This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Defense of Long Movies

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:29 PM

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Every frame is a masterpiece.
  • THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Every frame is a masterpiece.

Here's an apparently radical opinion: At three hours long, The Wolf of Wall Street is too short. I've seen it twice now, and both times I've wished it would take a little more time to square things away in its final hour or so. YMMV, and apparently, a lot of people's has; I've heard a ton of complaining that the film stretches on too long. (Paul Constant might have something to say about this.) Wolf is part of a trend, though, representing that movies that come out during the holiday season tend to be longer—and that even blockbusters are getting longer, too. The New York Times talks to Scorsese's badass editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, about cutting Wolf

Much as composing a long novel presents different challenges than a short story does, there’s an art to editing longer films. An extended running time allows for more ground to be covered, albeit ground over which pace and rhythm, not to mention the audience’s attention, can be hard to maintain. Few editors have as much experience with longer-form features than Ms. Schoonmaker, who’s worked on 18 of Mr. Scorsese’s features (as well as videos and TV specials) since Raging Bull in 1980 (for which she took home an Academy Award), six of which have had running times exceeding two and half hours.

At work in her editing suite in Midtown Manhattan, Ms. Schoonmaker sat before a wall covered with cards representing more than 200 scenes of the deliriously caustic Wolf of Wall Street (“Nasdaq Hookers” and “Dwarf Bedlam” being two of the more pungent scene titles). “It’s hard for people to understand editing, I think,” she said. “It’s absolutely like sculpture. You get a big lump of clay, and you have to form it — this raw, unedited, very long footage.” (Via.)

—and also to The Act of Killing's Joshua Oppenheimer, whose film comes in three different lengths, and Frederick Wiseman, who just said "fuck it" and made a four-hour-long film about Berkeley. It's an interesting piece about an often-overlooked facet of filmmaking. Check it out.

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