Sunday, June 29, 2008

The cruellest cut...

Last night I was writing a quick column about the way DEATH'S HEAD was cut by 15% of its running length, according to publisher requirements; I was asked, how do you go about doing thr work, and stretched my memory back over more years than any of us care to tell, to actually remember doing it (shiver). Then, later in the evening we played the DVD of the director's cut of TROY, which is about a half hour longer than the theatrical release ... and I was struck by the similarity in the two editing jobs.

On one hand you have the writer who has to cut the heart and soul out of a book to make it fit covers which had been pre-printed; on the other hand, you have a director who's been told to bring the story in at a certain length, and s/he has to rip through the film and find a way to cut it by about 20% of its length, and do it without compromising the story.

Well, maybe the cuts to TROY didn't compromise the plot, but they certainly chewed into the 'integrity' of the characterization. The director's cut is extremely good. I'd actually missed the movie on the big screen because I was (!) dumb enough to believe the critics, who had nothing good to say about it. I suppose it depends what you want to get out of a movie for your $14 ticket (yup; that's what we're paying locally ... and you bet, a movie's got to be good to be worth the asking price ... it's not like buying a paperback, where you get days of entertaining for your $24, or whatever. With a movie, whether it's good, bad or indifferent, the whole thing is over in a couple of hours).

Maybe the critics who went to TROY were wanting something more, or different from it. More of Helen, less of Achilles? More female nudity, less of Brad Pitt's physique dramatically undraped for the cameras? Okay. I can see how a troupe of het film critics could get upset at the scarcity of female nudity in the theatrical version, while Brad and Orlando get to romp around in sun tan oil and smiles. I can just imagine the puffs of steam, or smoke, coming out of these critics' ears as they sit beside wives or girlfriends who're oohing and aahing over the cinematic beefcake. So TROY was always destined to be rubbished by mainstream movie critics!

There's a little more for these guys in the director's cut. Not only is the movie a lot more bloodthirsty (though nowhere near 300 or PATHFINDER. I'd put it on a par with THIRTEENTH WARRIOR), but there's enough nudie shots of Helen to woo the other side of the fence. There's also a lot of Mr. Pitt, who broods all over the screen and leaves the viewer with a lingering impression of animal magnificence, and also a kind of madness. Was Achilles thoroughly nuts for a while? I'd have to say so -- and if you've read your Homer, the original text of the ILLIAD only underscores the idea. This seems to come across in the director's cut more keenly than in the theatrical cut. Kuods to Brad Pitt on many levels. For having the guts to actually portray the 'hero' as a blood-hungry maniac for a while ... for being a major investor in the movie ... and for living in the gym for months. That physique didn't just happen. One can imagine the buckets of sweat spilled to make it happen.

And as a writer I can also imagine how directot Wolfang Peterson would have wept tears of blood in the cutting of it. A couple of shots, I could have lived without --basically, seeing people's heads get cut in two isn't high on my day's agenda. But violence was only part of what was added back in, in the process of restoration for the DVD.

Cutting DEATH'S HEAD was the same kind of 'tears of blood' chore, a trial by ordeal. (What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Yeah, right. You know that the guy who said that ended his life insane, locked up in a loony bin? What doesn't kill you can also turn you into such a head-case, the nice men in the white coats come to collect you one day!) Which isn't to say that I went bonkers while cutting DEATH'S HEAD. (Okay, I almost did; but enough sanity hung on by the proverbial thread for me to get to the post office with the manucript!)

the header art for the new NARC site

Incidentally, if the writers among you would like to know more about how the whole thing was done, you can find the story on the NARC page, on the website.

Speaking of the website, it's actually up at this moment ... still under test in a couple of places, but it's been debugged and is running smoothly enough for me to invite you to visit. The address hasn't changed:

the main page.

The official launch will be in a couplre more days, because there's still a few details to be added in; but it's looking very, very good.

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