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Being There - The Roger Ebert Cut

ParanoidAndroid

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A satiric classic and the culmination of Peter Sellers' career, Hal Ashby's "Being There" received a glowing review from the famous critic but not without mentioning a couple of subplots that he felt could be complete done away with (https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-being-there-1979). These were the US President's (non-political) performance issues and Shirley MacLaine's scene involving "...embarrassing poses on a bear rug.", the latter of which I find particularly cringeworthy too.

This edit therefore takes a page from the book of @stomachworm and @recordwrangler95 (with their cuts of Psycho) by making the suggested adjustments, the simple excision/shortening of a few scenes with less than 10 minutes of the 130-minute runtime removed.

Another change made too, in the spirit of removing "distractions", is the modification of the film's end credits. These roll over a blooper reel of Sellers cracking up in laughter as he attempts to deliver a line but it is known that he disliked this, feeling that it broke the spell of the ending. I have therefore extracted the text and placed it over a black background while the piano piece that accompanied the outtakes originally now plays alone.

Expect this to be ready for listing within a few weeks, as mentioned it is a very basic edit but I am looking forward to seeing if people think that Ebert was right.

full
 

ParanoidAndroid

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Have made the half-dozen cuts and credits alterations (nice and easy project for trying out DaVinci Resolve for the first time), just under 8 minutes removed so now comes in at 2:02:26.

A couple of small sections not mentioned by Ebert had to be sacrificed in order to avoid jarring but I don't think the effect is too detrimental. If anybody would care to look over it please feel free to PM me, will be uploaded shortly and would appreciate feedback as to how smooth people find the edits before formal submission.
 
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ParanoidAndroid

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Taking a little longer to find optimal rendering settings for my purposes (got much bigger file size than I expected based on a few test sections), in the meantime here is the change list as of now, timestamps indicating where alterations take place in the original (Criterion blu-ray) version:
  • 1:26:28 - Removed scene with the US president after Ben praises Chance on his television appearance.
  • 1:27:03 - Removed beginning of scene, where Eve says that Chance can wear one of Ben's tuxedos for the upcoming reception for the Soviet ambassador, the cut to dialogue almost immediately works in the original but feels too rapid here.
  • 1:41:16 - Removed scene where Eve expresses surprise at Chance (apparently) speaking Russian and saying that he never advertises his accomplishments to Ambassador Gaufridi, with the upcoming removal of the second scene with the president's issue it would feel a touch awkward to cut immediately from here to Chance speaking to Ronald (and seemingly doing a homage to Dr Strangelove).
  • 1:41:35 - Removed aforementioned scene, where the president and his wife lie down in disappointment.
  • 1:44:41 - Removed all of the scene with the president and his wife discussing his issues before the telephone buzzes.
  • 1:50:52 - Cut scene short after final close-up of the television, no more (in Ebert's words) "...embarrassing poses on a bear rug."
  • 2:06:50 - Screenshotted credits and extracted text blocks to a couple of still images. Keyframed their positions so they move at the same speed as before but over a black background instead of the infamous blooper reel, using Stephen Edwards' recording of Goodbye Louise to replace the audio (speeded up to better match the original's tempo).
 

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Another change made too, in the spirit of removing "distractions", is the modification of the film's end credits. These roll over a blooper reel of Sellers cracking up in laughter as he attempts to deliver a line but it is known that he disliked this, feeling that it broke the spell of the ending. I have therefore extracted the text and placed it over a black background while the piano piece that accompanied the outtakes originally now plays alone.
I totally agree with Sellers here. The blooper reel completely breaks the spell. Apparently there was a home video version that had the closing credits over a white noise background, which would have been very fitting IMO.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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I totally agree with Sellers here. The blooper reel completely breaks the spell. Apparently there was a home video version that had the closing credits over a white noise background, which would have been very fitting IMO.
Not quite fitting the description but this is it I believe.


Even if it was available in decent quality I think I would prefer to use the approach I ultimately took, would people prefer white noise/static to Mandel's adaptation of Gnossienne No. 5?
 

Dwight Fry

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Even if it was available in decent quality I think I would prefer to use the approach I ultimately took, would people prefer white noise/static to Mandel's adaptation of Gnossienne No. 5?
Excellent point indeed. In fact I can kind of picture having the music as the audio but TV static instead of a black screen for the credits background.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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Could always do that if suitable static is available, any suggestions?
 

Dwight Fry

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Most decent one I know is this one. Everything else I've seen around is either very low quality and pixelated, or digital recreations (which look EXTREMELY phony). I suppose stretching and looping this might work.

 

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While my personal inclination is towards what I have already, I'll have a go playing around with it, thanks for the idea and suggested clip!
 

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Have made a few additional changes on the advice of @Dwight Fry, many thanks!
  • Cut more of the heavy-handed interactions between Chance and Eve than Ebert directly suggested, believe this is in keeping with his sentiments though so I feel that the edit title is still justified.
  • Removed three instances of Chance being lusted over at the reception, necessitating...
  • ...altering the flow of scenes during the reception, which also allows the scene with Ambassador Gaufridi to be restored.
Have decided to stay with the simple end credit scheme I had in mind from the start, might consider redoing if the version shown above (November 27th) ever becomes available in good quality.

Total runtime now at about 1 hr 56 mins, ~14 minutes removed.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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Details of modifications as of now, timestamps now indicating where changes occur on the edit.
  • 1:26:07 - Removed scene with the US president (and his performance issues) after Ben praises Chance on his cut instead to following scene (in original), removed beginning (where Eve says that Chance can wear one of Ben's tuxedos for the upcoming reception for the Soviet ambassador), the cut to dialogue almost immediately works in the original but felt too rapid here for me.
  • 1:30:50 - Cut remainder of scene of Eve visiting Chance in bed after Mr Rogers' song finishes and he says "Hello neighbour".
  • Rearranged scenes at the reception to facilitate removal of president's performance issues and Chance being lusted over, to maintain a similar structure it now plays as so:
    • 1:36:14 - Franklin and Allenby "...major financial level..." now followed by scene with Ambassador Gaufridi
    • 1:36:33 - Brought forward Franklin and Allenby discussion "...extremely confidential matters..." plus following talk with the senator, but cut away before the senator's wife declares Chance very attractive
    • 1:37:18 - Scene with Chance and the publisher, pulled back from earlier in the original so the dinner still ends on a scene with Chance
    • 1:38:07 - Cut to the president hearing the phone buzz and picking it up, cutting the earlier part of the scene
  • 1:42:52 - Cut from Ben in bed after selling his assets to Allenby hurrying to him the next morning
  • 1:43:48 - Cut scene where Chance is fetched to see Ben,
  • 1:53:02 - Screenshotted credits and extracted text blocks to a couple of still images. Keyframed their positions so they move at the same speed as before but over a black background instead of the infamous blooper reel, using Stephen Edwards' recording of Goodbye Louise to replace the audio (speeded up to better match the original's tempo).
The edit page will be ready by next week, barring any further changes of mind of course!
 

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Made a late addition after watching the making of documentary on the Criterion blu-ray, a screenwriting co-credit in the opening titles for Robert C. Jones, who made major contributions to the script and was rather annoyed when the WGA ruled that they would not be officially recognised.

Also added a final text plate at the very end, crediting the concept to Roger Ebert; fan-editing to myself and special thanks to Dwight Fry.
 
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Not quite fitting the description but this is it I believe.


Even if it was available in decent quality I think I would prefer to use the approach I ultimately took, would people prefer white noise/static to Mandel's adaptation of Gnossienne No. 5?
Hi, I saw this in San Francisco at the long-gone Regency 2 on opening weekend and indeed this was the ending credits (with the tv static). Very different vibe on the ending. When it went wide a month or so later I went to see it again and was shocked they put in the blooper reel over the end credits but guess what - everyone came out not gloomy and thoughtful but chuckling and saying "what a fine comedy that was!" I guess it worked.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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Hi, I saw this in San Francisco at the long-gone Regency 2 on opening weekend and indeed this was the ending credits (with the tv static). Very different vibe on the ending. When it went wide a month or so later I went to see it again and was shocked they put in the blooper reel over the end credits but guess what - everyone came out not gloomy and thoughtful but chuckling and saying "what a fine comedy that was!" I guess it worked.
Lucky you to see it on opening weekend, I wouldn't even be born for a while yet!

From what you can gather was the original ending something that people actively complained about? If so that might explain why it was changed, to lighten the tone, but one would have thought that this would be the sort of thing picked up by test audiences, like with "Little Shop of Horrors".
 

Dwight Fry

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First confirmation I've ever seen of the static end credits playing theatrically. Up to now my understanding was that they had been seen only on home video. I wonder if the outtakes reel were a test screening thing or if the studio thought that the movie didn't feature enough typical Peter Sellers comedy (during the 70s the only Sellers movies that had made any money had been Pink Panther films) and mandated the addition.
 

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Hi, Dwight Fry,

This screening was for opening night (Friday) and it was part of the initial Oscar run roll-out of the film Dec 1979, not a test screening. Full house, line outside for the next show in downtown SF on Van Ness Ave, etc. I was lucky to live where the studios opened their limited releases.

This was a Hal Ashby film, remember, very serious filmmaker and this is really a quiet thoughtful flim. The static-ending also put a hush into everyone as you can imagine. Alienating (probably the intent). If the static is on the home video release, it must have been "restored" at the request of the filmmakers - having them create something from scratch wouldn't make sense.

The "funny" end credits probably did what it needed to do to make the theatrical release more successful. The film's certainly not in keeping with what Pink Panther fans might have expected. It's possible and even likely that after it opened limited, in spite of positive reviews the general audience were hearing it's "not funny." That blooper reel is about the only real laughs the film garners (and this after that ending so there might have been that nervous tension in the audience to laugh harder than they might?). I remember thinking on that 2nd viewing, a single addition to the end credits really changed ones perception of the film. Much more a comedy with serious bits, instead of a drama with humorous bits.
 

ParanoidAndroid

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Hi, Dwight Fry,

This screening was for opening night (Friday) and it was part of the initial Oscar run roll-out of the film Dec 1979, not a test screening. Full house, line outside for the next show in downtown SF on Van Ness Ave, etc. I was lucky to live where the studios opened their limited releases.

This was a Hal Ashby film, remember, very serious filmmaker and this is really a quiet thoughtful flim. The static-ending also put a hush into everyone as you can imagine. Alienating (probably the intent). If the static is on the home video release, it must have been "restored" at the request of the filmmakers - having them create something from scratch wouldn't make sense.

The "funny" end credits probably did what it needed to do to make the theatrical release more successful. The film's certainly not in keeping with what Pink Panther fans might have expected. It's possible and even likely that after it opened limited, in spite of positive reviews the general audience were hearing it's "not funny." That blooper reel is about the only real laughs the film garners (and this after that ending so there might have been that nervous tension in the audience to laugh harder than they might?). I remember thinking on that 2nd viewing, a single addition to the end credits really changed ones perception of the film. Much more a comedy with serious bits, instead of a drama with humorous bits.

The way I find it, the "blooper" ending gives a light-hearted feel that sends the audience home with a smile and the "static" ending leaves people thinking about the film for a few days, very pertinent comment you made on the power of a film's final image.

Did you have the chance to attend other early screenings of films, if so any particularly memorable?
 
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