Those of us who grew up with late-night cable television will have a few memories of happening upon old movies that didn’t look quite right. Usually drawn from the 1940s or 50s, and sometimes from the depths of genres like science-fiction and horror, these pictures had undergone the process of colorization in hopes of increasing their appeal to a generation unused to black-and-white imagery. Alas, even the most high-profile colorization projects back then tended to look washed-out, with lifelessly pale faces lost among washes of green and brown. On the technical level colorization has improved in the decades since, though on the artistic level its usage remains, to say the least, a suspect endeavor.
But what if the film chosen for colorization was, rather than some piece of drive-in schlock, one of the acknowledged masterpieces of early 20th-century cinema? MetropolisRemix comes as one especially intriguing (if also startling) answer to that question, bringing as it does Fritz Lang’s hugely influential 1927 work of German Expressionist sci-fi from not just the world of black-and-white film into color but from that of silent film into sound.
To add color its makers used DeOldify, “a deep learning-based project for colorizing and restoring old images (and video!)” previously featured here on Open Culture when we posted this colorized footage of Paris, New York, and Havana from the late 19th and early 20th century. You can get a taste of the MetropolisRemix viewing experience from this trailer:
In its entirety this version of Metropolis runs just over two hours, quite a bit shorter than the film’s most recent restoration, 2010’s The Complete Metropolis. The difference owes in large part to the lack of dialogue-conveying intertitles, which have been rendered unnecessary by a full-cast English-language dub that includes music and sound effects. Not everyone, of course, will approve of this “fan modernization,” as its creators describe it. Phil Hall at Cinema Crazed prefers to call it “the most recklessly bad idea for a film since All This and World War II, the infamous 1976 nonsense that united Second World War newsreel footage with mostly unsatisfactory cover versions of Beatles music.” But the sheer brazenness of MetropolisRemix nevertheless impresses — and somehow, Lang and his collaborators’ vision of an industrial art-deco dystopia survives.
via Messy Nessy
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.