“I have to go home.”
“You are home.”
A favorite movie is like a favorite book or a favorite album; well loved, well worn, dog-eared and damn near memorize. I was in college when Almost Famous was released, but I never saw it there. I fell in love with this movie via VHS (yeah, I owned two copies on VHS–more on that in a minute) and when my VCR died, it was one of the first movies that I purchased on DVD. I knew the rhythms of this movie by heart. I was William: not cool, but with a hint of something like talent. And here he was going on this odyssey of self discovery at the same time that I was in the process of shedding the past versions of myself and figuring out what came next (the fact that he was 15 and I was 20, non-withstanding). And there was the music–Cameron Crowe puts together on hell of a soundtrack, and this one lives in the playlist of my life.
I knew this movie. And then I watched “The Bootleg Cut”.
“It’s all happening.”
Most “Unrated Director’s Cuts” are just a way to grab a little extra money in the home video market. Often times, scenes have been reinserted into the movie that were cut for a very good reason. Pacing is suddenly wrong. The movie itself just feels wrong. There are exceptions, of course: Blade Runner is one good example (I’m talking “The Final Cut” here–the theatrical cut was taken away from Ridley Scott and stupid scenes/ voiceovers were added that actually wreaked the integrity of the movie and the first “Director’s Cut” removed the added scenes, but left the long stretches of screen time that the voice overs played over remained, sans silly voiceover narration, but “The Final Cut” fixes all of these problems and shows the movie that Ridley Scott made). Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions is another. Barker made a movie that blends the horror film and the detective noir together in a way that the two forms benefit each other. The studio wanted a leaner horror film. Barker consented to have the film cut the way that the studio wanted on the condition that they release the film he made (all timed, color corrected and scored as a theatrical release) on home video. Suddenly the film is complete again. Pacing is restored.
“This is the circus. Everybody’s trying not to go home. Everybody’s trying not to say goodbye.”
Almost Famous, The Bootleg Cut fits this latter definition. I knew this movie, could predict it’s rhythms and could watch the movie without watching it. Now, suddenly, it demands attention again. The relationships are deepened and it feels like you’re on the tour with the band, with William. Penny Lane is a fuller character, they all are. It’s beautiful, the ambling nature of this tour. The theatrical release is tighter, and an excellent film, but this film is richer. If this was the version released, Kate Hudson may have won that Oscar that she was nominated for. Individual scenes that were removed for length are restored and add extra personality to the band and the tour, things like a radio interview in Phoenix where the DJ smokes too much weed and passes out mid question, scenes where William asks each of the band members the question he asks Russell at the end of the film, a scene in New York where Polexia kisses William goodbye and we sense that while William has been secretly in love with Penny throughout the movie, she’s been secretly in love with William. The looks of longing and sadness are all there. This is a nine minute version of a song that was cut to three for radio play and we never knew we were missing that glorious guitar solo.
“Hey William, we showed you America. Did you everything but get you laid.”
This movie travels, in each of it’s forms. Cameron Crowe excels at the deeply personal film and this is his best (I’m also very fond of Elizabethtown, but all of my love for that film I have to admit that it isn’t as accomplished as this film). For all of the wide-eyed hopeful love that this film expresses, it also has that gorgeous melancholy. We love and we ache. We learn to hold it in our hearts as we grow older. We don’t always realize it as it’s happening, but when we look back, this is how we see our experiences. I have my own versions now of William’s coming of age experience, each of us do. We came to the point where we had to say goodbye and go home. And they live with us still.
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with another person when you’re uncool.”
More later …