Last night, I finally re-watched Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret, the long-in-post-production film, shot in 2005, released in late 2011. I ‘d seen the film here in Toronto when it was released for exactly one week in the Fall. I fell in love with what I saw, ultimately naming the film my #2 of 2011, a ranking I’m still extremely comfortable with. Interestingly, before I saw the film I was aware of its tortured history, in which the Lonergan was unable to get it down to the contractually obligated 150 minutes maximum running time. This had led to years of edits and re-edits and fighting back and forth and litigation that is still ongoing. What I remember at the time was a beautiful film that had some idiosyncratic cuts, but also some areas where it truly felt like chunks of story were missing. I’d remarked at the time that it felt like a longer movie cut down to size, but my main takeaway was that I could’ve spent far longer in the world Lonergan had created. The movie was 150 minutes, but I’d just as easily have sat through a 4-hour cut of the film or longer.
The version of Margaret I saw last night is a nearly 3-hour cut available on the upcoming DVD. It’s not clear that this is a true “director’s cut” because it’s only officially referred to as and “extended cut.” It’s quite possible that while Lonergan put this cut together and approves of it, there is a still longer version out there that he’d be even happier with. Or not. Who knows. Directors can be fickle. Importantly, at roughly thirty minutes longer, the extended version of Margaret doesn’t feel any longer. In fact, in some ways it feels quicker, smoother and better paced than it did back in the Fall. Subplots that were previously dropped in confusing fashion are now transitioned out of in a more delicate way. The story has a flow, a more natural progression. It’s not just a case of the longer version being better because it adds more detail, but because it actually ends up feeling like a tighter film, and without feeling any longer. I said that I would gladly watch four hours of Margaret and the same remains true. It’s a breezy three hours.
All this got me thinking about long films. Click to read more.