The 10 greatest “missing movies”
With the newly restored 35mm version of the late German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s long-unavailable 1973 science-fiction epic “World on a Wire” — which opens this week in New York before a national roll-out courtesy of Janus Films — the number of missing movies has shrunk by one.
This happens all the time, of course; filmgoers and home-video customers are deluged with more rediscoveries and restorations than we can process, and as soon as I publish this list it will become outdated.
(Here’s what I can see from my desk in various piles: Newly restored versions of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” and Buster Keaton’s “Our Hospitality,” along with new-to-video titles such as Margot Benacerraf’s “Araya,” Jules Dassin’s “The Law,” Joseph Losey’s “The Romantic Englishwoman” and John Huston’s “The African Queen.”)
In our age of information glut, it may seem surprising that anything remains missing at all.
Yet the number of films that either can’t be seen at all or can’t be found without considerable difficulty (and extra-legal Internet spelunking) remains impressive, even when you bracket the fact that the vast majority of films made in the silent era no longer exist, including perhaps 95 percent of those made before 1920. (Or odd national tragedies, such as the reported fact that most of Malaysian cinema has been destroyed.)