Originally Posted by Josh Z
The Criterion edition of Brazil contains the Final Director's Cut and the "Love Conquers All" TV cut. It does not contain either the American theatrical cut or the European theatrical cut.
Criterion's policy has always been to work with the original filmmakers whenever possible. When one of those filmmakers expressly tells them, "I composed this movie for 2:1. I want you to crop it to 2:1. I never wanted that extra picture on the sides", what would you have them do? Should they tell him, "Screw you, Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro! We think you suck and we don't ever want to work with you again!"
We can debate here whether Storaro really composed the movie for 2:1 (I agree that he clearly didn't), but it simply is not Criterion's place to dictate to the man who photographed the movie how it should be framed when he tells them otherwise.
I certainly do not advocate the kind of rudeness toward Mr. Storaro or any other film maker, or to anyone. It is a matter of reason.
I would have suggested that they proceed by trying to get him to allow two versions of the film to co-exist on the same SKU. Criterion could have pointed out that customers know and love the movie as it was originally presented.
I would have shown him a number of scenes of the film where narratively useful information is cut off in the 2:1 version. [I have compared my LD to the Blu-ray and have a number of scenes in mind. I personally doubt that the film was actually framed for 2:1.]
Had I been in charge at Criterion, I would have walked away from the deal altogether if I had been unable to convince Mr. Storaro otherwise. Politely but firmly. I would have held out for OAR.
Criterion works for its customers. Their customers, by design, tend to be cinefiles. Yes, I believe that they failed their customers with TLE.
I also believe that it is time for us to review the validity of the concept "the film-makers original intent". This concept got started when there were many classic films that had been blatently butchered during years of distribution. I call this the "Star is Born" effect, but there are a lot of movies that had this happen. Often, whole reels were dropped just to cut the length.
Hence, film fans started talking about the "director's original intent" under the assumption that the director would want to recover the original version. I think we assumed that directors would stand behind us for what we first saw at the theatre.
Frankly, in the last decade, the following has become clear:
1. Sometimes, the director's cut is not as good as the studio release cut. The moguls often know more about how something will play than the auteurist director with his "vision".
2. Often, directors who decide to make changes in their films years later do violence to the film itself as well as the memories of viewers. D. W. Griffith is often cited for this. In fact, his original cut of Intolerance is generally preferred to the latter-day changes he made to it (by people I have talked to at least). I do not know one person who supports George Lucas "vision" of Star Wars ("New Hope" as it is now called). I do not intend to buy it on Blu-ray since I have the real deal on LD.
3. It is especially sad when the original is suppressed, as is now the case apparently for TLE. [Of course we don't know if Criterion even asked for the original version. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they did.]
4. We buy and collect films as much as anything to trigger the memories and emotions of our first viewing. We want it to be "the same" not "better" even if better is possible.
As films continue to be modified in various ways, there is a whole lot to be said about what is happening. Not at all simple.
I would comment that I recently saw Peter Bogdanovich's Nickelodeon at a film festival in his new cut (B&W instead of color). Mr. Bogdanovich personally presented this film, and was in the audience the entire weekend and graciously interacted with the audience. A true class act. Nickelodeon has now been released on DVD, and it has BOTH the original version (color) as well as his new cut. Even though Nickelodeon is hardly regarded as a classic by most movie people (alas, the opposite!), this is the way to do it. If this kind of treatment can happen for Nickelodeon, I do not see why it cannot happen for world classics like TLE.