Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Final Cut

For anyone expecting me to rupture myself as I bellow long and hard, tearing my internal organs in two as I watch Doom, you’ll have to wait a little longer. I didn’t get around to watching it over the weekend. A crying shame, I know.

Early Saturday I had to scoot into Central London to pick up a few things. Accidentally stumbling into an HMV on the way back, I happened across Birth and The Big Easy. Who knows what I would have found if I had carried on to the C-section [insert your own joke here], but I paid and made a hasty exit.

Given the year-round sale, both films were knocked down in price, the former only because, I later found out, had been incorrectly labelled. On the receipt it was listed as ‘Merlin DVD’ but then who bothers to check when they just scan the barcode.

I’m not a great fan of Nicole Kidman. As far as I’m concerned she’s in the same category as Meg Ryan, and everytime I see her on screen I just want someone to punch that big gurning grin off her smug face. But I’d been meaning to catch Jonathan Glazer’s polar-opposite follow-up to Sexy Beast when it was on release and, typically, never got around to it.

As a young widow on the verge of reclaiming her life, thrown into turmoil when a young boy arrives at her door claiming to be her reincarnated husband, she gives an astonishing performance in what is an utterly remarkable film. Starting with Harris Savides‘s jaw-dropping cinematography, in an opening sequence that takes place in an almost unrecognisable Central Park, Birth deserves every superlative thrown at it.

Of course, for me, the icing on the cake was that Birth is very Kubrickian in tone along with nods to a couple of the late, great Stanley K’s films. None more so than an outburst during a family gathering that is respectfully lifted straight from Barry Lyndon.

While Birth has the most utterly devastating film scene, by comparison, The Big Easy had no final scene, which was bizarre. Right after the explosive finale it cuts straight to the end credit sequence, omitting the coda that, if I recall rightly, takes place in the hospital.

Years ago, I’d taken The One That Got Away to see the film when it was released back in the 1980s. We’d only recently been going out. While we’d enjoyed the zesty little thriller that didn’t take itself at all seriously, I do remember her tensing up in the seat next to me when Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin get it on. Bless her.

Why the last scene has been cut from the DVD I’ve no idea. It’s not as bad as the legitimate copy of Lawrence of Arabia that I bought on VHS, before the arrival of shiny discs, that had the whole attack on Akaba missing, which made it seem a bit of a let down that Lawrence would cross the desert just to water his camel at the sea.

Taking it back to the store and offered a replacement copy, when I asked it that one would have the attack on Akaba in it the shop assistant was pretty much rendered mute. Eventually he asked if I'd like something else.

Obviously the omission from the end of The Big Easy isn’t as important. But I’d hate for it to set a precedent. How about if 2001: A Space Odyssey dropped the Star Child sequence? Or if North By Northwest ended on Mount Rushmore, without the newly-wed Mr and Mrs Thornhill aboard the train?

Hell, what if Blade Runner dropped the sequence with Deckard and Rachel driving through the countryside? Ah......


At 7:44 am, Blogger Ian said...

Couldn't agree more about Kidman, and with so many recent box office flops it looks like she's struggling to find work (although 'The Golden Compass' may turn things around for her?).

It's a while since I saw 'Birth' on shiny disc. My memories of it are that it was a load of far-fetched tosh, albeit rather well-executed tosh, but after your glowing review I think I'll have to dig it out again and revisit it.

At 3:18 pm, Blogger David Bishop said...

That lost final scene from The Big Easy really bugs the hell out of me. It's the same on Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs, by the way.

It neatly sums up everything that's gone before, has some playful fun reversing the roles between the characters played by Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid and - if it's your thing - has some lingering close-ups on Quaid ass at its mid 1980s prime.

Plus it sets up credits sequence of them crossing the threshold as husband and wife, something that seems utterly bolted on and gratuitious in the DVD release.


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