Thursday, November 12, 2009

Woo Butchered

I believe that US theatrical releases of foreign movies is pretty much a waste of time and money -- small audiences, expensive ads, publicity wasted (because forgotten by the time of the real release of the movie, which is on home video) -- but accept that ego and, to some extent, aesthetics, require that a gesture be made.

This WSJ article about the excision of two and a half hours from John Woo's new film "Red Cliff" is maddening for any number of the usual reasons: philistinism, lost opportunity, commercial and aesthetic suicide.

But in a market dominated by home video, it's not necessary to pander to the short attention spans and historical ignorance of the LA/NY West Siders who constitute the only theatrical audience for subtitled movies. Most of us will watch at home anyway.

Of course, a domestic release of the real movie on DVD is not guaranteed, because the fools who cut the movie in the first place don't understand this.


Luckily you can get an all format player and go here. Thirty bucks.


Generic said...

"to some extent, aesthetics"?

How big IS your TV set? Plebes with normal sized home screen might disagree.

And how do you think this blithe dismissal of the theatrical experience would sit with Scrosese, Coppola, Woo himself, or your boy Hanecke?

There's something like an aesthetic Stockholm Sydrome at work when people strive to convince themselves that watching movies at home is really no big loss.

You need to get out more. (So do I, for that matter.)

Tulkinghorn said...

I don't disagree -- after all I spend a great deal of time in concert halls which could be spent with a beer and Doritos and a CD player at home.

I do believe that forcing the round peg of a five hour movie into the square hole of the upscale foreign movie theatre should not be accomplished by cutting the movie in half.

What's left is, by all accounts, big and beautiful and dumb.

That's not a good idea either.

Tulkinghorn said...

And besides, Mr. Big Shot Aesthete, are you going to be lining up at the Arclight to see "Red Cliff for Dummies" or driving over to Valley Boulevard to pick up a DVD of the real thing?

Generic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Generic said...

My suggestion: wait until the UCLA Archive screens to full version next year at the Disney Concert Hall of movie theaters, the Billy Wilder.

Christian Lindke said...

A couple of things make this particularly jarring. First is that Red Cliff has been available as an Xbox 360 download for the past month -- the shortened theatrical version. There is absolutely no need to cut a home version of any kind.

Second, the original was released in two parts. Why not do the same here? Woo has some street cred still, though he pissed some good amount away with Broken Arrow, and a well received first half could have made the second half a financial boon for the company.

As for the "watch at home," I cannot even imagine this as an alternative for the full experience. True, I'd like to see the film in its entirety rather than a chopped up version, but you cannot compare the two experiences.

I am quite certain that the majority of the critics who lambasted Speed Racer watched it on screeners on 30" television screens (probably 24"). I'll say this without reservation.


Any such review is the equivalent of reviewing a stage play's performance based on an audio recording or a painting by a reduced photocopy. It is pure laziness and the fact that reviewers practice this abomination is a sign that reviewers are now no more than product recommenders. Any pretense at genuine criticism was lost when the VHS Screener was invented.

Tulkinghorn said...

You are, of course, right, as is David when he insists on the primacy of the theatrical experience. But at what cost?

Once those twins of yours get to be about three or so, your theatrical days are mostly over, I'm afraid.

I'm not so sure that big shot reviewers work from screeners. I know that studios used to send prints up to Pauline Kael in the Berkshires, who had the local movie theatre screen them for her...

What I do know is that the yearly Academy Screener frenzy indicates that there are precious few Hollywood types who agree with you.

Christian Lindke said...

When the twin get up to three years old, I expect my theatrical days to re-emerge.

Christian Lindke said...

I think the Academy "screener frenzy" has more to do with a desire to be "in the know" than it has to do with any real consideration of the merits of any given film.

There is an individual I know, who will only watch films that were nominated for an Oscar. Those are the "important" films for this individual. Sadly, that means this person misses out on a lot of great entertainment.