…what is great about deleted scenes is that they remind us that a work of art is not a sacred, inviolable artifact that springs fully formed from the head of anyone. Art is the result of choices made by—in the case of movies—directors, actors, editors, even producers and studio executives. We might tend to think that those in the latter category are more likely to ruin a movie than improve upon it, but, as Phipps acknowledges, sometimes director’s cuts are worse than what makes it to theaters.
Paul Thomas Anderson seems happily aware of the messiness of movie-making: While he is probably as artistically ambitious as any prominent contemporary American director, he mischievously sprinkles his movie trailers—which, in contrast to the usual Hollywood practice, he produces himself—with scenes that he hasn’t used in the film’s final cut…
I liked the trailers for The Master more than the movie, and for good reason—PTA cuts all of his own trailers, and has his hands in a lot of the marketing. I’ve read interviews with him where he talks about how cutting the teaser trailers is a nice break from filming, and it’s a chance for him to use stuff that’s lying on the cutting room floor:
[Editor] Leslie Jones and I, mainly more Leslie than me, started putting these pieces together when we were doing Punch-Drunk Love. We were doing these little tiny things we called scopitones. They were just ways to use pieces of the film that we liked but didn’t have a place for in the movie. It was just something to do when you kinda didn’t want to work on the film for an afternoon — just messing around.
0:10 Image from “GULLIVER’S TRAVELS”
0:16 Image from “BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN”
0:21 JACK NICHOLSON in ANTONIONI’S “THE PASSENGER”
0:31 OVERHEAD SHOT of the ocean from “THE BLACK STALLION”
0:40 JOB INTERVIEW scene from KUBRICK’S “THE SHINING”
0:52 OPENING SCENE from JONATHAN DEMME’S “MELVIN AND HOWARD”
All the black and white footage comes from John Huston’s “LET THERE BE LIGHT”
2012 was not a great year for movies, but it was a fine year—a rare vintage, to be laid down and savored in the memory—for looking forward to movies, an activity almost on a par with watching the finished product. How many times, for example, did I view the trailer for “Prometheus”? How many man-hours did devotees of “Alien” and “Aliens” give to the scrutiny of each mini-scene and to every nook of the teaser’s frame, wondering what Ridley Scott might supply to feed our craving? And how could the eventual film, bursting from the chest cavity of that promise, do anything other than disappoint?
Screenshot from Let There Be Light (YouTube) John Huston’s 1946 documentary about soldiers returning from World War II with PTSD. Paul Thomas Anderson claims it was a major influence on The Master — and admitted, “There’s stuff that we kind of ripped off, line for line, from that film.”
My filmmaking education consisted of finding out what filmmakers I liked were watching, then seeing those films. I learned the technical stuff from books and magazines, and with the new technology you can watch entire movies accompanied by audio commentary from the director. You can learn more from John Sturges’ audio track on the ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ laserdisc than you can in 20 years of film school. Film school is a complete con, because the information is there if you want it.