Is there a director's cut that truly works ?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Anthony Neilson, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. Anthony Neilson

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    I just went to see ALIEN : DC and, whilst it was great to see it on the big screen again, I really felt that this Director's Cut trend has gone too far.

    The minute a scene is cut during the editing process, all kinds of subtle readjustments are made down the line. It's not so easy to just slot those scenes back in. The only time it works is when you re-introduce a scene that was cut at the VERY LAST MOMENT.

    In Alien, when they say "we're going in" (sorry if that's a paraphrase) we immediately cut to the Nostromo on its way to the Alien Planet. It's perfect as it is and it simply makes NO SENSE to interrupt that cut with them listening to the Alien distress signal.
    The distress call is a great idea but the sound effect was never eerie enough, to my mind. It was right to cut it.

    The scene where Lambert has a go at Ripley is also unnecessary and the continuity is now fucked, with Yaphet Kotto now repeating lines for no good reason.

    And I'm afraid Scott was absolutely right about the cocoon scene. It DOES slow things down. Not only that, the design of the cocooning is poor and looks unfinished. It's obviously fibreglass and lacks detail. Skerritt's "help me" is almost laughable.In the DC, Scott has actually shortened this scene - omitting Ripley's dialogue -and it feels like a total cop-out.

    It betrays a sense that Scott knew damn well this scene shouldn't be going back in, and the whole exercise feels cynical. Unlike BLADE RUNNER, Scott has never mentioned any problems with the finished version of ALIEN and neither should he ; it was absolutely fine as it was.

    So I started thinking about all the Director's Cuts that have been released and I can't actually think of one where the changes were really for the better. The extra scene with Brando in SUPERMAN works well, but changes earlier (concerning Zod's plan) actually raise questions which are never answered.

    JFK works ok, but only because that's such a dense movie I couldn't remember what was there to begin with. And you could argue that the LOTR E.E's work, but I'd argue that they weren't DC's in the first place. They're extended editions that are conceived right alongside the theatrical versions.

    Ironically, it's butchered films like THE AVENGERS and LXG that'd benefit most from Director's Cuts but we're unlikely to ever see them, as the butchering led to them flopping at the Box Office. ALIEN 3 is a noteable exception, so fingers crossed for that one.

    But films that were fine to begin with should really be left alone.
     
  2. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Yes, several.

    Das Boot director’s cut is far superior to the original release which was cut down considerably (from over 3 ½ hours to under 2 ½) to meet what the theatre owners expected. This was first a TV mini-series and was very long (don’t remember the time any more, but probably in the 6–10 hour range.

    Brazil—the battle here is legendary. Anyone who is interested in the difference can check out the Criterion box set, which as both versions.

    I don’t consider the extended versions of LOTR to be director’s cuts but alternate versions.
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    You mentioned Blade Runner, which is an example of a director's cut that improved on the original (though obviously not everyone agrees). OTOH, one could argue that it isn't so much a "director's cut" as a restoration of the original film before the addition of the voiceover and happy ending. In fact, most of the examples I can think of where films were improved by recutting should probably be classified as restorations (Legend and Lifeforce come to mind).

    The longer version of Godfather 3 that has been the standard version on home video is a better film than the theatrical cut. The scenes that were cut or cut down because of time constraints are valuable additions, and I'd say the pacing in the longer cut is improved.

    Someone will surely cite The Abyss as an example of a film that was improved by re-editing. I'm probably in the minority, but I happen to think the longer version is actually less effective than the original version.

     
  4. Kenneth English

    Kenneth English Second Unit

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  5. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Except that according to Scott, it is not really a director's cut but instead the original rejected rough cut.

    I'd add The Last Emperor to the list of good director's cuts.
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  7. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Fellowship of the Ring
     
  8. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    Well, as far as my feelings on the Alien directors cut goes, they're all in the very full and pretty informative thread dedicated just to that movie. You might wanna check that thread out for some insight into this very topic. I will say that the term "Director's Cut" shouldn't have been used, I think this is more of a Special Edition, since Ridley's preferred cut was actually released to theaters in 1979--which is kind of the same situation as the "Blade Runner: Director's Cut," It was a workprint cut, not Ridley's actual director's cut. That should have been called a Special Edition as well.

    Anyway, I think there's a few Special Edition/Director's Cuts that work well. And the first three I'm going to name are all Cameron films, he seems to be very adept at the practice

    The Abyss
    ALIENS
    Terminator 2.

    And while I have to agree the message at the VERY end of Abyss is a little heavy handed, I'd rather have that then the almost whimsical and nonsensical theatrical edition ending. I remember watching that when it first hit video and even THEN going "Wow--there's gotta be something cut out of this" and my Dad actually taking the tape out to inspect it to see if there was some kind of damage or something to it that necessitated chopping out some scenes. The Pacing, the tension and the payoff are all greatly improved by Cameron's Special Edition. Same with ALIENS, and to a lesser extent, Terminator 2.

    Both of Peter Jackson's LOTR Extended Editions are, so far, definite improvements.

    Welles' "Touch of Evil" is a DEFINITE improvement. Restored exactly to Welles' specifications in a 50 page memo, I think it's one of the few "Directors cuts" done after the director had long since passed.

    Aside from the ones already listed by some of you, I'm sure there are others (I'm drawing blanks right now, damn workplace intruding into my movie daydreaming) but I don't think calling Director's Cuts a "Trend" is really doing director's any justice. It's not quite a trend--it's been going on for awhile. And I still don't understand exactly why people are so against the idea of a director going back and revisiting his work. It happens all the time in the world of literature, and it often happens in the world of art. Why should movies be exempt from this practice? Sometimes it works for the better, sometimes it works against them--but I think a lot of people's complaints don't necessarily come from the aesthetic feeling you get from the new cut, but from the fact that it's not exactly how you remember it--your rote memorization of a movie is what's throwing you off. And I think that's a completely different situation than whether or not a new cut has any artistic merit or not.

    Plus the whole idea that a directors cut will somehow ruin your memory of the original cut or tarnish it somehow is kind of silly to me as well. I haven't seen that thought brought up in this thread yet, but it's only a matter of time until it does.

    I welcome director's cuts for the same reason I welcome new films by those same directors--I like seeing these very creative people being creative--whether that's constructing something new or tweaking something they already created. Just like any art--sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I wouldn't want to shut down any avenue of the creative impulse just because it disappoints or offends some people who would rather stick to the idea that the first thing released is the version that should be stuck in stone, buried under the earth and never touched ever again.

    Calling for the end of a "trend" like Director's going back and re-cutting a film just seems a little too overboard. Take it on a case by case basis, and judge each film or each cut on it's own merits. But throwing out the entire idea of a director's cut just on general principle seems to just be as oppressive as the studio mentality that caused the term "Director's Cut" to be created in the first place.
     
  9. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    Fellowship had its moments, but honestly bored me for the most part both times I saw it in theaters. The EE fleshed out characters and made me care about them much more, plus it had a sense of impending doom that I feel is really missing from the theatrcial cut...there's still a bit of cheese, but the EE is a better film.

    I didn't get to see the Aliens Director's Cut until the initial DVD release, and I feel it is superior to the theatrical cut as well. Investing more time in character development is where all these cuts succeed over their theatrcial counterpart. In regards to the Aliens DC, I always thought the sentry guns scenes sounded superfluous when reading about them, but they add a real sense of how screwed Ripley and the Marines are.

    Still haven't seen Apocalypse Now Redux, but I have my doubts I'll prefer it over the original.
     
  10. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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  11. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    As mentioned above, Abyss and Aliens are excellent director's cuts. So too LOTR:FOTR EE. Longer is not 'better', but a fuller and richer story is. Where characters are more developed, where the narrative is clearer and richer; that creates a 'better' picture as far as I'm concerned.

    That studios impose some (as far as I'm concerned) artificial limits on the craft of filmmaking is a very strong reason to encourage this director's cut trend occurring on DVD. Things like length (Studios are pushing for 90min crapfests of films) and content (must emphasize love interests for heroes, must have action every so many minutes, etc....); DCs are (so far) freed of these silly uncreative rules and free directors to recraft their stories inline with how THEY feel the story is best served.
     
  12. George See

    George See Second Unit

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    I think I might be in the minority here, but I really liked Apocalypse Now Redux. I'm hoping the forthcoming directors cut of Donnie Darko is gonna be really good.
    If you count the Extended editions of LOTR as directors cuts then i'll give them my vote as good directors cuts.

    What about Star Trek The motion Picture? I'm not sure how I feel about that one.
     
  13. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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  14. Matt Pelham

    Matt Pelham Screenwriter

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    Wait until you guys see The Two Towes directors...ehh...extended cut. The overall improvement of the movie is astonishing.
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  16. Mike Graham

    Mike Graham Supporting Actor

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    Frankly, if the film sucks (Star Trek The Motion Picture, Blade Runner), a recut version of it might play better. However, if the film is already great (Alien, The Exorcist, etc.) then its probably just a good idea to leave well enough alone.

    Concerning The Exorcist, I think the original cut from the 70s is a lot better then the recut 2000 version. The final scene with the inspector and priest walking off to see a movie is terrible compared to the slow fade out on the stairs and window in the original.
    Unfortunately, the only version widely available for purcahse on DVD these days is the 2000 version (and with a 5.1 EX soundtrack no less) since the original DVD has long since gone out of print. I'm sure Warner will eventually release a 2-disc set with both cuts and tons of extras, but I just couldn't wait...
     
  17. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Not quite the same. The story goes (in short): someone found the rough cut screened it in two theaters, screenings were sold out, WB began to think about a major re-release since there had always been a strong fan base (further proved by the success of this screening), Scott was shown the rough cut which he identified as such, and he gave WB his blessing for distributing that version for the rerelease.
     
  18. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    No, Seth, that is not what happened. A workprint of Blade Runner was shown in the early 1990s as a so-called "director's cut" without Scott's knowledge or permission. When he learned about it, he interrupted his work on 1492 to fly to L.A. and discuss the situation with Warner executives. Warner pressed for the release of the workprint as a director's cut, but Scott refused. What was ultimately released to theaters and video in 1992 as the official BR director's cut was certainly based on the workprint, but it is not the same thing. Differences are exhaustively catalogued in Paul Sammon's authoritative Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.

    Which is why I said that one "could argue" that the 1992 DC is a restoration of Scott's original vision. It is not, however, a return to an older version, but an entirely new version that did not previously exist.

    M.
     
  19. Neil S. Bulk

    Neil S. Bulk Screenwriter

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    Star Trek - The Motion Picture is clearly improved over the original unfinished edition.

    Aliens, The Abyss and Terminator 2 - Judgment Day are not "Director's Cuts". They are special editions. James Cameron had final cut on all of those movies, so what was released theatrically was the director's cut. The same holds true for ALIEN. The new cut has all but been disowned by Ridley Scott.

    Neil
     
  20. Anthony Neilson

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    The BLADE RUNNER D.C is, I think, an improvement. But -as was pointed out - the voice-over has simply been taken off.
    The film hasn't been re-edited to take account of this, so there are several shots that drag on way too long. Nowadays I find this almost as annoying as the voice-over.

    I'd agree that ALIENS is an improvement, and TOUCH OF EVIL,
    and CE3K added some good (if unnecessary) footage.

    APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX really does nothing for the film except graft an unnecessary political subtext and push the film over the edge into tedium.

    The AMADEUS DC offers some good new scenes but ultimately interferes with the pace of the film.

    THE EXORCIST D.C is an absolute abortion ! Friedkin's original reason for cutting the Spider-Walk was that it detracted from the fact that we'd just been told of Burke Denning's death. Well, he was absolutely right - and I'd like to know what (other than the promise of a fewhundred grand) actually changed his mind on that ? And those "subliminal" faces in the room - terrible !

    OK, I'm playing Devil's Advocate to an extent - I'm as thrilled by anyone at the idea of DC's, if not always by the final product.But a case like TOUCH OF EVIL is entirely different to that of ALIEN. The first is about trying to remedy an injustice. The second is about making money.
    That, for me, is the defining line. I think we're getting way too many of the latter these days, and that's what I mean when I talk about a "trend".
     

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