Tribeca Review: Cut


[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]

Cut is the worst kind of pretentious. There are no good kinds of pretentious, but some are more tolerable than others. Cut is entirely intolerable. It’s self-righteous, obnoxious, boring, and completely useless. It’s a movie that tells you about how terrible movies these days have become, apparently using itself as an example. 

It’s also two hours long. I’m not sure how the filmmakers managed to fill that much time with so little content, but they did it. And I am very angry about it.

Hidetoshi Nishijima

Director: Amir Naderi
Release Date: TBD
Rating: NR

I’m not sure why anyone thought that this could be a feature film. The basic concept (man needs to pay back his brother’s debt to the yakuza) is certainly worthy of its own movie, and there are probably at least a dozen movies about that same story. But the way the protagonist, Shinji (Hidetoshi Nishijima), goes about it is just boring. He decides that he will let yakuza members punch him in exchange for their money. He has a huge debt to pay off and only two weeks to do it, so that means there’s a lot of punching.

Problem is, that’s all there is. He never fights back, nobody kicks him, and the vast majority of the punches are aimed at his stomach. Later in the film, more of them are aimed at his face, but it’s primarily a stomach-punching fest. A stupid, boring, stomach-punching fest.

But even that would be somewhat forgivable if it weren’t for how obnoxious Shinji is. He is a film buff who holds special screenings of classic films like Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. every so often in order to expose people to cinema history. It’s a noble goal, but the camera lingers on the screenings themselves. It shows pieces of Sherlock Jr. and John Ford’s The Searchers, and I longed to be watching those films instead. Shinji hates what cinema has become, and he picks up his megaphone and shouts about it while everybody ignores him. As he’s getting punched, he yells out “Shit cinema!” over and over again, using it like a painkiller.

Hidetoshi Nishijima looks in the mirror

I wanted to shout at the screen in agreement. I wanted to tell it that it was shit cinema and that director Amir Naderi and co. should be ashamed of themselves. Shinji only makes it worse when he stops to say that there are still filmmakers who make true art that everybody should go see. Because he gives no examples, it’s implied that perhaps Cut is one of those films.

It’s not. Not even close. There is nothing artistic about Cut. It seems like the film was thrown haphazardly together in about three days of editing with basically zero time spent on audiovisual work. It seems like a complete A few scenes which are pointlessly shot in black and white are the only indication that any attention was paid to the look of the film.

The closest thing Cut has to a saving grace is its list of Shinji’s 100 favorite movies. Unfortunately, it’s shown over the course of what seems like an eternity, as Shinji gets punched 100 times. My only enjoyment came from counting how many of the movies I had seen, which was 20. And “enjoyment” isn’t the right word. It was simply something to do. Something to think about other than the movie. The vast majority of the films on the list I had never heard of, with only a handful that I knew of but had yet to see. When it came time for number one, Cut gave way to Citizen Kane, and Orson Welles breathed “Rosebud” and dropped his snowglobe. And then there was Rosebud itself. Cut had spoiled the ending of Citizen Kane. Sure, anyone who goes out of their way to see a film like this has probably seen Citizen Kane, but it’s awful that the filmmakers felt so highly of their production that they earned the right to spoil Citizen Kane for those who had yet to see it. 

All of Cut‘s best moments are literally ripped from other films. Seeing bits and pieces of Citizen Kane and Sherlock Jr. reminded me how great they are, and it made me want to leave the theater and go see some good movies. Perhaps that was Cut‘s ultimate goal, though. Maybe the filmmakers wanted me to hate it so much that I needed to go scrub it from my mind with something good. That would actually be kind of clever, in some sickening way.

But it would also be giving them too much credit.

Hubert Vigilla: I wanted to give Cut the benefit of the doubt since it sounded interesting. It’s a rant against the state of contemporary film, in which movies are mostly mere commodities rather than entertaining art. It’s about Shinji suffering for his passion, and I also assumed that writer/director Amir Naderi’s call for “free cinema” was a comment on the repressive nature of his home country Iran. But Cut just drones and trudges after making its points, and I could only stay with it for so long before my mind numbed and began to wander. We watch Shinji get beaten to a pulp, we watch him muse about movies, and we watch the cycle repeat. Every now and then you get a clip from The Searchers or Kwaidan, or you watch Shinji display extreme reverence to the graves of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu. Any time that happened, all I could think was, “Man, I really wish I was watching The Searchers or an Ozu movie instead of this.” 30 – Bad