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Match Cuts: “Troy”

Match Cuts: “Troy” (photo)

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In Match Cuts, we examine every available version of a film, and decide once and for all which is the one, definitive cut worth watching. This week, in honor of Brad Pitt’s role in the recently released baseball drama “Moneyball” we’re taking a look at the epic war film “Troy.”

EDITIONS:
Theatrical Cut (2004): 163 minutes
Director’s Cut (2007): 196 minutes

THE STORY:
After years of fighting, the kingdoms of Sparta and Troy reach a peace accord. But the morning after the alliance is formed, Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) leaves Sparta with the Spartan queen, Helen (Diane Kruger). The king of Sparta, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), is none too pleased; he convinces his power-hungry brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox), ruler of all of Greece, to join him in an invasion of Troy. Though the war between Greece and Troy is an epic affair with thousands of combatants, its outcome will ultimately rest on the fate and fighting skills of two men: Paris’ older, wiser brother Hector (Eric Bana) and Achilles (Brad Pitt), the world’s greatest warrior and an extremely reluctant soldier for Agamemnon.


REASON FOR MULTIPLE VERSIONS:

In an 2007 interview with IGN, Wolfgang Petersen blamed the necessity of a “Troy” Director’s Cut on “the pressure of a timed release.” He added, “It’s all about previews and studio notes. Short attention spans. Too sexy; too violent. We need a PG-13… and all of a sudden, you don’t realize that you are working exactly against the spirit of the original material.” That counterproductive spirit apparently produced the two hour and forty-five minute version of “Troy” that was released in theaters (it was rated R, though, not PG-13). The film’s successful run at the box office — almost $500 million worldwide — ensured that Petersen got the opportunity to rectify the mistakes he felt he made in the original cut.

KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MULTIPLE VERSIONS (SPOILERS AHEAD):
The key difference between the two “Troy”‘s can be summed up in one word: “more.” There’s more graphic violence in the battle scenes and more graphic nudity in the sex scenes. There are more scenes in total, and there’s more dialogue in the existing scenes. The Director’s Cut clocks in at a whopping three hours and fifteen minutes: a full half-hour longer than the Theatrical Cut. If I listed every difference between the cuts we’d be here for a week — there are literally hundreds of them (if you’re curious, this site has a pretty thorough accounting, spread across two ginormous pages). So let’s stick to the big’uns

The Director’s Cut is different right from the opening frames. After a few identical expository title cards, it inserts a totally new introduction: a scruffy dog wandering a battlefield littered with dead soldiers. The dog finds what must be its master as crows are picking at its flesh. After the dog scares off the crows and licks the dead man’s face, it turns and sees the armies of Agamemnon approaching, which is where the Theatrical Cut begins. Petersen immediately sets the tone for what the Director’s Cut will offer: more emotional heft and more gory details about the brutality of war.

That’s definitely true of the end of the Director’s Cut, which is also wildly different than the Theatrical Cut. The changes really begin after the Greek forces — SPOILER ALERT FOR ANCIENT HISTORY!!! — sneak inside the Trojan city in a giant wooden horse. The Director’s Cut extends the invasion and radically changes the tone and tenor of the scene. The sacking of Troy in the Theatrical Cut plays as a grand tragedy, with melancholic choral music and elliptical editing. In the Director’s Cut, the sequence is like something out of a horror movie: the music is aggressive and the content is much more disturbing, with plenty of images of rape, hangings, gory sword slashes, and even a couple baby murders. Baby murders! Petersen ain’t messing around.

Some of the new material enriches our understanding of the characters, but other added scenes feel repetitive or even contradictory. The one below is a good example. It comes after Hector and Menelaus have reached their peace agreement, and Paris has shagged Menelaus’ wife Helen. Hector spots Paris returning from an evening spent playing a game of Hide the Trojan Horse.

Stripped of its context in the film, the scene is fine. But within the body of “Troy,” that exchange is followed immediately by Paris coming to Hector the next morning as they’re sailing for Troy and asking if he loves him and would protect him against any enemy. Hector jokes that he hasn’t seen Paris this nervous since he was ten years old and had just stolen their father’s horse. Paris says he has something to show Hector, then brings him below decks and reveals Helen.

In the Theatrical Cut, without the above embedded scene, that series of events works fine. Hector is curious of Paris’ activities but not necessarily sure of what he’s done. And Paris knows what he’s doing is wrong, but he’s young and innocent and flush with love. In the Director’s Cut, that extra scene makes Hector look like a moron (as soon as Paris comes to him, he should know what he’s talking about) and it makes Paris look like an even more selfish asshole than he already did (because his brother specifically warns him not to meddle with the peace accord their father spent years building). Perhaps that was Petersen’s goal; heroes of Greek myth often have tragic flaws. In the Director’s Cut, Hector and Paris have them in spades.

While there are some nice extensions of existing scenes, including an early moment ironic foreshadowing between Hector and Menelaus, a lot of the wholly new material was probably better left on the cutting room floor, like this goofy introduction of Odysseus (Sean Bean), who’ll later take part in the Trojan invasion, with the rape and the baby murder and the Jell-O pudding and the so on:

IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE VERSION OF “TROY,” WATCH:
The Theatrical Cut. “Troy” got tepid reviews when it opened in theaters in 2004, and much stronger notices in Director’s Cut form in 2007. But watching them back-to-back, I found myself preferring the theatrical experience. The Theatrical Cut is already pretty epic at a shade under three hours; the behemoth Director’s Cut is a wee bit too epic for my taste. In the final accounting, I didn’t feel like the marginally improved character dynamics of the second version were worth the sacrifice of the original cut’s superior pacing. I mean, if you really feel like watching Sean Bean have a lovefest with a dog enhances the picture, then by all means, go for the Director’s Cut. If you want to see Brad Pitt’s ass — and I’m not judging you if you do, it’s a pretty impressive ass — you’ll want the Director’s Cut. If you need to see more decapitations and gore because “that’s the way things really were back then,” again, the Director’s Cut is for you as well. But to me, this is pretty obviously not the way things were back then. Brad Pitt and Eric Bana’s wandering accents and the impossibly convenient way enormous battles of thousands of men stop on a dime to watch two dudes duel pretty much convinced me that this was a movie, not a historical document. And as a movie, I liked it shorter.

The Director’s Cut of “Troy” is available on DVD or Blu-ray; the Theatrical Cut is only available on DVD. Which is your favorite cut of the film? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.