Saturday, April 04, 2009

all things workprint

OK, before you read any further, please note these two points :

* There are NO LINKS TO FILMS IN THIS POST OR ON THIS SITE. sorry, Google again.

* There are going to be *** BIG HUGE MASSIVE SPOILERS *** for a number of films in the words and pictures included here.

right, got that? on with the article which i am of a mind to write, then....


for those not in the know, and this would be difficult to be with the major film news story of the last week, a "workprint" is a rough, unfinished version of a film, assembled mostly to let the film maker see how his (or her) vision is looking and to see what still needs to be done and what needs to be removed before the "finished" version is released. there are many cases of these being seen as "better" that the final release version, as is or was the case with Alien 3 and the cause of much debate around American History X.

however, up until midnight on March 31 2009, the two most famous, or if you will infamous, workprints of movies known to exist were Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner. in the case of the latter, the only "bootleg" copy was off a video camera at the back of a cinema which happened to be showing it on one of the three occasions it had been seen in public. Ridley Scott was finally in a position to release this version on the magnificent 5 disc Blade Runner box set, but rather undermined the point of the workprint idea by cleaning up the print and editing the music before releasing it!

the legendary 5 odd hour workprint cut of Apocalypse Now remains the most infamous of them all. Francis Ford Coppola still denies it exists, no matter how many bootlegs surface of it. sadly, i've never been able to find one, but the screenshots below substantiate the fact that it is out there somewhere....

why on earth, even in the "ultimate dossier" version of Apocalypse Now, he insists on not letting the world see Scott Glenn's part in the film or Dennis Hopper's much fabled death scene is beyond me and most film fans. it would be great if he would make this footage legally available; failing that i guess the quest for this holy grail of bootlegs shall continue.

anyway, as of the time and date quoted above, the most famous / infamous workprint of a film was all of a sudden Wolverine or, if you will, X-Men Origins : Wolverine. as i am sure you are aware by now, somehow the workprint version of this film has leaked far and wide over the internet, a full month before the cinema release.

exactly how this happened remains a mystery. some say it was a disgruntled employee of the film maker, Fox. others, and this is rather bizarre to say the least, claim that it has been leaked as an "act of revenge" because Fox Films tried to disrupt the release of some other comic book film, Watchmen. the former is likely, the latter impossible, as it implies that the internet junkie geeks who were all excited about the dull three hours of Watchmen actually have enough of a life to go out and do something.

a third theory is that Fox have leaked this rough version of the film themselves in order to generate some publicity for a film that, for no apparent reason, was getting a bad word of mouth before anyone has seen it.

in that regard, it should go without saying that Fox Films are furious about the leak, threatening everyone and anyone with all sorts of things if they are in any way linked to this mysterious leak. if you leaked it or downloaded it, apparently the FBI will hunt you down, you will get a virus all over your PC, etc, etc. this is perfectly understandable, since they have invested many millions of dollars into this product, but by the same margin it's somewhat less understandable to see how Fox News could then run a review of this workprint, written by a regular journalist for them who made no secret of the fact that he had downloaded it.

the point of this post is not how justifiably angry Fox are, however. it's rather to look at the "workprint" concept, and ponder on whether or not this or any workprint are worth laying your eyes on. the short answer would be yes in general, no in the case of Wolverine.

let's go back to the two infamous workprints i mentioned. in the case of Blade Runner, the workprint was valuable as it was the intended vision of the film. the released version had slight changes which made a huge impact - a narration was added and a happy ending was tagged on it. the presence of the narration made it clear that Harrison Ford's character was a straightforward, human detective chasing down the replicants in the film. the workprint was ambiguous in this regard; there was a sense of doubt as to if Ford was just a human hunting or if he was too a replicant; seeking and destroying his own. the "director's cut", released in the early 90s, at last brought this vision to the screen. i would suggest that all fans of Blade Runner should try and see the workprint at some point, but in all fairness if one has seen the director's cut, you've seen the best version of it out there.

a very different story, of course, is the case of Apocalypse Now. this film must surely be seen as the one with the most controversial, soul destroying and demanding making of story behind it (do try and find Hearts Of Darkness : A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, it's brilliant), and so anything linked to the delivery of this Conrad epic is going to cause interest. if you have any interest in Apocalypse Now, well, i imagine the images above and the description of what footage still hasn't been seen in any official sense has got you wanting to look for it anyway. i've been looking for some 15 or so years now, and haven't had a sniff - hope you get better luck than me!

the workprint of Wolverine, however, is a different case. is it really worth spending hours downloading it, irrespective of how seriously you take the threats from Fox? my answer would be no, not really. and this has nothing to do with it being "illegal" or any great anti-piracy crusade.

whereas Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner were bold, ambiguous artistic statements of great merit, the whole intention of Wolverine would appear to be to entertain an audience for 90-odd minutes with a good dose of action and special effects. whereas there is reason and logic within wishing to see missing or alternative footage from the other two films, exactly what is there to gain from watching a special effects, science fiction fantasy film with the majority of the special effects apparently missing?

and the special effects are, apparently, not even "normal" effects. i haven't seen this leaked workprint, but NY MAG has, and have obtained some pictures of it to show the problem with watching this leaked version. as NY Mag ran these pictures, i can only assume there's no problem with me posting them here to prove this point. Behold, a film free of effects :

erm, yeah, does anyone really wish to sit and watch a version of this film with the footage looking like it does above? if you do, then rather get a copy of the script and a video camera and then make your own version, it would be the same difference. i can only imagine that Fox somehow "allowed" the above screenshots to prove how pointless this leaked version is.

one could argue that hopeful or potential filmmakers might have an interest in this version to help them learn their craft. that said, this is the DVD era, and films released on DVD are often so filled with extensive documentaries on how the film was made that it's difficult to understand how anyone could learn anything from this.

at best, this leaked version has to go down as a mild curiosity. it's along the lines of the alternate ending from something like Fatal Attraction, really - interesting, but not something one should really go out of their way for. with all the news and fuss of this leak, i dare say that the DVD release of the film later in this year will include the workprint, just for the added publicity.

my advice, then - buy the workprint of Blade Runner. (ahem) find the workprint of Apocalypse Now. ignore the workprint of Wolverine. if i am wrong and in 20 or so years time Wolverine is regarded as one of the greatest artistic endeavours of the 21st Century then i will post some sort of apology here. barring that, if a film is intended as being a special effects loaded bit of entertaining fun, one would then suggest that waiting until they have added the special effects might be a jolly good idea.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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