A reader writes:
As a film editor, I know all about the issues involved with the length of films. You are often challenged by a couple things. One, the length of the script that was approved to start shooting. Usually the first cut of a film is about an hour longer than the finished film, give or take, but that's what everybody agreed to shoot, knowing the fight over what to keep in or what to cut would inevitably come later.
Secondly, to make those cuts later can be tricky, involving all kinds of editorial slight-of-hand. And then when pushed to an extreme to reduce the length, you inevitably lose breathing room, character development, continuity or even comprehensibility. Then you end up firing up the other set of critics complaining about plot confusion. So sometimes you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. It's easy to walk out of a theater saying, "They could have cut 20 minutes out." While the sentiment may be completely justifiable, often achieving that can be tough as you negotiate between the various parties involved.
That said, Stravinsky felt the same frustration saying many symphonies "finish too long after the end." And then there's Mark Twain who said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Being concise is a challenge, a battle that is often lost in film cutting rooms all around the world, apparently...
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