Friday, April 08, 2011

Debating the "Director's Cut"

Jean-Luc Godard was forced by producer Carlo Ponti to add an opening sequence to Le Mépris (1963) in which Brigitte Bardot lies naked in bed. An argument against the "Director's Cut"?

From the Guardian: "Is a 'director's cut' ever a good idea?"

Is the director's cut just one big self-indulgence, or the chance for an auteur to get his vision across to the public untrammelled by the money men?
Elle E. Jones uses the release of a new version of Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show to discuss the history of the "director's cut" - it started in 1974, with Sam Peckinpaw's Wild Bunch - and some of the different points of view on the whole concept.

The comments following the article continue the discussion and are, for the most part, quite thoughtful, especially compared to most Comments sections.

Unlike most people, I actually prefer the original theatrical release of Blade Runner, though it was interesting to see Ridley Scott's "Final Cut." And after seeing the mess Francis Ford Coppola made of Apocalypse Now: Redux, I haven't exactly rushed out see a lot of Director's Cuts. But there are a few mentioned by people in the Comments section that I might check out. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, for one.

I think it's great that technology now allows us to compare different versions of a film. On the other hand, the "Director's Cut" is being used more and more to justify yet another release of the same product, only in a bloated, inferior version. And in some cases, the original theatrical version is no longer available, which is not good. The original publication of Leaves of Grass may not be considered the best version of Whitman's classic, but it's crucial for scholarship that we can compare his short original to the later longer editions.

Also, why should the director always be the one to make the "final" authoritative cut? Motion pictures aren't the product of a single person as books are. They involve the artistic and technical efforts of many people. One reader suggested that there should be a "Screenwriter's Cut" that shows the original vision of the work before the arrogant, money-hungry director ruined it. Although made in jest, it's an interesting idea. I would also be intrigued to see a Cinematographer's Cut of certain films. Maybe Gregg Toland's "final" version of The Outlaw, which was directed by Howard Hughes. Or maybe an Actor's Cut. Humphrey Bogart's scenes were deleted from the 1931 comedy Women of All Nations. Why not put him back in the film? He's certainly more important at this point than the original movie.

Personally, I'm hoping some crass, money-grubbing Hollywood studio will do a trimmed-down Commercial Cut of Andy Warhol's Sleep.

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