AMADEUS Director's Cut, STRAW DOGS and Sexism Via Cutting (Spoilers Perhaps) Penciling the new UNCLE CYRUS with the director's cut of AMADEUS on next to me. Jesus, Elizabeth
Berridge was gorgeous and talented. Why did she not become a star? Possibly because they cut out so much of her stuff(that had been from
the play) so she didn't seem very impressive? Too often happens.
I saw this film SO many times when it came out, first at the theatre and then renting the VHS over and over(ah, those were awful days, paying again & again; don't miss them)--I was really fond of the play, reading it after seeing someone else do a monologue form it. I later won competitions with Salieri monologues in high school before it did. Loved Peter Shaffer.
So I knew it pretty well by the time this came out in its original form. And what I saw was so very different from what I'd read that I didn't understand. The monologue I usually won with was Salieri's War with God monologue, which I could personally relate to, sadly enough. But I had one or two others, such as Mozart's death, which is very different in the play--he hallucinates he's a child and begging for his daddy's approval, for him to pick him up. There was a point I had to let out a piercing shout; I did that well. It was fun and cathartic. Acting in high school was totally, to me, a chance to get out a lot of my repressed emotions in a socially sanctioned way.
I had to stop sometimes using this one, though, because since it wasn't in the film it confused people by then.
So it's odd to see all the stuff again that I'd known was supposed to be there. from the play. They DID film a lot of it. And neat. But it brings up questions.
The dc version, to be frank, shows us more Mozart too, rather than just as Salieri sees him, and had this been released, Hulce may have won, not Abraham. This Mozart is more like a real artist. His cheer is hiding a desperation, that if he does not please, he will die. We don't see his struggles, just his wastefulness and drinking but not what drives him to it. So he just looks like a lazy, petulant child ungrateful for the gift he's given--a spoiled rock star cautionary tale. Salieri can hardly be blamed for his death in that version. Not so in this one. Salieri does slowly and deliberately kill him here. (note: I am not evaluating any of this on history, but as a drama. As history it's ALL BS)
Also, we don't see the extent to which Salieri cultivates Mozart's confidence. In the release cut we have only one "personal" scene between them besides the death. There's much more than that here. We're told Mozart considers him a friend. We don't see why. We don't see Salieri, as revenge for having sex with his student (Christine Ebersole, also given more here and more of a rounded character), telling the emperor that Mozart molested her. As a result, Mozart doesn't get the position teaching his underage niece, and most people won't hire him either. We get the sense that Salieri simply lets things not happen, "forgets" favors he promised and allows the others at the court to shut him out. A gatekeeper who simply doesn't let him through.
In this, we see his deliberate evil. He's like Blackadder but dramatic. He is a true villain. Especially in how he humiliates Constanze, which is from the play, and is a place I'd like to draw attention back to Berridge.
There's the scene where she asks Salieri to look at Mozart's music, behind Mozart's back. In the release version, he's angry when he sees how good his first and only drafts are and throws her out. In this version there's something else. He tells her to come to his house or nothing happens for them. And he makes it clear it's sex he wants. Then she comes, because they really need the money, and she loves Mozart and believes in him, and not at all because she wanted it.
You feel how Salieri's leer feels on her when she undresses, and then he tells her to get out. To further humiliate her, and Mozart through her, and hopefully take something else away from him without him knowing why. He's a hypocrite and exploiter and psychological sadist. And then we see her weeping in bed, and not telling Mozart why but holding him, saying she loves him, crying harder, all focused on her face. All about her, and the audience is thinking of how she feels, not Mozart. It's a great and real moment. We see what Constanze is to him, and he to her, and she's not the mewling little shallow dumb doll and vehicle for tits they make her seem to be in the old cut. It's almost an Oscar clip. And they cut it. And there's more, all the way about, here and there. It certainly makes us understand why she's angry to see him there with Mozart when she returns from the spa. Because in the old cut, we never see that she has any reason to know he's acting against them. And it makes her seem less the nag. She's 1/3 of the play. She's a prop in the old cut. Here we see her as a person, a character. They did very badly by Elizabeth Berridge in the old cut--they make her an object. I think it's sexist.
And it's not the only time. I often notice this in "director's cuts" that apart from as a visual, women's parts often are reduced in ways that strip them of dimension, and in relation to the guy, unsympathetic, dumber, even naggy sometimes. Because you are robbed of context. Elizabeth McGovern in RAGTIME and the Emma Goldman scene comes to mind. So does Sam Peckinpah's STRAW DOGS.
Susan George comes off very differently between the old US cut of STRAW DOGS and the fuller cut released by Criterion. In both, I've always thought of her as the main character and David as a monster who's pretending not to be--though still is, through subtler aggression and belittlement of her, because he's a coward, a little boy who picks on girls. Remember, at one point he tells her to act like a child because it turns him on. And then in an argument after her rape he never knows about, he tells her to "grow up." And then an actual violent threat forces the sadistic monster out, out of necessity--and he likes it. She's trapped with this. And other monsters attacking them. All to defend a monster upstairs.
And this comes out even in the original cut of George's performance. She is the only character whose head we ever get inside. There's a trauma flashback scene for instance. But the famously altered bit happens in the infamous rape scene, which even in the Criterion full cut is ethically iffy.
But in the US version, it comes off as a particularly violent, exploitative scene just to shock that follows the formula of "rape...at first" too common in films of that time. In the fuller cut, we see things more as she sees them and there's nothing pretty, sexy or romanticized about it. It's complex, and ambiguous, but we feel only for her and see it from her POV. And it's ugly, and clearly violence. In the older one, when she's talking to David and being barely veiled in her anger about the rape she doesn't tell him about, it comes off like it's something she did out of pique gone wrong, whereas here it's trauma we're seeing, and a husband who's also abusive, in a weak, easy way, toward her, so why would she tell him? The funny thing is the cuts make it seem more sexist. Censorship has a way of making what it touches more perverse. So, both female film characters depersonalized by cutting. It tells you
that actually they COULD depict female characters better, that they knew better. That they wrote it, and filmed it, and then cut it out. That sexism in films is a more deliberate thing than we already thought. Someone in the editing process found the woman not that interesting and
to be put more in the background. And show some tits so cable will want it.(80s)
One thinks of Shelly Duvall. I wonder what may have been cut from THE SHINING. Kubrick's attitude toward her comes off a bit more dickish as I grow older.
And to end with a digression: I actually like her Wendy even as she is, though. I think Wendy is a lot stronger than people
think, if emotional. And THEY LIVE. She's an abuse survivor. At that point she'd already been through many years of coping with Jack and protecting Danny. People aren't heroic at the time in such situations. They're shit scared
and they escape. The brave part is not letting themselves be killed, even if snot is streaming from their nose. Fear isn't glamorous and doesn't go away just because you don't succumb to it.
I mean, you're trapped in that hotel, in that storm, with your husband with an axe and your child. You're not going to freak out at that?
But go ahead, make fun of Wendy.
She GOT him with the bat.
She LOCKED him in & didn't give in. Think of the wash of emotions over her face as she listens to Jack plead to let him out, resisting the urge to give in.
She GOT Danny out.
Wendy rules. Not naturally strong & still willed herself to do what was important.
When you watch an older films and a female character seems framed as evil, irritating or a nag, she may well be that. But think about your presumptions. Even Sersei Lannister is not as simple as that.
"Eternity with Beelzebub, and all his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me and this pencil." - E. Blackadder, 1791 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson SUPPORT US AT PATREON!