So I rejoice find MARGARET coming to a DVD player near me. And, like Brody, I rejoice that there's an even bigger world to settle into this time around.
MORE OF MARGARET TO LOVE
Richard Brody, The Front Row
(film blog of The New Yorker), May 15 2012
It’s great news that Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” will be coming to DVD (and Blu-ray) on July 10th (at first available solely from Amazon), and that, in addition to the two-and-a-half-hour version of the film that was released theatrically last fall, the set will feature a three-hour-and-six-minute extended cut by the director, which will give us more of “Margaret” to love. I devoured the released version like cake, despite having the sense that some subplots that crop up toward the end of the film went by rather fast, offering less of a look at the protagonist Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) in her intimate moments and fewer of the lyrical urban-landscape grace notes that adorn the rest of the film.
Unless one has just returned from a year in Antarctica, it’s impossible to have avoided reports about the long script that Lonergan wrote, the long cut that existed at some point, the conflicts that arose in the course of editing, and the delayed and diffident release. None of this matters to understanding the great and distinctive beauty of the film, or to its ascension to its legitimate place in the history of cinema (though of course it matters practically and, doubtless, emotionally, to Lonergan and his cast and crew, whose just recognition for making this masterwork has come unduly late), but it sets the imagination ranging in aesthetic lust for what else might be there.
I wanted “Margaret” to last longer; I simply wanted more. Yet strange things do happen when alternate versions of a movie appears. I saw Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America” the weekend it was released, in 1984—in a two-and-a-quarter-hour version, which proceeded chronologically, starting with its characters’ childhood, and which, as a result, offered one of the great coups de cinema of my experience: the decades-long leap that reveals the character called Noodles as an old man. Little did I know that Leone had shown it at the Cannes Film Festival several weeks earlier in a nearly four-hour cut that featured an intricate flashback structure. And when, several years later, I finally got to see, at MOMA, that longer version, I was thrilled by its fullness and yet dismayed that the flashbacks eliminated the late-in-the-movie leap. (Leone’s original version was even longer—two hundred and sixty-nine minutes—and this version will be premièred at this year’s Cannes festival, which opens tomorrow.)
Every version has its delights and its significance. The haste that marks the latter part of “Margaret” also conveys a sense of implacability, a feeling of experience accelerating under pressure. (And, though I’d be surprised if there should turn out to be a drastic difference in structure between the released version and the extended one, surprises are exactly what to expect from artists of Lonergan’s calibre. I interviewed him about the film earlier this year; his remarks are full of fascinating surprises.) There’s nothing to match the exhilaration of a first discovery and the affection that attaches to a film as first seen (though the story behind the released version of Jean Vigo’s “L’Atalante“—which, for its original release, was altered even unto its very title—is cautionary), yet I fully expect to revel in the longer cut of the film and to view, repeatedly, new material with gratitude and with love. Not only is “Margaret” finally coming to DVD, but thirty-six more minutes of it are en route; it’s a joy to anticipate and to announce.