One of the things the internet has brought to more widespread attention is the incredible proliferation of fan entitlement that haunts various franchises and properties. The more invested (either financially or emotionally) a person is, so can their sense of entitlement grow to match. DIRECTOR’S CUT is the product of that culture, as well as taking on the perils of crowdfunding and showing what happens when fandom turns to stalking.
DIRECTOR’S CUT is a startling piece of metafiction that represents a film within a film, both of which are crowdfunded. Our lead Antagonist/Protagonist is Herbert Blount (played by Penn Jillette), and it is his voice that guides us through what we see on screen. He has taken control of a movie that he helped fund and wants to show us his definitive cut of the film; KNOCKED OFF, with integrated commentary and behind the scenes footage. KNOCKED OFF itself is a copycat, aping films such as SEVEN, however what makes it special for Herbert is the presence of one Missi Pyle (playing herself). She is the driving force and motivation for this Director’s cut and he will complete it by any means necessary.
One of the most surprising aspects of the film is how soothing Penn’s voice is. Often considered the loud abrasive part of magical duo Penn & Teller, here he talks calmly and eloquently as Herbert Blount, only showing some fire when his passions (either positive or negative) and at that point the abrasive and loud nature of Jillettes natural persona shines through. Even as his infatuation with Missy turns more sinister it’s difficult not to root for Herbert. He’s a lovable fool, an oaf, someone who is caught up in the whirlwind of filmmaking like the proverbial child in the candy store. He just wants the world to see what he does, even if that includes hiding cameras in someones hotel room or stalking them whilst they go out for coffee.
Missy Pyle’s performance is at its most interesting when she’s playing herself, which in itself is a layered performance; there’s her public persona, her behind the scenes persona and her personal persona. She flicks effortlessly between each one, being a diva on the set, a picture of calm serenity to the public and a cynical product of the Hollywood machine. The performance here is so strong that it acts to highlight how forced her performance is in the film within the film. Every line of dialogue in that universe is cliche ridden and entirely appropriate for its place in the cinematic world.
Outside of Missy and Penn, the film has a strong supporting cast including Harry Hamlin and director Adam Rifkin. In addition to the various fundraising donators who get their five seconds of fame on film there are also notable cameos by Gilbert Gottfried, Bree Olson and Jillettes partner in illusion Teller. Tellers appearance will be of particular interest to those curious about what happens when the diminutive trickster opens his mouth.
What Rifkin and Jillette have created here is much a piece of experimental societal commentary as it is a horror, comedy or thriller. The parts of the film from KNOCKED OFF feel slick, well produced, part of a well oiled Hollywood machine. Blounts ‘improvements’ to that film is the mirror opposite. Their shaky nature, poor lighting and questionable use of chromakey herald someone whose ability sits far beneath their vision. The end product is disjointed and jarring, but in a way that amuses as much as it perturbs. I’d really like to see more films like this, more films that skew the world it’s part of. It won’t be for everyone but I encourage those with a sense of curiosity to check it out when they can.