This week’s agenda showcases some iconic Hollywood movies that embody the pursuit of the “finished” film – a sometimes difficult and long struggle.
Our first film, The Fly (1986), will be shown on Halloween in its final state. However, the film initially had multiple potential endings, as evidenced from some extra material available on YouTube. Director Cronenberg interpreted the film as an allegory of aging, describing it as “a compression of any love affair that reaches the end of one of the lovers’ lives.” He added, “Every love story must end tragically. One of the lovers dies, or both of them die together. That’s tragic. It’s the end.” Apparently, some of the considered endings could have had tragic consequences of their own.
In our second feature, it’s also the ending, among other elements, that director William Friedkin altered in The Exorcist (1979). The director’s cut, released in 2000 and promoted as "The Version You’ve Never Seen," includes 10 minutes of additional footage, updated CGI effects, and a subtly modified ending. The diverse versions reflect the contrasting perspectives of Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty. The revised ending clarifies some of the ambiguity about what truly possesses the girl in the film and somewhat reinstates the shaken faith, while the original theatrical cut left things in a more cynical light.
Our final film, famously beset by a tumultuous production, exemplifies the creative chaos resulting in multiple versions. Apocalypse Now (1979) had multiple versions over the years, even a five-hour long work print, all adding to the myth surrounding the film’s production. Martin Sheen’s heart attack, Francis Ford Coppola’s nervous breakdown, and Marlon Brando’s complex character all surely contributed too. Coppola observed that the filmmaking process mirrored the narrative’s journey, much like Captain Willard’s quest in the jungle – a search for answers and catharsis. What was changed in the 2019 final cut? It restores the previously omitted plantation scene but excludes the maligned Playboy Bunny scene featured in the Redux version.