasia,with a much more adult themed musing on sacrifice and slaughter, a melding of the mythic with the metaphoric.
One of the strengths and specific merits of silent cinema is the devotion to the image, to the fusions in time and space between edits which infer relation and drive a story forward, a tale as localised as a dog rescuing a child ballooning out to a legendary mythos of fantastical beasts and titanic deeds communicated to a diverse collection of individuals sitting and watching in the dark. When it comes to some of these venerable epics the sheer scope of the enterprise are genuinely majestic, of knowing that hundreds of extras were marshalled by furiously barking assistant directors through primitive communication techniques, that vertigo inducing edifices were precariously erected in the physical world and not in squeezed out of a computer, that one take was literally one take when all the complex components marshalled in one shot were subject to the forces of entropy and accidental destiny. Whilst Lang’s framing is rather static and theatrically toned (no different from his contemporaries, still haunted by the dimensions of the stage and its slow transition to screen with wide shots exposing all the action set back to where an approximate theatre goer would sit) he permits resources to enter into the frame from non-diagetic origin points, punctuating these staged-bound dimensions by plunging his camera into the space at key periods to build momentum and a sense of dramatic intensity. From a mere operative and technological perspective these effects were difficult to achieve back in the 1920’s, the camera rigs and lightning infrastructure being the equivalent of the boisterous industrial clanging of a Betamax player compared to the digital purr of a top-range Blu-Ray today, the technology of narrative method and mode moulded by the storytelling medium, a restriction that was only shattered by Lang and the likes of Murnau, Chaplin and Keaton at their innovative best.
This being Lang the attention to production design is crucial and key, even in these medieval trappings an angular attention to detail is anvil hammers home the visual cues of the characters internal psychology, in a period where spendthrift producers would have balked at the cost of constructing roofs in interiors which could be shot around to save money and still maintain the suspension to disbelief. By closing and framing characters in angular lines on a 2D canvas Lang (a draftsman and architect by trade) instinctively grasped the importance of these subtle details and flourishes, understanding that the human relationship to its environment can be a rich seam of metaphorical and subconscious persuasion. On a more general level the sequence of the burning of Etzel castle is bombastically impressive, with tangible and physical sets genuinely torched and destroyed, again a concrete immediacy adding to the films’ aged sense of awe and danger. Cinephiles can also wallow in the instructive primitive (or should that be lyrical?) forms of film grammar that were common for the period, most deliciously the iris valve instructing the audience what to contemplate in the frame before oscillating the image out to reveal the full panorama, a communication method which now seems to rest in the edit of the cut, breaking scenes and spaces into more digestible portions of information. When it comes to the auditory functions of the film a recent comment from the great film director and scholar Peter Bogdanovich rang a historical chord with me, his affirming that films were never ‘silent’ and were usually consumed with a rowdy, disruptive and raucous audience hurling commentary at the screen or engaging in rather excited discourse with their companions. As the art form evolved in-house and live performed musical accompaniment was added to the sensual mix, instructing the audience when to feel trepidation, to swoon with romance or yelp in excited glee, so although the screen itself was silent the cosseted environment of the theatre was anything but. Now of course we have Dolby 5.1 earfucking Supra-ATMOS throbbing in the multiplexes, chorused with the charming cacophonous din of patrons chatting, of repetitive cell phones pings and associated light pollution – the more things change…..
In a rather primitive form the film does remind one of Jackson, a big broad canvass and an affinity to legendary and mystical beasts, as you can’t help but think of Smaug when that German wyrm starts smoking and smouldering on-screen. Taken in context the scale and dimensions of the film are fairly impressive for its time, it’s also fairly violent with the mythic plucking of the eye of the beast provoking its discharge of acidic venom, it also in a curious non-denominational way brought Aronosky’s Noah to mind, if only for the grandiose pre-historic bombastic exuberance of the project. Lang loves his angular compositions, the foreground frame positioned carefully to juxtapose against various axis of arrangement, with carefully considered production design and lighting patterns embedded in the accruing fields, in that sense I’d argue he’s a pathfinder precursor to Ridley Scott and Chris Nolan who are amongst his most transparent heirs apparent, as their strengths also rest in a formulation of design and artistic technique rather than dialogue or finely honed screen performances. Some of the villains are somewhat problematic when viewed through the lens of history, any film, particular one made in Weimar Germany with hook nosed moneylenders will immediately read as archaic and disgusting (although it didn’t stop Mel did it?), so its worth noting that Lang was part-Jewish but his screenwriter wife at the time Thea Von Harbeau embraced the National Socialist movement as it emerged in the coming years, and remained as a central figure in Goebbels propaganda machine after Lang has fled for Europe. Whilst we’re on the subject it has always amused me (if that’s the right word) that history’s most notorious dictators are enormous movie fans, from Stalin to Hitler to Kim Dong Un they all revelled in private regular screenings as one of their primary entertainment activities after a hard day at the office executing dissidents, signing genocide decrees, constructing death camps and systematically starving their citizens. In cinemas defence one assumes that they’d be equally adoring of TV had they been born a generation later as a far more pervasive and insidious conduit of propaganda and (it lives in your house after all), and don’t get me started on the suppressive possibilities of the Internet…..
Films such as Die Nibelungin breathe animated life into Orson Welles’ famous assertion that a movie set is ‘the biggest electric train set any boy ever had’, with almost unlimited stage bound resources at their disposal the major directors of the day could indulge in every one of their most profligate whims – recruiting another thousand extras for a more densely populated wide-shot scene, conjuring up elemental typhoons and tsunami’s to prod the audience into gasp induced wonder, the most exotic wildlife displaced from remote continents to suggest a seething, primordial physicality that seems to sexually lurk in the pre-code star system and swwon inducing content of the period. It’s worth stressing that the vast majority of films were studio bound in Europe during this period and it was only Hollywood that actually had the vision ti investigate shooting on location, one of the numerous attractions and coalescing factions of California as the birth of Hollywood was its distance (both physical and legal) from the early copyright cartels of the East Coast. As the restless vagabonds stumbled across the serene orange groves and hills they discovered brush and plainland that could easily stand-in for the mythical frontier for early cinema genre champion the Western, one of those amazing conflagrations of space, location, weather and production styles which birthed the golden age of Hollywood. Where does this film slot into the auteur evidence of Lang’s debonair career? Well apart from the steely Teutonic rigour of the design and vastly ambitious visual scope (like I said you can trace him to Jackson, Scott and Nolan in numerous ways) there are the psychological attuned elements, a central protagonist directed by his desires and dreams as opposed to more corporeal conerns or sense of muscular morality, a flagrant flaunting of the rule of law and the social restraints of civilisation, men mesmerisied by ambition and moral absolution.
The film transfer is stunningly rich and textured and the boffins have done a fine job with scrubbing clean the usual glitches and frame damage you’d normally endure from films of this vintage, with the tarnished tinted sickly gold providing an apt visual metaphor for the damaging desire for wealth and prestige. As you’d expect from a label so dedicated to film connoisseur this is the fullest version of the film assembled since its debut almost a century ago, lovingly embroidered with extant scenes from the best surviving negatives across numerous foreign markets, so like the recently assembled Metropolis it’s something of a Frankenstein monster which provides the most faithful recreation of Lang’s original vision. Speaking of that SF landmark I did also acquire the new Blu-Ray but I’m going to kick my review of that into the long grass as it’s screening as part of the BFI’s interstellar SF season at the end of the year, I’d much prefer finally catching the full restoration on the big screen to fully inform my commentary. Until then there’s plenty to keep us distracted so I think we’ll jump forward a decade or so to another challenging picture to get my teeth into – M. Lang’s first sound film is widely regarded as the first sound masterpiece, its international impact provided his calling card to Hollywood as he fled the Nazi scourge in the late 1930’s, but until we get our ears around that here’s a final look at an early example of Fritz’s fascination with dreams, the submerged unconscious and its divining power over our waking lives, still present in the distant purlieus of medieval mysticism;