Sunday, September 07, 2014

Re: Criterion's Love Streams - more on the amazing disappearing breasts...

Well, Criterion has replied to my query about the missing material from Love Streams (see the comments section of that article). I fully trust that Abbey, the poster, is sincere in the belief that the Criterion release represents Cassavetes' own wishes, and accept that Michael Ventura may well have heard Cassavetes' say that he was uncomfortable with the nudity. That would be, perhaps, all the justification necessary for changing the film, though it doesn't necessarily explain who changed it. In any event, I am very happy that Abbey acknowledges that the change has been made, and prepared to accept that it was made in accord with Cassavetes' stated desires.

However: it's not five frames that are missing, as Abbey asserts - which would be about a fifth of a second, which is faster than even my sharp eye can catch - but just under three seconds. Previous vagaries on my part ("a few seconds") can be dismissed. For the purposes of an accurate count, I went through the minor nuisance of converting my computer to Region 2 and timing the French DVD - albeit on a sped-up PAL DVD, so it might be more like 3.2 seconds or something on NTSC. Abbey is minimizing the (admittedly already minimal) change.

And it's not the case, as Abbey says, that only the Cannon VHS has the full nude scene; so does the 2003 French DVD, and so did a version I saw twice in the 1980's at the Cinematheque. An Amazon commenter says he saw the full scene in the 1990's, as well. Three versions of the film I encountered, and one someone else saw, had the scene, prior to the 2006 restoration. Cassavetes died in 1989, so if this is indeed his preferred cut, why did it take so long to surface? Abbey does not say that the change was made posthumously, by someone else, but surely that's what all the evidence points to. I find myself unsatisfied with the response, though obviously soon I have to let matters go.

...but just to be clear, when I mention an "agenda" to sanitize Cassavetes' works, it is not Criterion I am casting doubt upon. I'm just seeing the changes to Love Streams in light of the fact that someone somewhere cut about ten or so minutes from the VHS release of Husbands (Ray Carney accuses Gena Rowlands on that count). And according to Carney, a post-sex scene is missing from DVD releases of Minnie and Moskowitz, as well (I've been unable to confirm this but I do believe him). There does seem to be a pattern here; and the common element is not Criterion, but on the one hand, Cassavetes' estate, and on the other, Sony (involved, to my knowledge, in the distribution of all these films at some point).


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