Becoming a bona fide film buff is like making ranks in the Girl or Boy Scouts. You have to earn your marks. But instead of campfire safety badges or first aid pins, you have to see the right films, know your trivia and, like a good scout, be prepared...to fight over what may seem like the insignificant details to those not in the gang. So, kids, gather up your canteens and Swiss Army knives. This weekend features two chances to earn that elusive Fritz Lang badge.
Lang--known best for his 1927 silent sci-fi classic Metropolis--is honored with Friday and Saturday midnight screenings of M, a first and best in many categories, including movies with sound, crime dramas, film noir and serial-killer profiles. M slowly and deliberately unveils the identity of a child murderer using seemingly innocent scenes and intimating at the violence off-screen through the bleak, empty scenes used. It takes a turn when both the police department and the criminal underground (whose "businesses" are hurt during the increased police attention) begin the manhunt, using different tactics.
Besides being a required film, M is one of those rare pieces of cinema that force the viewers to notice the filmmaking. Though it's possible to also get lost in the gruesome and emotionally taxing story, one can't help but notice those tiny details that make this a masterpiece. There are the beautiful shots (many looking down into the action), the framing of simple scenes, the use of shadows, how the sparseness of sounds creates tension. M's shots of a child's ball rolling down a hill or a balloon caught in a power line are more intense than any gory killing scene. It's easy to see how this became both a classic and required viewing.