Short Cuts Special Edition

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By: Denis Blot

 

DVD Features

Video: 2.35:1 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo

Isolated music track
Short Cuts, the companion book of Raymond Carver short stories
An essay by film critic Michael Wilmington
New videotaped conversation between Robert Altman and Tim Robbins
Luck, Trust and Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country, a feature length documentary on the making of short cuts
To Write and Keep King, a PBS documentary on the life of Raymond Carver
A segment from BBC television’s Moving Pictures tracing the development of the screenplay
One-hour 1983 audio interview with Carver, conducted for the American Audio Prose Library
Original demo recordings of the Doc Pomus-Mac Rebennack songs, performed by Dr. John
Deleted scenes
A look inside the marketing of Short Cuts

Theatrical release: 6/14/2004
DVD released on 11/16/2004 by Criterion
Running time of 183  minutes

Starring:
Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Frances McDormand, Julianne Moore, Tim Robbins

Director: Robert Altman

Plot:The visions of two great American artists merge in Short Cuts, maverick director Robert Altman’s kaleidoscopic adaptation of the stories of renowned author Raymond Carver. Epic in scale yet meticulously observed, the film interweaves the stories of twenty-two characters struggling to find solace and meaning in contemporary Los Angeles.

 

 

Short Cuts is perhaps the riskiest film to have been made in the 1990s, and only the directorial genius of Robert Altman could have made it a success. The film, close to three hours in length, is based on several short stories by Raymond Carver, and is a collage of the lives of twenty-two ordinary people. Altman managed to expose the desires, frustration, fears, and a multitude of other emotional motivations behind characters that one could easily call their neighbor. He then, goes further in having these character’s lives (knowingly and unknowingly) interact with one another, creating a sense of community and the realization that as humans we are all interconnected and that even if we are not aware of it, our actions not only affect our own lives but those around us as well.

Short Cuts is different from your typical film, as it lacks a central character and a central plot. Instead the film is held together by thematic unity, and by the dynamic performances of the actors whose characters the viewer undoubtedly finds something of themselves in. One also becomes interested in how a character will end up interacting with another, and how their individual stories will play out.

Nashville, what many consider to be Altman’s most seminal work, also follows this film structure and length. However, Nashville was made in the 1970s when Hollywood studios, desperate to attract dwindling audiences back to the theatre, would throw ridiculous sums of money into any film project so long as it had a reputable director and/or star actors. Short Cuts was made in the 1990s when Hollywood was concerned with keeping a film short and full of special effects. Even with a brilliant screenplay and famous actors attached to the project, Altman had difficulty in securing financing for the film. He made The Player while still trying to get the financial backing for Short Cuts and it was its success, which allowed for the rest of the production capital to be raised.

One of several items I found interesting on the Criterion DVD extras of Short Cuts was a section on how the film was marketed to audiences (how do you cut a trailer for a film with no central plot?). While lacking in a director’s commentary, there was a feature length documentary on the making of the film with behind the scenes footage and plenty of actor interviews giving an impression of the kind of director Altman is. However, what pleased me most about this DVD set, was the additional information on Raymond Carver and the companion book of the short stories he had written, from which Altman used to create Short Cuts. These extras allows for those unfamiliar with Carver’s works to partake of some excellent reading. It will also, demonstrate Altman’s genius, as you compare the written work to the film adaptation.

If you are a Raymond Carver or Robert Altman fan, or even someone who enjoys studying exceptional films, I recommend this DVD set for purchase. However, because of its length, complexity, and lack of central character and plot, Short Cuts is not the type of film most would pop into their DVD player on a rainy day or when stuck at home sick, for this reason I suggest that you rent it.

Reviewer’s Opinion: RENT IT!!

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