I just found out that Warner Home Video is releasing a 172-minute Extended Cut of Terrence Malick’s The New World.
I should make one thing perfectly clear – I love Terrence Malick, and seeing The New World for the first time was a profound turning point in the way I look at movies. Never met the man, but he is a rare case of an artist who has had such a profound impact on the way I view cinema and even the way I view the world that I love him for it. If that sounds silly, well, then so be it, but if a film or director or some form of art hasn’t had that level of impact on you…be open to it. For those who know what I mean…you know what I mean.
But let’s just take a second here, because I am of two minds about this. The first was complete and utter glee at the thought of seeing Malick’s reported first cut. The second came later, when a number of people reacting to this pointed out that this is being called an Extended Cut and not a Director’s Cut. Someone pointed out that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator has a Director’s Cut and an Extended Cut, which is really just the Director’s Cut with deleted scenes inserted into the film. In other words, as we all know, longer isn’t always better, or at the very least isn’t always a director’s vision (though I usually agree with Roger Ebert’s assertion that no good movie is too long and no bad movie too short). Add to this that the trivia section on IMDb (not a grade-A source, I realize, but generally solid) states: “There are rumours that the extended cut, whilst not favoured by Malick, could appear on DVD at some point in the future.”
The conclusion that I came to is that I just don’t care. First, it’d be impossible for some guy at WHV to just insert whatever Malick cut. Malick films increasingly don’t resemble his scripts, and there’s no traditional structure to the final product. It isn’t a matter of putting a scene in between two other scenes…it’s mixing those three scenes together and all around the rest of the picture. Most of the cuts he made from the 150-minute version to the 135-minute version were, according to Matt Zoller Seitz, quite small – some things were remixed, shots were shortened – and no major set pieces were entirely removed, though the remix (for lack of a better term) did FEEL different from the original. And really, moods and feelings are the foundation of Malick’s films, so I guess the differences are kind of important.
So what I’m saying is that the forthcoming release has to be a cut Malick made at some point. It might not be his preferred cut, but it will represent his work and I will never turn down an opportunity to see Malick’s work. It just has to. We’d know the difference. We could spot someone else’s hands in it. Couldn’t we?
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Scott can be reached at Snye@megazinemedia.com