83 years ago. That’s when Fritz Lang showed “Metropolis” to the world. And the city he created looks so contemporary it gives you chills. “The Fifth Element“, “Brasil“, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and even Madonna with her “Express Yourself” video all borrowed without any kind of reservations from Lang’s futuristic look. Of course those times where breaking so many boundaries with the Bauhaus art movement which was dominated by Austrians and Germans. So none of this should come as a surprise. MOMA had a wonderful exhibition last year dedicated to Bauhaus and light, photography and experimental cinema was one of the fascinating elements of it. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy actually invented a complicated machine that created various light special effects and glares. Lang had the same playful eye and curiosity.
The first films I saw as a child were silent shorts with Charlie Chaplin. The style had so many roots still buried in theater ground. Sure for comic scenes it worked so well-the funny faces, the grand, exaggerated gestures meant to fill the lack of words. For drama it’s a different story…because it’s hard not to laugh when you’re not supposed to. Maybe it’s the make-up, the crazy long stares, the pace…and the contrast with today’s cinema. There were several people laughing inside Film Forum tonight during the screening and I was giggling too.
But if you think of it …well it’s not easy to make a silent film after all. It’s definitely more challenging for a director.