The murder of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford was almost as long as his title.
Nothing has made me happier than the resurgence of love for The murder of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford. When I was a young cinema worker, I complained that I spelled this in the marquee every night, but I will never forget to sit at the State Theater and watch the Andrew Dominik masterpiece see.
The film is wonderful to watch thanks to Roger Deakins' cinematography, which makes each frame look like an oil painting. Well, now on Team Deakins' podcast, the DP talked about how there was a much longer cut that never saw the light of day.
He then talks about the original four-hour cut by Jesse James, which was shortened to the 160-minute movie due to studio notes. For Deakins, the 240-minute Jesse was way superior to James, but definitely less commercial for Warner Bros.
"There was a four hour cut that I really loved," Deakins said on the podcast. "I read somewhere that it was being shown at the Venice Film Festival in its four-hour version, but it doesn't exist now, and that's a shame. The problem with the studio was they thought there would be more train robberies, and Brad Pitt would be more of a traditional Western outlaw. And when Brad was killed and the film went on as it followed Robert Ford … and how it wasn't celebrated as he later expected … of course no one wanted that. "
It is difficult for studios to combine art and commerce. I may seem like they want more action, but you need to indulge in the story and really dive into the world and legend that it creates. This is a movie about America and American State of Emergency.
That cut has to exist somewhere.
"We did all of these scenes," said Deakins. "I thought it would be a wonderful tapestry of all of these things that happen to these characters that we set up in the first half of the movie."
This isn't the first time Deakins has come up with the idea of reviving the cut. In an interview in September 2019, Deakins asked Criterion to approve the cut. The cinematographer added, “I would really love to see the full version, the first cut that I saw that was released on Criterion. I would hope so. It was over three hours. I don't think it ever will because the last time I spoke to Andrew about it, he was pretty happy with the version that was released. But I still remember the first early cut I saw which was pretty breathtaking. "
Not a word on where the cut is and if we'll ever find it, but I hope it's out there, wandering around the fields, living his days like an old cowboy with a family. And I hope it never turns its back on a guest with a gun.
Would you watch a four hour version of the film? Let me know what you think in the comments.