metropolis Report

My wife and I attended the screening of Metropolis at Stanford University (not the Stanford theater) last night. This was as much a music event as a movie one–maybe more so. The West Coast premiere of Martin Matalon’s score, performed by members of the Santa Rosa orchestra under the baton of Bruno Ferrandis. My wife’s a classical musician, and we knew a couple of the musicians performing.

Matalon’s score was weird, bizarre, occasionally hard on the ears, and absolutely appropriate. I couldn’t imagine wanting to hear it on its own, but it enhanced and counterpointed Fritz Lang’s strange dystopian epic better than any other score I’ve heard for it. (Okay, it’s been decades since I’ve heard the Clubfoot Orchestra or Bob Vaughn play Metropolis, so my memory is suspect. But it’s still a great score.)

The ensemble included conventional symphonic instruments (cello, flute, bassoon, etc.), an electric guitar and bass, and a recorded track of electronic screeches and beeps. The musicians wore headphones and listened to a click track to keep their sync perfect. The whole thing was amplified and played through surround speakers.

The visual presentation of the movie was a bit of a disappointment. The screen was smallish, and behind the orchestra, making it impossible to get really close. From where we sat, Ferrandis’ head blocked the bottom midle of the screen. It was a video presentation, and not even hi-def.

For some strange reason, the movie had German titles and intertitles. (Yes, I know it’s a German movie, but perfectly good English-language versions exist.) English translations were projected onto another screen well below the main one and near the front of the stage. Reading it got annoying fast.

During a Q&A session before the movie, Matalon mentioned the complete print recently found in Argentina, and promised that he’d be expanding the score when restored footage from that version is added to the film.