Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ is a great entertainment, but it’s also a genre mashup

Cinema 21 features a classic that was way ahead of its time



As a film critic, one of the most common questions I’m asked (besides the most precarious of queries: “What’s your favorite movie?”) is, “What do you think of [insert highly lauded/popular film here]?” Usually, people want to hear my thoughts on a film with a reputation that’s become so ridiculously hyperbolized it makes enjoying it for the common, everyday moviegoer a near-impossible task.

Take, for instance, Orson Welles’ seminal film from 1941, “Citizen Kane.” This, understandably given its reputation as “the greatest film of all time,” is THE film I’m asked about most often, to which I respond that it is a truly great film. I talk about how influential it’s been on cinema, how it’s endured and aged gracefully, remaining relevant to this day. On just a technical level, ‘Kane’ was so ahead of its time that it must have seemed like a film from alien planet upon its release, using bold camera techniques and angles, montage, and pretty much every tool in the cinematic shed available to a filmmaker to create a truly brilliant piece of art.

This explanation never seems satisfying: if my interrogator wasn’t entertained by “Citizen Kane,” it’s going to be hard to redeem it. This is all fair enough. Taste is subjective, of course. But these recurring instances have inspired me to seek out films with “classic” status stamped upon them  (read: movie nerds salivating like Homer Simpson waiting to eat pork chops) and help steer good, down-to-earth, movie-going folks towards something that will in fact please them.

Still, the best films, my personal favorites, the ones that I recommend most heartily to anyone who enjoys good cinema, tend to be those that work on many levels. Not just as entertainment, but as a layered, beautiful piece of art. You can enjoy the often visceral, surface thrills, but if you care to look deeper, the film experience can be enriched to an often-magical degree in these rare instances.

Which (finally!) brings me to the film at hand, Fritz Lang’s “M.”


Oregon ArtsWatch Archives