Francis Coppola‘s The Cotton Club Encore, an expanded and allegedly improved 139-minute version of the original 1984 film, played twice at last weekend’s Telluride Film Festival. I couldn’t fit it into my schedule, and I can’t find any reviews from any reputable or tough-minded critics whom I respect. Nor can I trust Jim Hemphill’s enthusiastic 9.6 review, which claims that the new cut is a “masterpiece”. But I’m certainly intrigued.
I didn’t care much for the original version, which I saw only once about 33 years ago. But Coppola’s new cut is said to feature more music and dancing, and to be less white, and less focused upon the romantic relationship between the two lead characters, played by Richard Gere and Diane Lane. It may do the trick and it may not, but who wouldn’t want to see it?
Coppola spent $500,000 out of his own pocket to create this new version. The restoration effort took four years, I’ve been told, and was completed about six months ago. Coppola was inspired after seeing an old Betamax version of an original cut that he liked better than the ’84 theatrical version.
Coppola archivist James Mockoski explained this morning that Coppola removed about 13 minutes of footage for the original 127-minute version, which took it down to 114 minutes or thereabouts. Roughly 25 minutes of new footage was added for a grand total of 139 minutes.
So why isn’t The Cotton Club Encore playing at the Toronto Film Festival or the forthcoming New York Film Festival? You’re not going to believe this, but the reason is MGM CEO Gary Barber, the same obstinate asshole who has blocked Robert Harris‘s long-hoped-for restoration of John Wayne‘s The Alamo.
MGM is the Cotton Club rights-holder, you see, and Barber, true to form, has not only objected to the film being shown in any kind of commercial venue (such as TIFF or NYFF) but is also uninterested in distributing or streaming Coppola’s expanded version, even though Coppola has paid for the whole thing.
Barber could theoretically (a) allow for a brief theatrical re-release of The Cotton Club Encore or (b) issue it on Bluray or via Amazon/iTunes streaming or (c) at least sub-license the home video rights to Criterion or some other dedicated, film-loving outfit. But the South African-born executive reportedly has no interest, just as he’s refused to even discuss the Alamo situation with Harris.
Telluride honcho Tom Luddy was able to show The Cotton Club Encore last weekend by slipping it in quietly and not promoting it prior to the start of the festival.
From “Didn’t Much Care For Cotton Club, But Loved New York‘s Making-Of Saga,” posted on 2.28.17:
“I saw this Orion release when it opened in December ’84. I seem to recall feeling mixed about it — not bad in parts but at the same time a film that never really lifted off the ground. I can tell you for sure that I never saw it a second time. Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane (‘Hiya, chumps…welcome to Vera’s!’), Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage. It ran 127 or 128 minutes, cost $58 million and earned $25,928,721.
“It’s not available to stream, and there’s only one Cotton Club DVD (issued in 2001) left in the Amazon library.
“But one good thing came out of The Cotton Club, and that was Michael Daly‘s “The Making of The Cotton Club,” a New York magazine article that ran 22 pages including art (pgs. 41 thru 63) and hit the stands on 5.7.84.
“It was one of the most engrossing accounts of a troubled production I’ve ever read, and it still is. Dazzle and delusion, abrasive relationships, murder, tap dancing, cocaine, flim-flam, double talk, financial chicanery and Melissa Prophet. Excellent reporting, amusing, believable, tightly composed…pure dessert.”
Again, the URL.
Here’s a 9.1.17 piece that Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson posted about Coppola’s restoration.
There are two other documents, a statement from Coppola plus a Scott Foundas interview with Coppola about the restoration, that I’d like to include, but I’ve only given PDF docs so far. Neither document has a URL link…sorry.