Rosenbaum on “director’s cuts”.

Jonathan Rosenbaum has some fascinating thoughts on the nature of “director’s cuts”. Here is a sample paragraph:

An important point arising from this example is that any director’s cut has to be pinpointed in time for this label to have any meaning. To postulate that only one director’s cut can exist for a given film implies the privileging of a particular point of closure in the filmmaker’s creative decisions—-a privileging that becomes quite arbitrary in some cases. Since there are many different subtitled versions of some of the later Straub-Huillet films employing different takes and therefore different editing, choosing one version over all the others may be capricious, and arguably the same thing might be true for the separate 1952 and 1953 versions of Othello edited by Orson Welles, as recently described by François Thomas in Cinéma 012, in an ongoing series of articles significantly titled, “Un film d’Orson Welles en cache un autre”. In this case, do we privilege the first thoughts or the second thoughts, and how do we defend our selection?

Most of the examples he cites are of this academically respectable sort, but if we wanted to dumb this issue down for the average popcorn-muncher, we could always pose the question like so: Do we privilege Han Solo shooting first or Greedo shooting first, and how do we defend our selection?

For that matter, I have always appreciated the way that Peter Jackson refused to use the term “director’s cut” when he released the “extended editions” of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). They are both his cuts, one’s just a little longer than the other (and sometimes uses different footage).

For what it’s worth, the first time I can remember hearing the phrase “director’s cut” was in 1989, when David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was restored and re-released to great fanfare. The film had been chopped up quite a bit since its original release, so the restoration people went to great lengths to put the movie back together again — but then Lean stepped in and suggested trimming a few minutes back out of the movie, claiming, if I recall correctly, that he had had to edit the film in a bit of a rush the first time ’round. So the version released in 1989 had a lot more footage than any version that anyone had seen in years, but it was still slightly shorter than the version which premiered in 1962; it was, indeed, a brand-new cut.

There may have been earlier examples of films being released as “director’s cuts”, but I couldn’t say for sure. The Wikipedia entry on this term is vague on the exact timing, and it doesn’t even mention Lawrence of Arabia. It cites Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) as “two of the first films to be re-released as a director’s cut”, but gives no date for the “director’s cut” of the former film, whereas the “director’s cut” of the latter film was released in 1992, three years after the “director’s cut” of Lawrence of Arabia — and of course, as we now know thanks to the “final cut” of Blade Runner that came out late last year, the “director’s cut” was not exactly the last word where that film was concerned, so the term was arguably already becoming devalued even back then.

Religulous — an interview and a clip.

Patrick Goldstein has posted a 53-second clip from Religulous at his blog, along with a brief interview with the film’s star, Bill Maher.

In the clip, Maher needles an actor dressed like Jesus on the question of why the Bible would describe God as someone who feels a “petty emotion” like “jealousy”. It’s an interesting question, and no doubt there are all sorts of amusing, perplexing, enlightening and confounding answers that one could give. But I wonder if an actor — especially one who works in a theme park — is really the best place to go for an answer to this question. Did Maher bother to approach any serious thinkers on these issues? Or did he just go looking for some easy targets?

Goldstein, who has apparently seen the completed film, also gets Maher to talk about how he got all these people to talk to him:

On how he got people to talk to him: “It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it ‘A Spiritual Journey.’ It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salk Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.”

On the element of surprise: “Larry Charles’ theory is–just keep going till they throw you out. I guess he learned that on ‘Borat.’ The crew would set up and at the last second, when the cameras were already rolling, I would show up. So either they’d be seen on camera leaving the interview and lose face or they’d have to talk to me. It was like–‘And now here’s … Bill!’ You could usually see the troubled looks on their faces. At the Holy Land theme park, the PR woman freaked out and finally told us to leave. She was definitely not a happy camper.”

Karina Longworth, on reading this portion of the interview, finds herself thinking not only of Borat and Religulous but also of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, and expresses concern over “this growing trend of deception in ostensible non-fiction.”

The presidential contenders get superheroic.

Over at Entertainment Weekly, Barack Obama says Batman is one of his favorite superheroes — along with Spider-Man, who apparently tops the list — because he has “inner turmoil” and has “earned” his “status”, while John McCain says Batman is his favorite superhero because he “does justice sometimes against insurmountable odds” and keeps his good works relatively secret. Read into those emphases whatever you will.

Pineapple Express — the review’s up!

My review of Pineapple Express is now up at CT Movies.

Terminator women — one good, one bad

Helena Bonham Carter recently gave an interview to in which she talked just a teeny, tiny bit about the character she is playing in Terminator Salvation:

“I kind of play a baddie, definitely a baddie,” Bonham Carter said in an interview while promoting her new film, the comedy-drama Sixty Six. “I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, but I’m a very bad person.”

Apparently the filmmakers had originally hired Tilda Swinton to play Bonham Carter’s character, but they had to replace her at the last minute — perhaps for the same reasons that they had to replace Charlotte Gainsbourg with Bryce Dallas Howard in the part of John Connor‘s wife.

So whoever, and whatever, this “baddie” might be, she is apparently supposed to be played by a British actress whose most successful movie to date is a children’s fantasy in which she played an evil sorceress (the White Witch for Swinton, Bellatrix Lestrange for Bonham Carter).

In other news, spreads an interesting rumour:

I just got off the phone with a studio source who told me that Linda Hamilton has just signed on for (up to) a three-picture deal to reprise her role as Sarah Connor in flashbacks. This is excellent news for those of us who would have otherwise missed her girl-next-door-turned-badass presence in the next Terminator outing.


I’ve since spoken to a representative for Hamilton who claims that they haven’t heard about this, which obviously puts a damper on this story. The rep said “I can tell you that Linda is a big fan of T1 and T2 and would be very interested in hearing about participating in the new film” but beyond that claimed not to know anything about it. Sheesh. Sometimes I feel like Hollywood was built on smoke & mirrors.

Take this with the usual grains of salt. But if there is any truth to this rumour, it wouldn’t be the first time a dead character from one of the earlier Terminator films had come back for some sort of cameo; Kyle Reese, who died in the first film, appeared to Sarah Connor in a dream sequence in the extended version of the second film.

Me, I can’t decide if bringing Hamilton back is a good idea or not. On the plus side, none of the other actors from the first three films seem to be involved in this film, so for the sake of continuity, it might be good to bring someone back. But a part of me also thinks that, if they’re going to make a whole new “trilogy” to complement the first three films, then perhaps they should make as clean a break, or as clean a distinction, as possible.

Religulous posters — a tale of two countries

If you want to get a sense of the differences in sensibility between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to religious matters, look no further than the posters for Religulous, the upcoming religio-satire starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles.

The American posters released so far have shied away from anything that might be deemed explicitly anti-religious; instead, they have zeroed in on much “safer” targets — such as the superstitious tendency to see faces in random patterns — which even the typical religious person might find kind of silly:

And then there is the Canadian poster, via Jeffrey Wells:

That pretty much says it all, I think.