Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)

This is one of those films you don’t seem to hear much about any more but which I imagine must’ve been a staple of arthouse repertory years ago… you know, if you were trying to study cinema as “serious” art, this is the sort of thing you’d go and see.  Nowadays there are so many more films around for people to see and study, that it’s perhaps inevitable that certain once-venerated classics fall to one side to make room, and for some reason this strikes me as having been one of those cases…  Anyway, I’ve finally seen it after years of it being one of those films I always felt I should see, and I’m pleased to say it was worth the wait. One of a number of “city symphony” films from that decade, hardly the first of its kind but probably the biggest example, along, of course, with Vertov’s Man with the Movie Camera; critics then complained about the lack of “human interest” in the film (for similar reasons one more recent critic I’ve seen has carped that it looks forward to the Nazi cinema), but it was hardly meant to be a film about people (except as elements in a pictorial setting) so I don’t know how well such a criticism really holds. How many of the Lumieres’ films have “human interest”? I got the Edition Filmmuseum disc which carries the 80th anniversary restoration of the film plus the original 1927 score by Erwin Meisel; the score is optional but I can’t see why you’d watch the film without it, it’s terrific… chugs along in perfect accompaniment. I look forward to the rest of the DVD set, which contains all of Ruttmann’s extant pre-Nazi work…

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