Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen
Runs Fri., Feb. 21–Thurs., Feb. 27 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Not rated. 84 minutes.
With this compilation film, György Pálfi pays tribute to the precious moments of movie history: It’s a feature-length mosaic weaving 400-ish clips into a single story. This film buff’s salmagundi is therefore fun to watch, but Pálfi is also slyly teasing the sameness of so many movie plots. It always comes down to Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back Again. And so a coherent Every-narrative can be spliced together from movies as different as The Sound of Music, Stalker, Star Trek—The Motion Picture, and Stranger Than Paradise, to pick one alphabetical run (the film’s website lists all the sources).
Pálfi is a Hungarian filmmaker of prodigious imagination; his lovable 2002 comedy Hukkle brought him to international attention, and his unlovable (but really kind of brilliant) 2006 satire Taxidermia established his talent for extremes. Final Cut came about after Hungary canceled a government subsidy for movie projects, leaving Pálfi stranded. In lieu of shooting something new, he turned to stitching together pieces of old movies. Final Cut walks through every step of the classic romance: the chance meeting, first date, kiss, wedding, disenchantment, reconciliation. It should be noted that this arc includes sex, and a few moments of explicit coupling are included from porno features. (This citizens’ advisory is included in case you were thinking of taking your kids to see an example of ye olde movie magic only to realize that Deep Throat is submerged in the montage.) The result would be cacophonous if each moment had its original soundtrack, so Pálfi uses movie music to carry us through scenes, as well as bursts of dialogue.
The film is full of ingenious cuts that seem to join Joan Crawford flirting with Tom Hanks or Humphrey Bogart surveying Sharon Stone. It’s impossible not to delight in the series of couples riding in the same two-shot during uneasy car rides, as “Runaway” rambles in your ear. The selections are skewed through Pálfi’s mindset, which gives us a lot of Hungarian films and a strange emphasis on ’80s and ’90s Hollywood cinema (his youth, having been born in 1974). On a more bothersome level, one might wonder at how few black actors are included in the cascade of images.
Final Cut occupies an accessible place between Christian Marclay’s The Clock (24 hours of clips relating to time in movies) and Chuck Workman’s Precious Images (eight minutes of exquisitely chosen flashes of Hollywood history). This movie lasts just long enough to make its clever point and let you marvel at the stunt, before it walks off into the sunset. It’s unlikely ever to be a DVD—rights issues would prevent that—so if you’re into the idea, this is your shot.