(rants and observations on outsider culture, music & cinema in The Big Wet)
Friday, August 29, 2014
Five good reasons why Love Streams ought not to have been tinkered with
Look, I know, it's just a bit of boob, but - what's the phrase? I'm almost not crazy? Until I hear otherwise, hear some justification for their decision, get some new information, I'm taking the position that Criterion should not have participated in the sanitization of John Cassavetes' Love Streams. (A brief glimpse of nudity has been replaced or removed from the film on their Blu-Ray and DVD - see more here). Here are some reasons.
1. Love Streams is unusual in Cassavetes' body of work for having this moment of nudity. It's a startling, playful, unusual moment, and it shouldn't have been tampered with; it was part of the original film, was an unusual moment in his filmography, was part of cinema history, and by cutting it, you're lying, falsifying, erasing the record, pretending the film was different from how it actually was, and thereby doing an injustice to film scholarship and future audiences.
2.The version with the nude scene is the version of the film, presumably, that most people have seen and know - or has been up til now, since the Criterion Blu-Ray/ DVD will now become the definitive version. Be it on (the otherwise tinkered-with) VHS release of yore, the French DVD (which is what these "captures" are from), or the print that screened at the Cinematheque after Cassavetes' death, back in 1989, I managed to see this not-so-easy-to-see film at least a dozen times, enough so that when the modestly censored, altered version played in Vancouver some years ago, I spotted the missing nudity right away. So you're not just tinkering with the film; you're tinkering with the experiences of the people who have seen it, love it, support it, doing a violence, however small, to their memory of the film.
3. Cassavetes is no longer around to defend himself. Tinkering with his films posthumously is in bad taste, an injustice to his vision and his aesthetic, an insult to the artist. Whoever thinks they have the right to do this - sorry, but (based on what I can see, anyhow) you don't; you can't mark your territory without concomitantly pissing on the work, you know?
4. And this sort of thing has happened far too many times already with Cassavetes' work, hasn't it? It happened with the old VHS of Husbands, most notably, and previously with the VHS of Love Streams - where Golan and Globus cut a bit of Rowlands' "magic tricks" scene and the weird bit of black leader that Cassavetes left in his film (they left the boobs in, though). If memory serves, according to Carney, there's also been some censorious tinkering with Minnie and Moskowitz (there's a scene between Cassell and the Irish girl he picks up that never made the DVD). That's a lot of meddling, folks, and more than one filmmaker's works should have to suffer.
5. These girls were part of the film, and an injustice has been done to them. Their faces are also obscured in the "censored" of the film; we see one quite clearly in the previous cut. And without seeming a lech, there's absolutely nothing wrong with admiring the beauty of these soapy, naked women, hanging out in the shower in Cassavetes' home; I realize we have a culture that gets all funny around breasts, but, I mean, screw it, these are perfectly nice breasts, and there's nothing wrong with admiring them, or the frank nudity of their owners, at all. To take objection to the scene is to take what, at least here in the west, seems a trivial, cliched, prudish, childish, barely-belongs-in-the-21st-century value ("nudity is sinful! You should be ashamed!") and asserting its primacy over the value that an artists' work should be preserved according to the vision and intention of the artist. It would be like cutting the nude little girl from A Woman Under the Influence because you shouldn't show children naked - it's a stupid value that should not be allowed primacy over a great film. It's an affront, an injustice, a small victory of the puny over the great. It shouldn't oughta be that way.
Unless there's some good reason for the changes, that is, previously unacknowledged. I've written to Criterion. Meantime, compare the images on this post with those on the Criterion discs. (I left my copy of the Criterion at my girl's, where I plan to show it to her, so I can't check to see if Michael Ventura discusses this on his commentary, but do let me know if I've missed anything, eh?).