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