A man wakes up. He gets out of bed. He goes to the bathroom to shave and brush his teeth. He gets dressed. He leaves the house. He sees a woman. She sees him. It's a love-at-first-sight moment, one of those moments that feels so particular to a time and place, but it also feels universal, as though they're part of a tradition that has stretched back to the beginning of humanity and will stretch forward as far into the future as the human race does.
Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen is a movie that's cut out of 450 other films, from Paths of Glory to Pirates of the Caribbean, from Pierrot le fou to Look Who's Talking? to Goldfinger. There is not one original shot in the entire film. Not one inch of film was shot specifically for the purposes of this project, making it a feature-length tribute to great film editing. Director György Pálfi and his team of editors have pulled seconds from specific movies—I could be wrong, but I think the longest cut is a three or four second slice of Singin' in the Rain, and it feels like an eternity—to tell a more general story about being human.
Surprisingly, it's not that hard to fall under Final Cut's spell. You quickly get tired of playing guess-that-clip. The editors coax you into simply following the male form and the female form around the screen, as they pick up and discard identities (Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Charlie Chaplin, Al Pacino, and Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense all merge into one man who's trying to win the heart of Marilyn Monroe, Uma Thurman, Julia Roberts, and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart, who all merge into one woman.) This is the only movie on earth that segues cleanly from Dirty Dancing to Vertigo. Patterns emerge: You can't help but notice that movies don't seem to like the day-to-day drudgery of work, for example, or that directors seem to like long, sweeping shots of women riding around on bicycles*. I've never seen anything like Final Cut; it's a movie that deconstructs film even as it manages to tell a convincing story in film. It feels like a straight hit of the primal, Jungian stuff—a plea to the part of our brain that is endlessly addicted to story, and glamor, and happiness.
This movie will never be on DVD. You'll never be able to buy it or even rent it. It exists in a legal nowhere-land of fair use. As a movie-lover, it's your duty to watch Final Cut when you can, because it might not be available tomorrow. It's at SIFF Cinema Uptown for a nine-show run, starting at 7 tonight. If you don't watch it while it's here, you may never get the chance to see it again. In that way, the film's flickering existence resembles its protean main characters. This is a very special cinematic experience.
* Other, perhaps less intentional, patterns also emerge. For instance, why are there so many clips from Dick Tracy and Sin City in this movie? Is it because noir films hew closer to the boy-meets-girl-and-loses-girl dynamic, or is it because those two films, with their cartoonish sensibilities, have less visual distraction to get in the way of Final Cut's story? Or is it all just a coincidence? The movie doesn't have any answers.