Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cinema Paradiso (Director's Cut)

1990 Oscar Best Foreign Langauge Film

Dir: Giuseppe Tornatore

Sentimental tribute to moviemaking and nostalgia. There is so much to like in the movie. Any movie buff will relish the celebration of the medium and the cultural importance of the movie watching experience. And the move is technically wonderful, with a great depth of narrative, wonderful set design, and a truly moving score. It is perfect for the movie, both flourishingly emotional and evocative of the very time period is cinema that this movie celebrates.

But on first viewing, it the is the love story that stands out over everything else. The movie's third and final act, where a middle aged Toto returns home to confront his pain and lost love is one of the most resonant last hours to a movie I have seen in quite a while. The conversation between Toto and his mother is so honest, and so well supported by the preceeding acts of the film, that it is genuinely moving. The resolution of the love story, as well, has an honesty and nuance that tells us something about our own complicated experiences. Very well written stuff, right in the moments that separate good movies from great ones.

Classic cinema is the subject, and this movie is a very worthy entry into that genre.

Now a question for my faithful reader: I had never seen the movie. I chose the director's cut on the first go round. Now, for lots of movies this is a slam dunk (Touch of Evil, say) where the director's cut corrects obvious studio errors. But the theatrical release of this one won the Oscar. Should I have gone with the original first?



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 8/31/2005 10:56:00 PM that...

I have seen both the Director's Cut and the original release, and if I recall, the biggest change is the development of the Salvatore/Elena relationship. Unlike the American studio system, directors operating in foreign studions usually get their way, So I am pretty certain the cuts were made for time reasons and not some larger artistic struggle (ala Ridley Scott and Blade Runner). The biggest knock I heard regarding the director's cut is that it is too maudlin and sacchrine...but again, this is coming from erudite afficiandos of Italian Cinema. But I do appreciate the argument that subtlety in the relationship makes the film's resolution much more impactful. I liked them both, but what do I know. I am huge fan of his relationship with the projectionist...but I too am nostalgic for old school cinema. The shots of people watching the films are so wonderful.

Your Faithful Reader.  

Blogger paroske noted on 8/31/2005 11:41:00 PM that...

I have a much higher tolerance for sacchriness that some. Often that sentiment masquerades as anti-populism. "We smart folk like our emotions much more subtle and understated." I dig that too, sure, but the great love stories have always been broad. Uh, Romeo and Juliet? Wagner? All mass entertainment, and all parallel to a broad romance like CP today, in tone at least.

But you didn't answer my question, less than faithful reader. As a RULE, and assuming no Ridley Scott situation, should one first consume the studio release or the director's cut?

Take Apocalype Now. Which version would you recommend for a first viewing?


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 9/01/2005 10:25:00 AM that...

I agree...I heard these criticism in a class lead by Landy and her Pasoliniesque followers who feel coherent narratives are beneath them.

Now, to answer your question more directly (or indirectly), I believe there can be no over arching rule to decide between a director or studio cut. I believe you must consider the circumstances under which the film was cut. If there was a conflict between the studio execs and the director over the film's cut, I always go with the director (Blade Runner, Brazil). I guess it is my Nietzschean influenced appreciaton for auteur theory that guides that my perspective. But, if the director had final say in the original cut (this is assuming directors cut films to fit certain time limits and therefore select what content to discard), I would go with the original. Like good rhetoricians, directors have good reasons to cut their films to streamline the narrative and eliminate the superflourous that do not affect the films "point." This is not to say I would not watch it eventually, but the original should be viewed first.

In the case of Apocalypse Now, Coppola pretty much had final say. And for me, the original was much better (not a fan of the extended anachronistic French colony scene). The same holds true for all the original Star Wars films. In these cases, I think director's cuts are just money making schemes that exploit a new entertainment medium (DVD). One last caveat, I usually buy directors cuts if I buy a film (the Lord of the Rings Triology in particular).

Does that answer your question?  

Blogger paroske noted on 9/01/2005 08:14:00 PM that...

I don't know.

What do the rest of you think?


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 9/01/2005 09:24:00 PM that...

(crickets chirping)