Even a cursory glance at the rather mixed response to Red State following its Sundance debut should indicate that it has problems in need of fixing, chief among them being a 20-minute long sermon performed by Michael Parks that many have opined runs way too long. Question is, without any pressure from a studio to cut the film down, does director Kevin Smith have any desire to do so?
Well, Kevin Smith has now responded to the criticisms, and his answer to the aforementioned question was an unhesitant, “Kill your babies.” Er, I mean, “Yes.” Read what he had to say after the break.
In an interview with Bleeding Cool, Smith provides an explanation for the problems of the current cut of the film, and confirms that he plans on tweaking the picture before he goes on tour with it.
The movie that I showed the cast and crew screening at wrap, two days after we wrapped, I showed them the whole movie, that’s the movie I pretty much showed at Sundance with end credits attached to it… I loved the movie, we knew what we were doing in terms of editing it, it was a beautiful running time and stuff… and then we go to Sundance and I sit in the back and for the first time I get to watch it with 1200 people who have no involvement with the movie, no involvement with me…
So I’m sitting there going “Okay, there’s something I thought would work, didn’t play with the audience”, “Something I thought would get a nice reaction just kinda laid there”, “Boy, that played way bigger than I ever thought it would, maybe we should shape something around there” and just found some time to take out… if I had to guess I’m saying five to ten minutes somewhere in there.
And John [Gordon, producer] fought me on it. John was just like ”Why bother dude, we’re our own bosses, nobody’s telling you to take it out”, like back in the old days Harvey would be “I love it! Take ten minutes out,” no direction at all, just take the time out, so John’s like “We don’t have to do that now, we don’t have to really cut the movie at all” and I said “Yeah, but I’m a filmmaker first and foremost, dude, and I want the movie to play as gangbusters as possible” and if the length of Parks’ speech is making anybody remotely go “Maybe that speech is a little long”… I want them to love Parks as much as I do, so for me, right, I’m an editor, you kill your babies every step of the way as an editor.
Smith has been receiving a lot of flack as of late, but this is one area where I doubt he’ll be greeted with too much dissent. Assuming the problems critics and audiences have with the film are capable of being fixed up in the editing room, this new cut could very well make or break the movie. It certainly wouldn’t be the first instance of a re-edit of a film totally altering people’s perception of it. A notable example of this can be seen with The Brown Bunny, a movie which Roger Ebert famously referred to as “the worst film in the history of [the Cannes Film Festival]“. After 26 minutes were stripped from the original cut, Ebert eventually reevaluated the film and it garnered a respectable 3-star rating, with a choice quote asserting how much of a difference editing can make: “It is said that editing is the soul of the cinema; in the case of ‘The Brown Bunny,’ it is its salvation.”
It remains to be seen how much of an impact a new edit of Red State will make on its overall effectiveness when it goes on tour in March and gets released into theaters on October 9th, but I for one am eager to see how the response to the film evolves once it does.
To hear more from Smith’s response to the Sundance screening, you can listen to the full interview at Bleeding Cool.