Part 1: The Golden Sea

I watched this in college on bootleg VHS for an ill-fated report on Lang’s cinema, and remembered pretty much nothing. A story in two parts, initially set in America with rival adventurers Kay Hoog and Lio Sha. These are meant to be American names? Kay is rich as hell, going after Peruvian gold despite Lio’s gang The Spiders warning him away. Even this early, Lang was into surveillance tech – Lio has an electric mirror showing a view of the next room: a webcam 100 years ahead of its time.

Kay in foreground, Lio being molested at the tables, Georgia flag in Mexican cantina:

Our teams travel to Mexico, hop a balloon over Chile, Kay parachutes out and immediately rescues the Princess of the Sun from a snake. Lio is safely captured, is to be sacrificed, while the Princess swoons for Hoog in her secret waterfall cavern. I love that the drama is less that a girl is gonna get sacrificed and her nemesis is launching a reluctant rescue mission, it’s that the Princess performing the sacrifice doesn’t wanna but her dad says she has to. A chaotic rescue, they find and steal the gold on their way out, then the spiders start killing each other in a frenzy over the gold, and also light the “holy candle” which is a bomb fuse, flooding the cave. The movie opened with a message in a bottle, and nearly ends with Hoog and rescued/kidnapped Princess adrift in a basket. It actually ends back at the Hoog Mansion when he runs out for an errand, returns to find his princess dead with a toy spider on her.

Princess Dagover in over her head:

The servants get into the wine:

Part 2: The Diamond Ship

Lio seeks a stone for a Chinese client. The opening robbery is filmed at an angle that just doesn’t work, not high enough, very un-Lang. Kay aims to stop the Spiders, still miffed that they killed his princess. With a single edit, Kay jumps off a plane onto a rooftop, hmmm. He hangs out in an opium den to scout for clues, spots Lio and takes her hostage, but they drop him through a trap door into a flooding pit from which he improbably manages to escape. I would’ve been happy watching Kay Hoog continue to escape from implausible scenarios, but the movie feels compelled to set up a big score for us, team Spider swimming in their full black bodysuits (with shoes and masks) to a diamond-laden boat. Somehow this leads to a final fight in a poison cave in the Falkland islands, a four-fingered villain and another kidnapped daughter, but it’s hard to pay attention whenever Kay isn’t falling through trap doors. Ultimately the plastic spiders and the Kay Hoog t-shirts weren’t selling, so the series was cancelled before they made a third episode.


Kay was Carl de Vogt, who worked long enough to appear in a 1960’s Mabuse. His arch-nemesis Lio Sha’s real name was the just-as-unlikely Ressel Orla. A Jew in Berlin, she escaped the holocaust by dying of illness in the early 1930’s. Lil Dagover (of Lang’s Harakiri the same year) played the Princess of the Sun, and part two’s Diamond King (with the kidnapped daughter) was Rudolf Lettinger (in Cabinet of Dr. Caligari the same year).

Conference Call:

Caligari Man with Kidnapped Daughter:

Ben Model’s music seems fine, but after five minutes I realized I could be playing Zorn’s Nostradamus: The Death of Satan instead, so I did… then The Ninth Circle… so, the Simulacrum crew of Hollenberg / Medeski / Grohowski, and adding Marsella in the second half of The Golden Lake. For part two I played Harriet Tubman’s The Terror End of Beauty. If you keep falling asleep, resuming the movie where you left off the next night but starting the album over, Harriet Tubman is like the miracle of the oil lasting eight nights. But ultimately the movie is too long, so I moved on to their previous LP Araminta feat. Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet.

Dave Kehr says it best, as usual:

Fascinating … though it no longer plays particularly well. Already at this primitive stage in his development Lang was conjuring vast international conspiracies and drawing his hapless heroes into intractable webs of fate. The form is here, the meaning would come later. The visuals too are stamped with Lang’s personality; no one carved up screen space with his precision and expressiveness.

Lang’s final film finds him back in Germany, making a cheap-looking b-movie callback to one of his largest silent features and his pioneering second sound film. Immediately following his Indian Epic, another serials-inspired adventure flick, it seems that either Lang’s artistically triumphant two decades in Hollywood have earned him no respect and he’s been kicked down to making silly action flicks – or maybe these are the kinds of movies he’d been wanting to make again. Seems like the former, a bland assignment for a tired old man, since the plotting is snappy but this lacks the atmosphere and interest of Franju’s Judex a few years later.

Wolfgang Preiss, who would continue playing Mabuse throughout the 60’s and appear in Chabrol’s Dr. M:

Roger Corman-looking billionaire Peter van Eyck of Wages of Fear and Mr. Arkadin:

Movie starts with a flutter of things happening. Inspector Kras speaks with a blind psychic named Cornelius, snipers are ordered by a clubfooted kingpin to kill a reporter in rush hour traffic, and the cops declare that Dr. Mabuse’s crime legacy was forgotten in the wake of the whole nazi thing. Then billionaire Travers talks a suicidal woman named Menil down from a ledge while an insurance salesman called Mistelzweig bothers everyone down at the bar.

Mistelzweig: Werner Peters, a Mabuse film regular

fake-suicidal Dawn Addams, who followed-up by playing Jekyll/Hyde’s wife in a Hammer film:

The billionaire falls for the pretty suicidal girl (and is shown a secret one-way mirror where he can watch her) while the inspector fends off assassination attempts while investigating the crime-ridden fancy hotel where those two are staying. Anyway, the psychic is the girl’s psychiatrist is Mabuse, Mistelzweig is an undercover cop, the girl is a Mabuse plant who gets the billionaire to fake-kill her fake-husband, and all this leads where it must: to a confession of evil plans in an underground lair and a car chase/shootout.

Inspector Gert Frobe, who would run into another master criminal years later in Nuits Rouges:

Henchman Howard Vernon, a Jean-Pierre Melville regular and title star of The Awful Dr. Orlof:

According to Wikipedia, based on a novel written in Esperanto. I’d like to hear the Masters of Cinema commentary with David Kalat, but I’ve already bought the other two Lang-Mabuse movies domestically, so it seems nuts to buy the UK box set for $60.

The Wandering Image (1920)

Released seven years before Lang was a star with Metropolis, and I know those years represented some major developments in filmmaking, but I notice this wasn’t very Metropolis-like. It’s not letting the image tell the story, but seems like a string of wordy intertitles with brief motion images between them. I guess this is partly because half the film has been lost and some of these were explanation title cards added during the restoration, but I didn’t pay attention which were the originals and which were summaries.

The plot is convoluted, justifying all those title cards. Wil Brand is trying to claim the inheritance of his deceased cousin George, is about the sue the cousin’s wife Irmgard, though he has never met either of them (a weird way to introduce the characters, methinks) when he unexpectedly meets the wife on a train and offers to help her, as she’s desperately trying to escape John, her late husband’s brother, who is stalking her by telegram. It’s immediately impressive that this 1920 movie seems to be shot on moving trains and boats and in the woods and the mountains, not at a film studio.

Irmgard says farewell to helpful Wil Brand:

John maliciously tells strangers that Irmgard is his mentally unstable wife so they’ll help him locate her, so Wil sends her into the wilderness. She looks totally miserable, passes a hermit shepherd who decides not to help her, then goes off into the mountains where John catches up and steals some dynamite, getting serious with the death threats now. The hermit comes to her rescue and buried in rubble together, he admits he’s her husband George who faked his own death.

Death tolls a bell for the avalanche victims:

Flashback! She married George after becoming his secretary as he wrote books about free love. He could never marry lest he be seen as a hypocrite by his fascinated readers, since he’s about the only man in 1920 willing to live by his late-1960’s ideals. So John helped them marry in secret, but now that George is “dead”, John threatens to expose the whole sham and prove she’s legally married to him in order to claim the inheritance.

Hans Marr as John:

Hans Marr as George:

Anyway, back in the avalanche, John is atop a mountain cavorting like a madman, tossing rocks at the heads of would-be rescuers, when Wil Brand helps the couple escape. Later, a massive extended contrivance involving the virgin Mary convinces George to return to civilization, but he only stays long enough to retrieve his wife, and take her to live by his side in the mountains, leaving Wil with his promised inheritance – a happy ending, I suppose, given how the Germans used to worship mountains.

Seems like Wil Brand would barely need to have been part of the story, but then Irmgard would’ve had to be stronger and more self-sufficient in the early scenes (she still does pretty well). He was Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Thea von Harbou’s wife at the time, who also had a part in Four Around a Woman and would become Lang’s Dr. Mabuse. George and John are both played by Hans Marr, which probably seemed like some awesome cinematographic trick in 1920. Irmgard was Mia May, Joe May’s wife, who starred in his film of Lang and von Harbou’s Indian Tomb/Tiger of Eschnapur the following year.

Four Around a Woman (1921)
I watched this the next day. Watched it for real, paid it my full attention, not just screwing around on the computer while it was playing. But then how come I couldn’t make any sense of it, or keep track of any characters? Perhaps I’d had too much wine.

Harry Yquem:

Harry Yquem (Ludwig Hartau of Lubitsch’s Anna Boleyn) has the most beautiful wife you could imagine, someone tells us, but then we see the wife and I could imagine better. She is Florence (Carola Toelle), who later tells a friend that “a beautiful woman need not necessarily be true to her husband.” There’s an exchange of fake jewels, rendezvous at an underground tavern, somebody’s long lost brother, a murder and a police investigation. Anton Edthofer (also of Murnau’s Phantom) either plays twins (like in The Wandering Image) or plays one guy who pretends to have a brother, I never figured which. Charles Meunier (Robert Forster-Larrinaga of Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler) is after Florence for a while, and she’s friends with someone else named Werner, and I think it turns out she was a spy and has actually remained true to Harry. Based on a play by Rolf Vanloo, who was also adapted by Joe May for Asphalt.

Florence and one of the twins, I believe:

Opens with a tracking shot around a gambling table – hello, Dr. Mabuse. If the movie wasn’t such a lo-res gray blur, and ironically if there were more intertitles, I might know what is happening. There was zero music on my copy so I played “The World of Shigeru Umebayashi,” which I loved but probably didn’t help my attention level since it wasn’t meant for this kind of film. The only parts I got really excited about were when I saw a 1920 Boston Terrier, some film leader and a test pattern between the first two acts, a man with a monocle, a couple of neat shadowy camera shots, and when this happened:

Watched as part of the Auteur Completism Project, in which I plan to watch the last remaining movies by some directors whose work I’d almost entirely seen. Lang was a big one. I previously claimed victory with The Return of Frank James because I couldn’t find Human Desire, then again with Human Desire because I couldn’t find Harakiri, and now I’ve found Harakiri along with two other long-missing silents. Joy!

My favorite shot: at right is the Bonze’s comic assistant

“You have lost your faith in Buddha in those foreign lands. Fear his wrath!” Buddha has wrath? A monk known as The Bonze (Georg John, who played the blind beggar who identifies the killer in M) has a crush on Lil Dagover (of Tartuffe, Destiny, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), orders her dad the Daimyo to have her become a priestess so he could get closer to her. But the dad refuses, and is disgraced, made to commit harakiri. It’s all based on the story Madame Butterfly, but I don’t remember this part from the David Cronenberg version. The story had already been filmed a few years earlier in the USA with Mary Pickford in the lead.

Lil, looking not very Japanese, under a tree with Olaf:

It’s clear that all the “Japanese” people in this movie are really Germans plus whatever dark-skinned or foreign-looking people they could scrape up, wearing bald caps, samurai wigs and robes (if Japan had watched this movie they never would have allied with Germany in WWII), but anyway, a “European” comes over the wall of the forbidden forest and starts putting his hands all over Lil, so now she’s only got eyes for this guy, which further infuriates the monk, who imprisons her before sending her away to a teahouse to become a geisha. But the Euro Man keeps visiting her, agrees to “marry” her for 999 days, and she becomes pregnant just as he leaves the county, promising to return soon.

Lil shares her feelings for Olaf with their son:

Olaf shares his feelings for Lil with the camera:

After four years, she’s supposedly no longer married so the monk comes after her, and coincidentally Olaf the euro man (Niels Prien: was in a Paul Leni movie the same year and practically nothing else) returns to Japan on assignment, now married to another European and not caring a bit about this Japanese woman. Meanwhile a prince (Meinhart Maur, later of Tales of Hoffmann) is in town, sees the girl and is smitten with her but she claims loyalty to her son’s father and won’t give up until he returns. Her friend Hanake finds out Olaf is actually in town, and goes to plead with him (in front of his wife) to come see his “wife” and son. The prince sends the monk away, and Lil can’t take the pain any longer, takes her father’s sacred knife and does herself in just as Olaf arrives – now this German guy who was a total shit gets their baby, which I don’t see as a happy ending.

Very nice piano and violin music by Aljoscha Zimmermann. Much of the same cast as Lang’s The Spiders from the same year, which I barely remember, and the only other 1919 feature I’ve seen (same year as Broken Blossoms, The Oyster Princess, and Blind Husbands). The biggest star besides Lil turned out to be the “little boy”, actually a girl who would appear in Joyless Street, The Golem and a Joe May movie before retiring from movies at age 13. It’s said that Breathless invented the jump cut, but this movie is just full of them. I think a malicious editor in the sound era must have wanted to shorten the runtime and took out frames at random.

“All style, no substance.”
“That’s what dreams are made of.”

Dr. M, der Spieler:

In between two highly-regarded Isabelle Huppert-starring late works by Chabrol, I watched this ambitious, now-obscure Fritz Lang homage. Almost the only mentions of it online appear in sentences such as: “Chabrol’s career wasn’t perfect; he also made disastrous flops for foreign distributors, such as the forgotten turd Dr. M.” So I was excited about the Mabuse connections (they were very slim) and M connections (there weren’t any), but kept very low expectations – then the movie turned out to be quite good.

It never tops the great opening: 3 minutes of cross-cutting between four tense, unexplained segments, each ending with a death, with a TV broadcast keeping time between locations. Looks like a high enough budget, judging from the scale of the fire and explosions that follow. So why did an interesting, high-tension sci-fi movie with good explosions turn into a failure? Well, the storyline and the actors aren’t actually all that amazingly good, rather made-for-TV quality. But more importantly, it’s set in a future where Germany was still divided by the Berlin Wall, which fell many months before the movie was released – so all of the script’s east/west occupation metaphors were seen as laughable by the time it shirked into theaters.

I’m not sure that Flashdance’s Jennifer Beals was the most bankable international star for a prestige picture, either. Beals was also in Sam Fuller’s Madonna and the Dragon in 1990, and Chabrol himself had appeared in Fuller’s Thieves After Dark a few years prior. Here she plays the spokeswoman for a vacation getaway company – Theratos – which advertises incessantly all over the city, cheapo-Blade-Runner-style. Movie was shot in Berlin and has that 70’s-80’s grimy film look, and also stars falsely-gruff-voiced German actor Jan Niklas as our rebel lieutenant hero. So maybe I overestimated the film’s budget.

Jennifer Beals:

Beals is introduced in a nuclear mosh-pit dance club. My favorite fanciful sci-fi detail in the movie is more social than technological – there’s a woman in her seventies drinking at the bar in the club amongst strobe lights and deafening thrash music. The city (or at least the TV news) is obsessed with a recent series of suicides, and Claus, the cop on the case, finds a connection to Beals, in that each suicide was darkly obsessed with her, taking photographs and advertisements with her face and mangling them. Meanwhile, her omnipresent ads for Theratos (pronounced somewhat like Toronto) has language like “drift off, let yourself go, leave it all behind, time to go” as the cops unveil more suicide victims – shades of They Live.

Claus and his partner Stieglitz (Benoit Regent: Binoche’s lover in Blue and the guy who stalks all the girls of Rivette’s Gang of Four for some reason I don’t recall) are the only two cops on the case of the suicides, and eventually, like more than halfway into the movie, they make the incredible discovery that the vortex-turtle medallions found on all the suicide victims are from Theratos! That’s right, the very logo of the company that seems to be the only advertiser in the nation, and they discover this halfway through the movie. Look, you can see it on the wall-mounted motion billboards:

But maybe the reason these two dull-wits are running the investigation is that their superiors are actually the evildoers behind the whole conspiracy. Mustachioed ham Doctor Marsfeldt (Alan Bates of Georgy Girl and the Mel Gibson Hamlet) is our Mabuse substitute, complete with a Dr-Claw-in-Inspector-Gadget array of video screens that can see anything in the city, and balding Captain Engler is his enforcer within the police. I can’t recall if Marsfeldt has some sort of government position or what power he holds over the police, exactly, but he turns out to be the owner of Theratos and father of Jennifer Beals – two things I would’ve thought would be public knowledge about the biggest company and most visible public figure in town.

Dr. M:

Filmed in English, in Berlin, so the rest of the not-great actors have a range of accents and delivery – including Peter Fitz (the lead guy’s sad-mouthed uncle in Werckmeister Harmonies), Hanns Zischler (Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, Kings of the Road) and William Berger (Devil Fish). Zischler plays Moser (pronounced Moo-zuh, reminded of Ma-bu-zuh) – not sure who he was exactly, but he got close to exposing mad doctor Marsfeldt before getting shot in the back by a LASER, one of the few reminders that we are in the future.

Return of the Jedi? No! It’s Dr. M – now with lasers!

I looked up Theratos online but the closest I found was Thanatos, the Greek death demon. I did find David Kalat’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse,” which has a whole chapter on the movie – counts as the most in-depth writing on the film to be found online, even if Google Books only has half the pages of that chapter. “Theratos is owned by Marsfeldt’s Mater Media. Like a nuclear explosion in which the atomic reaction generates the fuel that keeps itself blazing, Marsfeldt is sitting pretty on a recursive catastrophe. The more people commit suicide, the more desperate the citizens become to escape the city, the more they mob the Theratos offices to book vacations. The more people visit Theratos, the more people commit suicide. And as the cycle consumes more and more unwitting Berliners, Marsfeldt’s companies – Mater Media and Theratos – make gargantuan profits.”

The floating cult of theratos:

Kalat says it’s the last Mabuse movie to date, but as much as I want to believe, I wouldn’t even call it a Mabuse movie. There is, briefly, a character blatantly named Herr Lang. It’s definitely a stylish, intriguingly plotted movie, even if I have story detail problems and the dialogue is sometimes weak. The second-to-last Chabrol feature shot by cinematographer Jean Rabier, who also worked with Varda and Demy.

Engler and Claus:

Oh, anyway at the end the gruff cop hero (whose pregnant wife died 2 years ago, just to give his character some inner pain) saves the girl from crazies and they go off to Theratos, which isn’t as cool a getaway spot as promised by her own ads (as one attendee puts it after being isolated from his wife, “If you can’t screw on vacation, when CAN you screw?”). The cop and Beals do screw at some point, while Dr. M simultaneously watches disaster and atrocity footage on his fuzzy b/w TV – an unnecessarily disturbing detail. Eventually they break into the TV studio and Beals takes to the airwaves, saying some new agey babble about positivity that somehow undoes all the propaganda of the late-night talk hosts (have I mentioned them?) and her own Theratos ad campaign, as across the city people put down their suicide weapons and go on with their lives.

“Dr. M stresses the fact that we are continuously manipulated… and that political speak has invaded every circle. … This is why, faced with steely-hearted strategy experts and computer brains, I hope that my film will be stimulating, since it does homage to lucidity as our only defensive weapon.”

Mob violence must’ve been on Fritz Lang’s mind, after making M and fleeing nazis. This is my second or third favorite of his films, a powerhouse drama with a simmering Spencer Tracy, a wrong-man revenge tale. Makes me all upset every time I watch it. I always forget the incriminating word slip that reveals to Tracy’s girl that he’s still alive: it’s memento/momentum.

It’s hard to skim Patrick McGilligan’s Lang bio since it’s full of conflicting stories told by Lang himself, a notorious fabricator. It seems in the original script, Joe was an honest lawyer and after he’s presumed dead his wife (not fiancee) falls in love with a rival attorney. Joe plans to let the townsfolk/mob hang after some are convicted, but he’s discovered by the attorney/wife who run to stop the hanging. No redemption for Joe – he pulls a gun to stop them. Lang suggested Joe become more likable and the wife take over the story after Joe is “killed” so women will have more to enjoy from the film. “There was indeed a tremendous amount of social awareness in the early versions, which featured breadlines, black characters, even a settlement house where Katherine worked. [Newspaperman, The Front Page screenwriter] Cormack’s first rewrite cleared away some of the social commentary; more would disappear as he honed the script.” Lang had shot scenes to visualize Joe’s guilt: ghosts emerging from behind trees to chase him. At the first test screening, which was Lang’s own cut, “after the ghosts came on the public didn’t stop laughing.” So producer Joe Mankiewicz recut the film, removing the ghosts and shooting a final scene where Joe’s wife hugs him forgivingly (which was never in the Lang version) and the movie opened to acclaim. Lang began a lifelong feud with Mankiewicz and studio head Louis Mayer swore Lang would never work at MGM again – some way to begin his Hollywood career. Fury made a star out of Spencer Tracy and exiled Fritz Lang to make westerns and sequels.

A happy result of my French Film Hiatus is that I’m getting around to seeing some English-language movies I’ve put off for a long time. This one is particularly long-awaited, part of my decade-spanning quest to see Every Fritz Lang Film. I announced the end of the quest a year and a half ago with The Return of Frank James, but actually I still had this one and Harakiri to go, I just didn’t know where to find them.

This is Lang’s version of the same story Renoir filmed as La Bete humaine, with the writer of Clash By Night and cinematographer of In a Lonely Place, and his two lead actors from the previous year’s The Big Heat. It was a prime year for noir, and this movie acts like noir, but I’m not sure that it counts… after all, the hero gets a happy ending and only the bad people get punished. So it’s more like Shockproof than Clash By Night.

Gloria shouldn’t smoke inside – it’s bad for the birds.

Glenn Ford, who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup right now, plays a railman returned from the Korean War. Nervous, pinched-voiced fatale Gloria Grahame (Bogart’s neighbor in In a Lonely Place) is the dame he falls for. Then there’s a dichotomy of gruff middle-aged guys: Broderick Crawford (of The Black Cat and Born Yesterday) is Gloria’s mean, jealous, drunk, murderous husband, and Edgar Buchanan (later of Ride The High Country) is a kind friend and landlord to our man (with a daughter who’s hot for Glenn).

Glenn and Broderick:

Gloria’s husband murders her (ex?) lover in a train car and makes her watch, keeping the note she wrote the lover to lure him into the train as protection so she won’t turn him in. Although if he wanted this protection to be more effective, he would’ve had her write the guy’s name on the letter… this note could’ve been addressed to any of her lovers.

The incriminating (?) note:

Now tied to a husband she no longer loves (he also beats her – have I mentioned?) Gloria seduces Glenn and gets him to agree to murder the husband so they can run off together. Edward G. Robinson would’ve gone through with it, but Glenn Ford does not, telling off Gloria, who promptly blows up at her husband on another train and gets killed by him. Glenn ends up with his friend Edgar Buchanan’s underage daughter, to everybody’s delight.

Glenn and the good girl:

At the emotional height of a movie where sleazy characters are having secret meetings and lots of off-camera sex, and Gloria Grahame’s sharp, pointy breasts are poking right out of her sweater, in the background we can see that she and her husband have separate beds, and so America’s morals are safely upheld. Reminds me of the scene of The 40 Year Old Virgin I caught on cable today where every kind of sex is loudly discussed but the word ‘shit’ is safely bleeped.

Checked out a nicely high-quality (if slightly trapezoidal) digital projection of the new edition, pleasingly crowded for a Thursday night. On one hand, Metropolis was plenty long enough, and each scene has always seemed to go on a bit too long (Jimmy didn’t come, saying “I’ve slept through Metropolis enough times, thanks”), but it’s still nice to have more of the film available for study. Half the cut scenes involve “the thin man,” hired by Mr. Frederson to spy on his little raised-consciousness son, who only makes a cameo in the pre-Argentina footage. And it’s easy to tell the footage apart, since the new stuff comes from a scratchy, shrunken 16mm print.

Wrote nothing special in August 2008:

Katy doesn’t want to participate in 2005 Month or in Shocktober, so there’s a semi-theme-multi-month going on with 1920’s Movies instead, beginning with this, one of the most famous and celebrated of the 1920’s Movies.





EDIT DEC 2020: watched a restoration of the Giorgio Moroder version, of all the crazy things. The narrative intertitles remain, but for dialogue they use subtitles over the person speaking, a nice touch. The music is fine… if not for the vocal songs! I didn’t know about these… what a bad idea. But even a bad soundtrack cannot ruin Metropolis, and I guess Moroder’s efforts helped preserve the film, so it’s fine, new wave forever.

Keith Phipps in AV Club:

Where Lang’s film still looks timeless, Moroder’s music remains grounded in the time of Reagan and early MTV. (That’s doubly true of the songs, which sound like castoffs even by the standards of, say, Loverboy.) The film feels quaint in a way other incarnations of Metropolis don’t.

NAFF says: “We celebrate their 45th birthday with this meticulously-chosen collection selected and introduced by Canyon Cinema’s executive director Dominic Angerame.” I don’t know what it means to be meticulously chosen. I mean, I assume Dominic is well familiar with Canyon’s films and he might’ve agonized over the selection, wondering how best to artistically and effectively represent his company’s holdings. Anyway, it was a very good selection, but NAFF could’ve been more meticulous with the presentation, misthreading one film which caused delays during which half the audience left early. But let’s face it, half the audience always leaves early during avant-garde film presentations. On with the descriptions… italic text is quoted from NAFF’s descriptions, regular text is from me.

Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (Martin Arnold, Austria 1998, 15 min.), where Arnold remixes several clips of a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland Andy Hardy film to form an erotic Oedipal musical.

I talked briefly about this one here and here. Seeing again on a giant screen in a nice theater with a packed audience was rewarding. Lots of laughter when people caught onto the oedipal/sexual jokes. Brilliant movie and concept – still one of my favorites.

Autumn Leaves (Donna Cameron, USA 1994, 6 min.), where the splendor and pleasures of autumn are the focus of this richly textured and brilliantly colored paper emulsion film.

I don’t remember it! I know I liked it – I liked all of these, but I do not remember in what specific ways I liked it. A shame, possibly.

China Girls (Michelle Silva, USA 2006, 3 min.), a short composition of women posing for skin tone and color slates used in film leaders that reveal some skin and the aesthetics of their day through film stocks and fashions.

Didn’t love this one, actually – all slates and countdowns and blips and test patterns. I see that stuff at work all day. I mean, yeah they were vintage test patterns with subliminal shots of women with carefully-maintained hairdos. A minute longer might’ve been too much, but this was harmless, probably of interest to someone else.

Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse (Stan Brakhage, USA 1991, 10 min.), where four superimposed rolls of hand-painted and bi-packed television negative imagery are edited so as to approximate the hypnagogic process whereby the optic nerves resist grotesque infusions of luminescent light.

I mentioned this one previously here. Silent and gorgeous. Audience didn’t rustle around or yawn loudly or start to leave – they liked it too! Some of the multi-layered visuals are television images, and given the “molten horror” title you’d expect something like Light Is Waiting, but thankfully that’s not what you get.

Eaux D’Artifice (Kenneth Anger, USA 1953, 12 min.). Filmed in the gardens of the Villa D’Este in Tivoli, Italy, and accompanied by the music of Vivaldi, Camilla Salvatore plays hide and seek in a baroque night-time labyrinth of staircases, fountains, gargoyles, and balustrades.

Covered this one here. Light through water!

Ellipses (Frédé Devaux, France 1999, 6 min.), where a ripped strip of film is sewed back together following an aesthetic mode, in a celebratory end-of-century apocalypse of positive, negative, super-8, regular-8, black and white, color, saturated and faded found footage.

Oh god, I don’t remember this one either!

Georgetown Loop (Ken Jacobs, USA 1997, 11 min.), a reworking of 1905 footage of a train trip through the Colorado Rockies, where the original image is mirrored side by side to produce a stunning widescreen kaleidoscope effect.

Opens with the original film (discussed here) on the right half of a wide screen, kind of unnerving, then gloriously mirrors it onto the left. Images don’t overlap over themselves like in Light Is Waiting, but vanish into the center line, expanding and contracting, the train’s always-curving motion making it constantly split and merge. But it’s kind of an easy trick, doesn’t seem worth being called a great film, or even very “experimental.” I’m guessing they wanted to show something by big-name artist Jacobs and this was his shortest film?

In Kaleidoscope and Colour Flight (Len Lye, 1935/1938, 8 min.), Len Lye, pioneer kinetic artist, sculptor and experimental filmmaker, painted colorful designs onto celluloid, matching them to dance music.

Zowie wow, these are electric. They start out all hoppin’ jazz, colors and shapes and stripes and light and love, all in fast motion to the beat, then about three minutes in when you least expect it, they hit you with a cigarette ad. More, please!

Psalm III: Night of the Meek (Philip S. Solomon, USA 2002, 23 min.), a meditation on the twentieth century at closing time. Psalm III is a kindertotenlied in black and silver on a night of gods and monsters…

I guess it’s scenes from other films turned grey and treated with a heavy emboss filter. Often no recognizable details, then they’ll emerge suddenly from the murk. We see some nazi imagery at one point, pretty sure I saw Frankenstein a few times, and little Elsie’s balloon from M caught in the power lines. Longish, but nice, enjoyed it. Can’t remember the audio at all.