Thursday, October 28, 2010

Storyteller's Rulebook #50: The Tyranny of Purity

As I was saying yesterday: once someone makes it big, the danger is that they will think that this proves that everyone who ever gave them a note must have been wrong. “See? You questioned my instincts, but now I’ve been proven right!” It doesn’t always occur to them that they might have made it big because all those note-givers set them straight. This is why so many second albums and second movies and second novels are so terrible. “I don’t have to listen to the haters anymore! I can make the thing I really wanted to make!” Watch out for that guy.

The presumption that bad art could never become good art because of someone else’s notes pervades our whole culture. There is a misperception that art becomes better only if it’s been purified, boiled down to its essence, restored to the artist’s true vision. All sides conspire against admitting that art is sometimes made great by collaboration.

These days, between DVD and legal downloads and bit torrent, almost every movie ever made is finally available for home viewing, even obscure old films from the ‘30s that were never on DVD. But even on the pirate sites, there’s one category of film that is excruciatingly hard to find: the theatrical cuts of movies that subsequently had director’s cuts.

One movie that I actually found underrated when I saw it in the theater was Wolfgang Petersen’s much-maligned Troy. I was going to write it up for this blog, but I discovered that the already overlong movie had swelled up another 40 minutes on DVD, which is just too much Troy, even for me. No problem, I thought, I can still find the original, even if they dont want me to. In these lawless days, nothing can be suppressed anymore… Oh, but it can! I could download true samizdat like the Star Wars Holiday Special in mere seconds, but the theatrical cut of a recent Brad Pitt film has already been lost to history, due to our obsession with purity of vision.

In fact, almost every movie for which I own a “director's cut” DVD (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, JFK, etc...), I now wish that I just owned the original. Those scenes were cut for a reason.

1 comment:

Hans said...

Sure would be nice to find original cuts of Star Wars movies too.