Question of the week: when should directors leave their movies alone?

Once upon a time, a movie was just a movie. It got released at that cinemas, shown on TV and then that was that. Even home video didn’t change that. But along the way, the idea got out that sometimes producers and ‘the studios’ messed around with movies and asked for changes to be made against the directors’ will. Blade Runner was a case in point, when even the actors rebelled against some of the changes imposed on them.

Then someone had the cracking idea of the ‘director’s cut’ – "Let’s re-release the movie the way the director originally intended. That’ll be better than whatever the studio wanted." I’m guessing the success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition (largely designed to cheat one of the producers out of her profits) might have had something to do with it (allegedly).

Soon, virtually everything started to get a director’s cut, from Blade Runner to The Abyss to Amadeus. DVDs helped in this process, because the two-disc set became a lot easier to store than the two video set, and there was always the possibility of ‘branching’ a movie to include extra or alternate footage at the touch of a button. Now, even the likes of SALT not only get the original cut when released, but a director’s cut and an extended cut with even more footage.

Now sometimes these directors’ cuts are better, sometimes they’re worse than the original. With the director’s cut of Amadeus, every single additional scene makes the movie worse and causes it to drag immeasurably. But that wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact you can’t get the original cut on DVD any more.

Something else has started to happen. Directors have started to look at their work and rather than creating a director’s cut in the sense of how they originally intended it being released, they’re looking at old work and thinking "I could do better than that now." Star Wars has now been recut several times, with new footage, changes to story, extra CGI, extra scenes and more. Does anyone think it’s an improvement? No.

But at least that’s advertised as being changed from the original print. Manhunter is one of my favourite films, but did you know it’s now impossible to get Michael Mann’s original cut of it on DVD unless you’re prepared to buy an old copy from several years ago? Why does this matter? Because Michael Mann has not only added scenes to the cut, he’s taken out some footage.

For example, take a look at this scene:

Yet at around the 45 second mark, the following exchange has been removed:

CRAWFORD: You sympathize with this guy?

GRAHAM: As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster. But as an adult… as an adult, he’s irredeemable. He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy. As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks.

[Turns around in his chair to face Crawford.]

Are you uncomfortable with this kind of understanding?

[Crawford pivots to put his back against the wall.]

Now, this is actually kind of important to the story since it’s another indicator of how loopy Will Graham has started to become by this point, and he is in some ways identifying with the killer. We also lose out on finding out the eventual fates of Hannibal Lecter’s victims, information which was in an earlier scene.

In other words, the director can make their film worse by tinkering. And as with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the release of a new version like this tends to make it impossible to get hold of the original cut. 

So this week’s question is:

When should directors stop tinkering with their movies? If they do keep tinkering, should it be advertised? Should it only happen if the original cut is available as well? Will Blu-Ray make a difference to this?

Answers below or a link to your response on your own blog, please

Wednesday’s “so much Catherine Tate” news

Doctor Who

Film

Theatre

  • Douglas Henshall, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Miles to star in Pinter’s Betrayal
  • The full cast of David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s Much Ado About Nothing

British TV

US TV

US TV

Review: Chaos 1×1

In the US: Fridays, 8/7c, CBS

It’s been 10 years since the tragedy of 9/11. Do you know how you can tell?

  1. The date. Obviously.
  2. The fact that virtually every new spy show or movie that comes out these days seems to be a comedy – or comedy-drama

In the last few years on TV certainly, instead of the hardcore likes of 24, Threat Matrix et al, we’ve had InSecurity, Covert Affairs, Chuck and Undercovers, to name but a few. To that list – for a brief time at least – let us add Chaos, a show which at first glance looks like a very bad spy comedy but which soon metamorphoses into a surprisingly-not-awful dramedy full of action, crossing, double-crossing and mildly humorous situations.

In it, CIA recruit Rick Martinez (Freddy Rodriguez) arrives on his first day at work to find government cutbacks have already made his job at the Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services (CHAOS) redundant. His boss (Kurtwood Smith) offers him the chance to stay with the agency provided he agrees to spy on a small department full of ‘loose cannons’ run by paranoid genius Eric Close (Dark SkiesWithout a Trace, and Now and Again). He does and after they play with him for a while, he soon learns that they may actually be the only members of the CIA doing proper spy work any more…

Because it’s the law on US TV, there are no fewer than three Brits in the cast of seven: Carmen Ejogo, who hasn’t been in much; Christine Cole (as of episode two), whom you might remember from the terrifyingly bad Sky 1 Buffy rip-off Hex; and James Murray, whom you might remember from the quite reasonable ITV1 Doctor Who rip-off Primeval – he got killed by dinosaurs. Well, you would if he weren’t trying to do a (surprisingly acceptable) Scottish accent the whole time, anyway.

Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading “Review: Chaos 1×1”

Sitting Tennant

Tuesday’s Sitting Tennant (week 12, 2011)

It’s Sister Chastity who’s this week’s triumphant winner in the picture competition, offering this delightful scene from Japanese Noh theatre. Or maybe not. She gets the regular 10 points then, rather than the secret, bonus 50 points for "David Tennant sitting down during a Noh theatre performance". Nice work anyway! 

  1. Hebbie: 60
  2. Sister Chastity: 45
  3. Rullsenberg, Toby: 30
  4. Erin C: 20
  5. Janice: 15
  6. esgaril: 10
  7. theriverlady: 5

Meanwhile, it’s a tie between Marie and Lisa G for top prize in the caption competition, which takes Marie into the lead again. Ooh, exciting! 

  1. Marie: 60
  2. Rullsenberg: 55
  3. Toby: 45
  4. SK, Lisa G: 40
  5. Electric Dragon, theriverlady: 35
  6. Jane Henry: 25
  7. Virpi: 15
  8. Joe B: 10
  9. Hebbie: 5

Got a picture of David Tennant sitting, lying down or in some indeterminate state in between? Then leave a link to it below or email me and if it’s judged suitable, it will appear in the “Sitting Tennant” gallery. Don’t forget to include your name in the filename so I don’t get mixed up about who sent it to me.

The best pic in the stash each week will appear on Tuesday and get ten points; the runners up will appear on Friday (one per person who sends one in) and get five points.

You can also enter the witty and amusing captions league table by commenting on Tuesday’s Sitting Tennant photo, the best caption getting 10 points, everyone who contributes getting five points.