Despite the shift of creative control to directors at the end of the Classical Hollywood era, studios and producers still wield enormous power when it comes to what a movie ultimately looks like. Proof of that exists with the continual release of director's cuts of films. Unless a director negotiated "final cut" approval of their movie, the studio producing a film has the final say on what's included in the theatrical or streaming release.
The only way for a director to fully show his or her vision for a film is in what is known as a director's cut. One of the first instances of a director's cut was Charlie Chaplin's re-release of "The Gold Rush." The silent film was originally released by United Artists in 1925. Chaplin re-released the film in 1942 in condensed form with music, sound effects, and narration.
With the advent of home video (and later DVDs), director's cuts would become a more common occurrence in the 1980s and '90s. Blockbusters like "Aliens" and "Apocalypse Now" received high-profile re-releases. Labels varied, with everything from "special edition" to "redux." These days, almost every director has one (except for Martin Scorsese). And in the age of the internet, the promise of a director's cut could tantalize movie fans for years.
This was the case with Alex Proyas' sci-fi neo-noir "Dark City." It didn't help matters when noted film critic Roger Ebert spilled the beans about the film's director's cut, which was still far from finished, making Proyas' life miserable.
'My Life Was Made A Living Hell'
"Dark City" was released in theaters in 1998. The moody, dystopian film is about a man (Rufus Sewell) who becomes aware that aliens are studying humans in a city that re-sets itself every night at midnight. Masquerading as a murder mystery, the movie is an homage to film noirs of the past and a continued exploration of the themes and aesthetics of Proyas' prior film, "The Crow."
The film was received well by critics but was a box office flop, something Proyas blamed on studio interference. It would take ten years for his vision to come to fruition in an official director's cut release. But before that happened, Roger Ebert announced the news.
Proyas explained what happened to Screen Anarchy before the 2008 director's cut release. He said:
"Part of what happened initially was that Roger Ebert, who did a commentary for the new version, spilled the beans at a very early stage, way before we even started. I think I showed him a couple of rough cuts of it that were floating around and we had a window of opportunity with him to do a voice-over. He then of course proclaimed that this director's cut was coming out, which was great and I'm very grateful that he has been so supportive of the film over the years, but it let the cat out of the bag and from that point forward all my life was made a living hell because people would constantly ask me what's going on."
Since its theatrical release, Ebert had been a champion for 'Dark City.' In his initial review of the film, the critic gave the film 4/4 stars and wrote, "Not a story so much as an experience, it is a triumph of art direction, set design, cinematography, special effects — and imagination."
What Did Ebert Say In His DVD Commentary?
Roger Ebert compared "Dark City" to seminal sci-fi classics such as "Metropolis" and "Blade Runner." He would expand his thoughts on the film in his DVD commentary. Ebert prophetically said:
"Werner Herzog, the great German director, once told me that he thought that modern civilization is starving for a lack of new images … Thanks to television and the movies and MTV and billboards and postmodernist architecture and whatever else you want to mention, we have become satiated. We have seen so many images that somehow, they have all become noise, they have all blended together into just input. And as a result, our imaginations are starving. And in 'Dark City' I felt that the challenge that was issued by Herzog was being responded to by Proyas. That he was showing us new things, that there was a way in which the visuals in this movie were uplifting, exciting, and challenging us. To see the idea of the city and the idea of the person trying to find a way through the city, in a really fresh way."
Proyas' director's cut of "Dark City" is a tad longer, with an additional subplot and added dialogue. The most noticeable difference is the removal of the opening exposition narration that outlines the film's premise, as well as the pre-title scene with the entire city falling asleep at midnight. /Film's Debopriyaa Dutta offers a full analysis of the "Dark City" director's cut. In it, she explains why Proyas says it's impossible to make a version of the film that is faithful to his initial vision. And this time, no spoilers from Roger Ebert.
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The post Roger Ebert 'Spilled The Beans' Early For The Directors Cut Of Dark City appeared first on /Film.