Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen

Year: 2012
Studio: HvD Productions
Director: György Pálfi
Producer: György Pálfi
Writer: György Pálfi/Zsófia Ruttkay

Every now and then, a movie comes along that absolutely thrills you. I went to see this film thinking it might be an interesting lark, an experimental film I expected to be slightly bored by.

And from the plot, you'd think so too. A boy gets up one morning, goes through usual routine of brushing his teeth and getting dressed, then on the way to work he sees a beautiful woman who strikes him so much he follows her to the nightclub where she works as a singer, sneaking backstage just to meet her.

After she's receptive, he takes her on a wonderful date and the pair fall hopelessly in love, getting married, going on a honeymoon and hoping to live happily ever after.

Soon routine sets in and real life intrudes. They stop appreciating each other. She seeks solace on the arms of another man. After confronting her lover and reclaiming her things seem fine for the hero, but nothing can stop the contempt and he goes off to sign up for the army to get away from the relationship, meeting his fate and finally connecting with her soul on another extant plane.

Sounds like just another day in Hollywood melodrama. But the first cue about how special it is can be found in the cast; Rita Hayworth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Charles Bronson, Tony Leung, Marcello Mastroianni, Daniel Craig, Julia Roberts, Monica Bellucci, Bruno Ganz, Kim Novak, Sam Worthington, Mary Pickford, Sharon Stone, Brigitte Bardot and a Na'vi warrior.

But that's no movie you've ever heard of before, I hear you cry. Hungarian filmmaker György Pálfi has done something you've seen a hundred times on the Internet in much shorter form but nobody's ever had the audacity to do on this scale. Whether it's a Rear Window -like meta comment on the watched watching the watchers or just a cool idea for a movie, this timeless story of love and love gone wrong is made from cuts out of over 450 classic movies, from the grainiest black and white antiques to modern 3D blockbusters.

The pleasure of watching Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen is threefold. First, it's knowing that you have a sense of where the scene is going and wondering with interest bordering on glee which scene and character Pálfi is going to use next. You might lurch from It's a Wonderful Life to Basic Instinct or from Gone With The Wind to The Incredibles. But lurching across tones not only doesn't interrupt the flow of the story, it brings it off the screen like fireworks because you're never prepared for how wildly the texture will change.

Second, it's the way jumps from one movie to the next are as seamless as you can hope for. The story actually makes perfect sense right down to the way the direction a character is walking down the street or emerging through a door. In one priceless scene, the heroine is pouring her heart about her romantic troubles out to her mother, and as the old lady leans in hanging on every word, we cut to an aged Yoda, his ears rising slowly from his sense of intrigue.

And lastly (particularly if you're a movie fan), it's trying to keep up with each clip – some of them just seconds long – and name the movies and stars you've seen.

If you like, you can take it as a critique of the constrained nature of Hollywood filmmaking using the system's own arsenal (the kiss, the hero, war, fist fighting, the lover's triangle), how every movie is essentially the same pat hero's journey of Joseph Campbell.

Or it might just be a very expansive art project. It took Pálfi and his team three years to assemble the movie, so you'd think they must have sought permissions from what must be every film rightsholder in the world. Very cleverly, in fact, if you look close enough at the website it's considered an educational film, which means every frame is covered under fair use.

As well-crafted as it is fun.

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