Thursday, September 27, 2012

NYFF ’12: Final Cut—Ladies & Gentlemen

It is the classic Hollywood story.  Everyman meets everywoman, with everycomplication ensuing.  One-upping Chuck Workman, György Pálfi aggregates clips from some of the greatest milestones of international cinema, as well as two of his own previous films, into the loose narrative form that is Final Cut—Ladies & Gentleman (trailer here), which screens as part of the Cinema Reflected sidebar at the 50th New York Film Festival.

As Charlie Chaplin, the protagonist wakes up and stretches.  As Gene Hackman he shaves and knots his tie as Leonardo DiCaprio, amongst others.  A chance encounter on the street will lead him to pursue a mystery woman, who turns out to be a nightclub singer, played by the likes of Liza Minelli and Jessica Rabbit.  Despite the efforts of a jealous ex-boyfriend(s), they fall in love and marry.  Yet, domestic life presents its own challenges.

Final Cut is light years removed from the kind of unpleasant Taxidermy, Pálfi’s last film to have an American theatrical release—and a good thing that is.  What started as a creative response to the Hungarian film industry’s economic doldrums became the 2012 Cannes Classic’s closer.  However, his love letter to cinema is not likely to ink a distribution deal anytime soon, since Pálfi was never bourgeoisie enough to actually seek permission to use his constituent snippets.  Considering Walt Disney and Lucas Films are well represented in the mix, one would not be shocked if there are a few cease & desist letters in its future.

Make no mistake, we all recognize intellectual property rights here, but it is sort of shame a home DVD release is not likely for Final Cut.  It could be quite the party game for movie buffs, looking for bragging rights for how many more films they can recognize than their friends.  While many of us will recognize the Kurosawa and Godard excerpts, some of the Eastern European selections might be a little tricky.  The idiosyncrasies of Pálfi’s editorial sensibility are also sometimes surprising (Angel Heart, again?).  For those wondering, Hitchcock’s Vertigo did indeed make the cut, at the risk of drawing another eyebrow-raising statement from Kim Novak, a la The Artist.

Granted, Final Cut is hardly groundbreaking.  There are several short films floating around the internet based around similar concepts, but Pálfi takes it further, even tossing in the occasional full frontal for comedic effect.  If nothing else, it brings back a flood of movie memories and should spur wide ranging post-screening did-you-ever-see discussions.  Not particularly deep or perhaps even legally defensible, Final Cut—Ladies & Gentleman is still a fair amount of film geek fun.  It screens this coming Monday (10/1) at the Francesca Beale Theater during the 2012 NYFF.