This movie marks a first for me in many aspects. The first “first” is that it put me on the edge of my seat. The second is that it is the first foreign film I have seen in a theater outside of school. The third is that I was one of the seven people present for the first movie screening at Cinema Center, our local indie movie theater, since the installation of the $50,000 digital projector earlier this week.
Originally, as I was going through the “1001 Movies” list and marking sources for where I could see these films, I put M under “M” for miscellaneous as I found a print on YouTube. I think I went with the better option and saw the 2011 restoration through Kino Lorber with seven minutes of footage restored along with other clean-ups from other versions that include periods of silence and somewhat modernized subtitles. I did see the opening of it in a film class but that was about it until today.
The film focuses on the hunt for a man who has killed three children. The police are of no use but the criminals band together with beggars to search for him. At first, the man in question is not seen but only heard, talking to a little girl in the beginning and buying a balloon from a blind man while whistling “Hall of the Mountain King.” There is a brief scene where he looks at himself in the mirror but then is not seen until much later in the film. The police in this film, sad to say, are hopeless until the final interrogation of Franz the burglar, which isn’t until way into the last act.
The “trial” scene presents some interesting points, like how the criminal would go through the court system and return to kill regardless of what would happen and that a person such as him shouldn’t be in public, much less alive. Nothing can be done as the children are dead. This is mentioned at the end of the film when one of the mothers at the real trial says that no sentence can bring them back. On the other hand, M does provide an insight to the criminal’s reasoning, little that there is, which echoes real life cases.
There is a fine piece of cinematography when one of the commissioners, when recalling another case, repeats the name of a cigarette brand. The camera comes closer to him each time he says the name but remains in position when he thinks before saying the name again. Also, the parallel action between the meeting of the criminals and the police is a fine piece of editing.
I will admit that I may have made a mistake in watching this restoration. Because I had not seen any version of M in full before today, I do not know what was re-inserted. An older gentleman told his mother at the end of the screening that it was a much different version than what he saw. While what I saw was a more complete version, I feel like I should have watched this before today or sometime this weekend as it’s the only time of the year that it will be shown in town. Regardless, I’m going back to the theater in an hour for the premiere of Much Ado About Nothing. Should be exciting.
1001 MYMSBYD selection
IMDB Top 250