Features and Columns · Movies

What is the Purpose of a Director’s Cut?

Watch a video essay explaining the idea and how it became so commonly accepted as the most authentic version of a film.
Blade Runner director's cut
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on March 15th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the pros and cons of director’s cuts.

In theory, a director’s cut is the most authentic version of a film. The logic goes something like this: without final cut privileges, executives and producers can override what a director wants. Maybe the studio censored explicit content, deleted scenes, or pushed for a different ending. In any case, it follows that a cut of a film sanctioned by its director would more accurately reflect their creative intent.

Whether or not this kind of creative control is a good thing is… complicated. Although, in truth, director’s cuts have always been messy. The 1992 version of Blade Runner is probably the most famous, by name (as opposed to one stamped as a “special edition”). Which is ironic considering that the Blade Runner “director’s cut” was not actually overseen by Ridley Scott, but by film preservationist Michael Arick. Warner Bros. was keen to assist after discovering that marketing “authorial intent” is a great way to sell tickets. So it’s somewhat naïve to consider director’s cuts as solely a creative venture.

Indeed, weighing their value is kind of like a swan diving into a wormhole. But, as the video essay below underlines, questioning the director’s cut, both as a product and as an artistic statement, is important. Does unrestrained authorial power automatically make a film better? Why are directors the final creative authority on a film? What do we make of directors (whose name may or may not rhyme with Beorge Bucas) who obscure pre-existing cuts? What do we lose and what do we gain in making art constantly edit-able?

Watch “Weighing the Value of Director’s Cuts | Scanline“:

Who made this?

This video essay is by hbomberguy and Shannon Strucci. You can check out hbomberguy’s back catalog of video essays and subscribe to them on YouTube here. And you can find them on Twitter here. You can subscribe to Strucci on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).