The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - MICHAEL BODEY

CALL me cheap, but if a stu­dio or di­rec­tor is go­ing to spend ob­scene mil­lions on a film, I want to see it on screen.

I have no com­plaints against Oliver Stone on this ac­count. The money be­hind his $ US150 mil­lion flop Alexan­der was cer­tainly up on the screen in one of the more vis­ually ar­rest­ing pieces of re­cent times. And if you missed it in 2005, the di­rec­tor has been af­forded an­other op­por­tu­nity to con­vince us of his film’s mer­its.

Alexan­der Re­vis­ited: The Fi­nal Cut will be re­leased on two discs on Au­gust 8 and, as men­tioned a few weeks ago, it is the third ver­sion of the his­tor­i­cal epic Stone has cut. It comes with a very rea­son­able price tag of $ 15, it must be said.

And when I say his­tor­i­cal epic, that is pre­cisely what I mean: the word epic tends to be used wan­tonly to de­scribe any film that is set be­fore World War II and fea­tures more than four horses).

Stone is clear about his mo­ti­va­tion: he wanted it to re­sem­ble the films of his child­hood, rol­lick­ing ad­ven­tures with an in­ter­mis­sion, ‘‘ a nat­u­ral break that would al­low you to think about what had hap­pened in the pre­vi­ous two hours’’.

Er, quite. It’s also worth men­tion­ing, how­ever, that this ver­sion is 214 min­utes long. I’d be will­ing to al­low him the in­dul­gence if the new cut didn’t ex­ac­er­bate the er­rors of pre­vi­ous ver­sions.

But I’ll let Stone speak for him­self. In his in­tro­duc­tion to the film, he says the latest cut ‘‘ is a real break­through for me, ( Warner Bros) gave me com­plete free­dom to break through the con­straints of the­atri­cal, com­mer­cial film­mak­ing to go and make a film of any length that was re­quired by the ma­te­rial it­self, with­out stu­dio in­ter­fer­ence, with­out crit­ics, with­out even hav­ing to sat­isfy an au­di­ence other than our­selves.

‘‘ This would be a free­dom I never had, and I took it.’’

Given Stone is of the so- called Hol­ly­wood mav­er­icks, the au­teur be­hind JFK , Pla­toon , Nixon and Nat­u­ral Born Killers , I’m a lit­tle sur­prised he talks of be­ing given free­dom. He’s hardly been muz­zled in the past.

Any­how, this unadul­ter­ated ver­sion of Alexan­der’s story is ex­treme in terms of length and am­bi­tion. Is it worth it? Yes, if you be­lieve the bud­get should be on the screen. But not if you’re look­ing for clar­ity. The orig­i­nal ver­sion’s flaws are merely writ larger. Stone clearly was mired in his own re­search. The ex­po­si­tion of Alexan­der’s bat­tles, bi­sex­u­al­ity and mo­ti­va­tions isn’t any clearer.

Sure, there’s more time with the younger Alexan­der, but that’s as ap­peal­ing as the back story to the young Anakin Sky­walker in the Star Wars pre­quels. It also means more An­gelina Jolie, but she struck me as un­likely from the start.

Her best per­for­mance would have been in a Bur­ton- Tay­lor- like tryst with one of her costars. But this Cleopa­tra- lite didn’t have a Richard Bur­ton, Stone opt­ing in­stead for gir­ly­men Colin Farrell, Jared Leto and Jonathan Rhys Mey­ers.

The di­rec­tor’s prob­lems were in cast­ing and script­ing, and they re­main. In its favour, though, Alexan­der Re­vis­ited adds more of the ex­quis­ite spe­cial ef­fects, bat­tles and pro­duc­tion de­sign that be­came the film’s as­sets. And they’re pretty spec­tac­u­lar as­sets, well pre­sented in this mega- ver­sion. DISC WATCH: Leg­end of the Tour ( Mad­man, $ 29.95). For those who haven’t had enough of the Tour de France, SBS has re­leased three specials on French and Ital­ian rid­ers, and the great Eddy Mer­ckx. Won­der­ful and ex­ten­sive ar­chive footage and in­ter­views.

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bodeym@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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