Sunday, April 29, 2012
The Case Of The Vanishing Rear Window
I abhor remakes. Generally, they only exist to squeeze the last bit of money out of a concept or idea. They also usually only serve to diminish the reputation of the original and in some cases go on to actually ruin it. Filmmakers argue that great works, usually referring to Shakespeare, were told over and over with different actors and interpretations. Problem is Shakespeare's work should never be used in the creation of a rule. His works work were never meant to be filmed, it was written for the stage.
Above: Janet Leigh & John Gavin in Psycho (1960)
If you love a great piece of stage writing it can be fascinating to see what different actors and directors bring to words. With a great film however, the results are usually act to negatively alter perception. It is akin to to reaching inside your brain, taking the great memory you have of your seventh birthday party and replacing your family and friends with unknown bodies and faces and moving the setting from your familiar dining room to an unfamiliar space you have no connection with. Unnerving and disturbing.
Above: Anne Heche & Viggo Mortensen in Psycho (1998)
Last week, when completing my piece about Julianne Moore I was once again reminded of Gus Van Sant' 1998 remake of Psycho. I like most of Van Sant's work, To Die For being my favorite of his films. Sometimes his editing, although I know for effect, drives me to turn off his work. My Own Private Idaho for example was both a brilliant, yet frustrating piece of cinema for me.
After featuring the shots of Viggo from the 1998 version I re-watched my DVD of the 1960 version, then ordered the directors cut from Amazon and re-watched that. Sadly, it was the 1998 version I actually saw first, on a date in my early twenties. I quickly found the original and is a masterpiece compared to Van Sant's remake. I will give the director credit. In listening carefully to the commentary on the recently watched directors cut, Van Sant seems to have at least a creative vision for redoing the classic Hitchcock film and painstakingly researched and filmed almost every scene verbatim. Although I applaud a creative vision over a financial one, the question remains, why bother? Van Sant does his best to explain (justify) his actions on the commentary but never really gives a answer that makes total sense. The film's lackluster response from both the audience and most critics should have been a clue, but he seems to blame it on other factors. I think central to it's being a bad idea was at it's core Psycho was a mystery and before Van Sant shot his first second of film, the mystery had already been solved.
Viggo in The Road
One mystery I am hoping a blog reader might be able to help me with is the editing out of Viggo's butt scene. Viggo, who take son John Gavin's Sam Loomis role comes off better than most of the actors in the film. Viggo, and Anne Heche's Marion, open the film in their motel room moments after having sex. In the director's cut, Viggo's incredible posterior is edited just at the top of his lower back. Obviously from the caps at the end of the piece (and the video clip) at some point Van Sant filmed a wee bit lower.
Viggo in Indian Runner
I am fairly confident the request did not come from Viggo. On the films commentary, both Heche and Van Sant comment on the nude scene and that Viggo was excited about the role reversal in the scene, having his character completely naked while Heche, like Leigh, remains in her bra and slip. During the commentary for the scene, Vince Vaughan seems more obsessed than I am about Viggo's nakedness, quizzing Heche about when in the scene Viggo was letting it all hang out.
Viggo has shown in ass in many films including The Road and A History Of Violence, both recently filmed. He also gave an extended full frontal in Indian Runner and showed pretty much every inch of his body in Eastern Promises. It makes little to no sense he would request, or even get an edit of his brief butt scene.
The decision to edit the scene (current director's cut above, and older clip and caps below) was most likely done by Van Sant himself. My question however is why? There are tons of nude scenes, mostly by actors that suddenly disappear when movies move from the original release on VHS to DVD or Blu-Ray. It is most likely the butt scenes below appeared on an early VHS release, but would love to if anyone knows for sure. The fact the scene is capped so infrequently, and so unclear indicates it never made it to any DVD release. Van Sant has never been shy about a bit of skin, so curious as to why he made this decision.
If anyone know's where the original scene appeared, or why the edit might have been made, please shoot me a line. I at first thought it was simple change that happened with a wide screen viewing, but it was obviously more purposeful than that. One of the things I did like about the Van Sant version was the acting, and comparing scenes with the original, The butt scene was a small but clear way to create a difference and very curious on why he might have changed his mind about it and like poor Marion, buried it forever.
Viggo - Psycho by trevorbriggs
Psycho clip via Scenes of Male Skin, your best source of clips on the net!