FILM / Centrefold: Road movies to nowhere: 330-minute Wenders ..with jokes

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Before you moan aloud at the thought of the five-and-a-half-hour version of Wim Wenders' Till the End of the World, unreeling at the NFT tomorrow, consider the fact that the first assembly ran at 11 hours plus. What did the rounds three years ago was a mere shred of the German director's conception: a measly two-and-a-half hours long, as per contractual obligation. Wenders was unhappy with the result, as was the public. The picture nosedived critically and commercially, despite the presence of William Hurt and Sam Neill, posters that proclaimed 'the ultimate road movie', and a groovy soundtrack boasting everyone from U2 to Neneh Cherry.

So Wenders personally financed a restored version. Not a cheap strategy, but a fairly fashionable one. Directors' cuts are the rage, from the five-hour - or was it six-hour? - Dances with Wolves to the 25 added minutes of The Abyss and the revived box office of Blade Runner. The latter is the only one to be actually shorter; Ridley Scott put film before ego and trimmed.

Of course, directors' cuts are partially excerises in self-indulgence (Fox were right to reduce The Abyss) and partially attempts to squeeze the last drop of cash out of the product; no buff wants to think they may have by-passed a potential masterpiece. Still, Till the End of the World is a possible exception to the rule: a disaster on this scale isn't likely to suddenly turn a profit and, besides, Wenders wears his art on his sleeve - what better riposte to the byte-sized world he fearfully envisions than a road movie where the road goes on (and on and on) forever?

Those who've clocked the latest edition - tomorrow's screening is its second ever showing - claim that Till the End of the World now plays, well, quicker, plugging the yawning gaps in a one-time, sloppy pseudo sci-fi tale of a planet on the brink (it's 1999 and nuclear satellites spin above). It's even rumoured to clarify the on-the-run William Hurt's motivations - really, how much harm can the bad guys do with a camera designed to help the blind see? Or was this once meant to be a joke rather than a metaphor? As Wenders says, when you discard, the first thing you lose is the funny stuff.

'Till the End of the World', Sat 4.30pm, NFT1, South Bank, SE1 (071-928 3232)

(Photograph omitted)

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