Wednesday, February 14, 2007

AMC gets an F

I saw American Movie Classics is showing some De Niro films in honor of… I’m not sure, really. I was surprised and thrilled that they were showing the always amazing Once Upon a Time in America in its entirety and not the lousy cut version.

Or so I thought. Plopping down to catch the last quarter of Sergio Leone’s masterpiece, I noticed many things that seemed to be missing. Okay, I’ll allow that difficult to endure near-rape scene to be trimmed down for sensitive eyes, but it’s still cable TV and there is no reason to change the many swears. Nothing worse than watching a gangster movie where the naturally flowing expletives get replaced by nonsense that would get any gangster shot on sight. (Mother daughter, Chinese dentist!)

Worse, they trimmed the end. No vision of De Niro in an opium den, none of that whatsoever. It just ends with the famous garbage truck and carload of partygoers singing “God bless America.” Ugh. AMC decided that four hours was long enough, but they had to make room for constant commercial interruption, so the solution is to trim off moments that, while not detracting from the plot, are rather nice stylistically. Then again, every frame of the movie is fucking wonderful. The bastards ought to have allotted for the movie to be shown in full, even with commercials, even if it made the experience five hours long.

I ought not to complain. I have the DVD of the film and can watch it whenever I choose (assuming I ever get four straight empty hours). But still, as my brother would have said, it’s the principal, goddamnit. Fuck those butchers at AMC. If they’re trying to display De Niro’s acting chops, they ought to have left that final scene in, as that smile Bob flashes is unforgettable. It sums up so much of the film, all the pain punctuated by brief joy, all the surrealistic twists, all of the film’s epic scope, yep, that smile seems to convey it all perfectly. That’s acting. It’s arresting.

Sorry for the rant but it irked me. Kind of like listening to some shitty cover of one of your favorite songs. Even though you have the song at home, it still rubs you wrong hearing it butchered. And this is hardly their first offense. I mean, I’m not some art snob or cinephile who can’t make room for enjoyable crap, but some of the choices AMC has made are pretty laughable. And they have neglected some important American films and filmmakers as well. Eh, we all have to put asses in the seats I suppose.

Well I say screw ‘em. It’s just another reminder of why cable is such a waste of money. There is not a single channel that truly cares about cinema. If there was it would show movies from all over the world, uncut, fully restored with neat little bells and whistles in the form of inside tidbits… you know like the DVDs always do. There would be a cult channel so I could see Santa Sangre again without having to but a new VCR. There would be films by Herzog and Truffaut and all those people you’ve heard about but rarely experienced. There would be oh so many chances to see Grand Illusion or Rosemary’s Baby or Repo Man.

Ah well, dare to dream.