No one liked your film, Harvey Weinstein? Just recut it and try again

Editing used to be time-consuming and costly. Directors can now fiddle ad infinitum

Share

What’s the difference between a biopic and a documentary? For the makers of Salinger, the widely-derided documentary about the reclusive novelist, author of Catcher In The Rye, there is evidently a certain fluidity in the distinction. Producer Harvey Weinstein has decided to withdraw the first version  – variously hailed by the reviewers as “awful”, “lurid”, “shallow” and “phony” – recut it and add new footage before booting it back into cinemas for another charge at the box office.

Given that the initial release was limited to New York and Los Angeles and the new version will roll out across 62 US cities, the enterprise might be regarded as a giant test preview. In responding to the initial reception in this manner, Weinstein and director Shane Salerno are adhering to the principles set by the cult exploitation filmmaker Roger Corman – who would cheerfully withdraw an unsuccessful movie, add a few more scenes of topless girls and ultraviolence and send it out again with a different title. In cases like these, the line between sound business sense and shameless hucksterism is very fine indeed.

Irrespective of the merits of Salerno’s film, which clearly contains some valuable information – like the revelation that there are five unpublished works in Salinger’s safe – one wonders how viable it is to release another version of the same documentary so soon after its initial release. Clearly, after nine years of research, Hollywood screenwriter Salerno (Armageddon, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem) has amassed far more material than could comfortably  be contained within a two-hour format and it is just possible that more illuminating sequences or interviews were left out. Technology is on his side in this case; before non-linear editing systems existed, cutting and splicing celluloid was time-consuming and costly. Now, Salerno and “Scissorhands” Weinstein can fiddle with their product ad infinitum.

Will critics bother to review another version of a documentary mere months after the original version? Will audiences bother to return to cinemas just to check out extra footage? And if the real problem of Salinger is the style in which it is presented – including a melodramatic score and a fantasy reconstruction of the “author” on an empty stage smoking and typing – are a few extra talking heads and photos going to help?

Given that the documentary is just one part of a mini-industry that includes a monumental biography of the reclusive author by Salerno and David Shields and a putative feature film, it is clear that Weinstein & Co see this as part of a long game.

But given the ready-made audience and the paucity of hard information about the subject, it might have been better to have abandoned the documentary and gone straight for the biopic where being elastic with the facts and filling in gaps with imaginative reconstructions have some legitimacy.

I can’t help feeling that Salinger himself would have preferred the masquerade of fiction to the banal parade of facts and fans.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering