Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Call to Arms: One Cinephile’s Distaste at the General Public’s Issues with Film Lengths.

I walked into Barnes & Nobel and was immediately drawn to the magazine section, a section that I usually don’t frequent. Nonetheless, as I got closer a photo caught my eye, a photo that I mistook for Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara until I noticed the title of the magazine as the famous Film Comment. The front cover is filled 95% with a photo of Benicio Del Toro in his Guevara getup. Pockets filled with ballpoint pens, and scraggly beard abound* the headline reads “Against all Odds Steven Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro’s Long March to Victory with Che”. The article by Amy Taubin speaks about the strategy and tactics in the filmmaking of Che. Now despite all this fun stuff, this is not going to be a critique or anything of that nature about the article or the film itself, since I haven’t seen it. But what I do want to talk about it something that struck me in the article. Particularly with an issue I have when it comes to a majority of the public’s annoyance with the length of movies.

The article reads “The more serious worry was that in the U.S., the full four-hour-plus version would prove as elusive as Vertigo after Hitchcock withdrew it from distribution” (September-October 2008, Film Comment, p.25) It’s unfortunate that apart from being seen, with a brief intermission in between, at recently past film festivals, Toronto and New York alongside Cannes, Che wont ever be seen in the full four-hour-length feature it was original cut as. I was recently talking to someone who was complaining about the length of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Forget it’s canonical status it’s the Seven Samurai for Christ’s sake, one should only be so happy to be able to sit down and enjoy something that great for that long. I don’t see what problem people have when they hear a movie is three hours long let only two and half hours. It’s been too many a time that I hear people say “Oh, but I heard its two and half hours” and then they choose not to go see the movie. I get excited when I hear a movie is really long because that means I get to spend more time in the cinema. It’s really saddening to hear that a film like Che might not be release as originally intended, why, because the general public just can’t stand to sit down for three hours plus. I heard more about the movie’s length before I even heard anything about the film itself and this is just something that irks me. It’s not like theatres are making you pay more for movies that are longer, it’s not like if you really don’t dig the movie you can’t just get up and leave. So much work is put into a film like this I don’t see, even on that criteria alone, why someone would be swayed by a mere time limit. And I know people say that they wont because they don’t have time to spend on a three-hour plus movie but most people have no problem sitting in front of the television for four hours straight without a hitch.

Overall I am really excited to see this movie when and where it comes out and do hope that somewhere there is a theatre that will be courageous enough to show Che’s two parts back to back, even if it is with a slight intermission. Finally I wish that for once a movie’s shelf life is measured on its quality and not on its time limit.

* And I will try to get this cover for you to see because based on that photo alone I would want to see the movie.

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