KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Film and TV

Is the ‘Director’s Cut’ better?

by Scott Macleod , December 16, 20131 Comment

Snowpiercer

As we reach the business end in another prolific year of film, where critics squabble over their ‘top ten’ lists with excessive pedantry and award-politicking reigns supreme, the case of the ‘director’s cut’ inevitably bubbles to the surface. This often leaks into the public domain when a filmmaker and studio wage war in post-production — the eternal struggle between art and commerce.

The noteworthy example that has generated significant controversy and contention this year has been Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian opus, Snowpiercer. The South Korean production, which also marks Bong’s English-language debut, has already been released in South Korea and France to rapturous acclaim and box-office success, labelled a ‘tour de force of science fiction … a singular and breathtaking cinematic experience.’

A culturally compatible film that succeeds critically and commercially in multiple countries would seemingly not require drastic cuts and alterations to appease other filmgoers. However, several months ago, the film world went wild with the news that volatile mega producer Harvey Weinstein had demanded twenty minutes of footage be cut from Snowpiercer before releasing it in other countries, which included North America and Australia. Contemptuously given the moniker ‘Harvey Scissorhands’, due to his habit of mandating significant film cuts with mixed success, Weinstein’s changes reportedly came in order to make Snowpiercer ‘seem an action movie [that] will be understood by audiences in Iowa.’

In Hollywood, this kind of attitude is commonplace: the film medium is an inherently collaborative process, which primarily thrives as a commodity. While the notion of the auteur is still very much alive and well, major studios and distributors operate with a ‘sink or swim’ mentality, frequently taking control of the film editing process.

However, unlike most instances of this kind, where the filmmaker does not have control over the ‘final cut’ and the unfiltered version is often lost in the ether of post-production and negotiation, Bong’s definite cut is already available in selected territories for public consumption. Many people that have not yet seen the film have already been told they are getting a diluted version, and naturally they are not happy.

The reason for the potential widespread release of radically different cuts of Snowpiercer is primarily due to the sale of the film’s rights to multiple distributors across the world. This has not only illuminated divergent business strategies in the contemporary sphere, but also the wildly dissimilar attitudes executives hold with regard for how certain films should be marketed and presented to different audiences.

Weinstein’s proposed edits to ‘character detail’ in the original cut have unsurprisingly been met with resistance from the film’s cast and crew. Even American test screenings of both Snowpiercer cuts have resulted in much higher scores for Bong’s original version. While further speculation for the possible changes has been rampant, the harsh practical reasoning is twofold: shortening the film’s length increases the amount of times it can be screened in the cinemas, while releasing the ‘director’s cut’ on DVD and Blu-Ray at a later date enhances Weinstein’s revenue from the project.

In fact, the market for alternate versions of films has become substantial in recent times — a reflection of the eagerness cinephiles have in regard to experiencing filmmakers’ unbridled visions. Before official release, a film is typically cut into multiple versions, internally screen tested, and the theatrical cut predicated on financial viability. Nonetheless, late modifications made at the behest of the studio are frequently fraught with danger: the disparity between the theatrical release and director’s cut of Blade Runner epitomises the horrifying effects that can occur when executives start making rash creative decisions.

Of course, the ‘director’s cut’ does not always result in the best version: filmmakers have egos, and even the great ones commonly have trouble subscribing to the enduring philosophy that ‘less is more’. For instance, George Lucas’ obsessive tinkering with the Star Wars franchise over the years has sent fandom into meltdown, fuelling passionate debate over creator/fan ownership. Similarly, Richard Kelly’s longer cut of his haunting debut, Donnie Darko, succumbs to an unfortunate level of self-indulgence, where Lynchian ambiguity is sacrificed for overwrought exposition.

With studios now frequently exploiting the concept of the ‘director’s cut’ purely as a marketing device, where the moniker merely denotes the presence of additional content, the debate and justification over alternate film cuts will continue to be heavily scrutinised. However, in highly contentious distribution cases such as Snowpiercer, the eventual accessibility of different versions of the film allows audiences to make up their own minds. In this day and age, we don’t just expect this opportunity, we demand it.

Scott Macleod is a Killings columnist, academic and freelance writer. He really likes films. He tweets at @ScottWMacleod

ACO logo




9780733633782

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their July picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lead_960

James Tierney

I Call The Shots: The provocation of violent women

In a Western culture increasingly stripped of its old taboos, violent acts by women – real and imagined – still possess the genuine power to shock. Cultural representations of violent women can both affirm and react against the kind of pernicious questioning that posits women as fundamentally, and fatally, reactive. Read more »

9781925106510

Oliver Mol

July First Book Club: Read an excerpt from Oliver Mol’s Lion Attack!

At the Kill Your Darlings First Book Club event in July, Oliver Mol will discuss his debut memoir, Lion Attack!. Read an extract from this funny, energetic and original coming-of-age story, which interweaves stories from Oliver’s childhood in Texas and his young adulthood in Melbourne. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

3ab01d05-2590-4aa4-80f4-45fab0eccec4-2060x1236

Anwen Crawford

Heart of Darkness: UnREAL‘s ruthless reality

Everlasting, the show-within-a-show at the dark centre of new American television series UnREAL, is a fantasy blend of champagne cocktails, pool parties and true love. Everlasting is a Bachelor-style game show in which a dozen immaculately groomed women compete for a handsome millionaire husband, and its relationship to real life is, like any ‘reality’ show, non-existent. Nothing goes to air on Everlasting that has not been scripted, staged, and edited for maximum controversy. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

2015GISELLE_Artists of The Australian Ballet. PhotoJeffBusby

Jane Howard

The Beautiful and the Dated: Australian Ballet’s Giselle

The weight of history sits heavily on the Australian Ballet’s Giselle. One of the most enduringly popular ballets from the romantic period, there is much to delight in its presence on stage and its lasting lineage. But 175 years after its debut, in a production that premiered 30 years ago, the sheen of Giselle has been dulled. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »