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An all-star cast heads up 54, your ticket into New York's hottest nightclub ever. Ryan Rhillippe, Salma Hayek, along with sexy Neve Campbell and Mike Myers take you on a nonstop ride of celebrity and excess while you groove to the hottest music.
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Most directors’ cuts are films that are already established and the alterations are minimal, creating more of an “extended cut” made up of parts that were trimmed by the censors (MPAA). With 54, it is truly a different film made up of unique shots, lost footage and occasionally, VHS dailies. The film takes a much darker turn as we discover how drugs affect much more of the characters’ lives than the original. We also see how the Ryan Phillippe’s character, Shane O’Shea is not only used as a gigolo by women, but many men, as well.
There is an informative “making of” featurette with the film’s director, Mark Christopher and producer, Jonathan King where they talk about how the original film was wrestled out of their hands by the studio after a test screening, “The audience who was responsive to the movie was not the audience who we made the film for.” And, the laborious and daunting task of tracking down the original film elements by Nancy Valle.
If you are a fan of 54, you will be in for a real treat. If you didn’t like the original version of 54, you may want to take a peek at what the director originally intended. If you are a film student, you will be fascinated by how editing can completely alter a film’s narrative. There is something for everyone in this new director’s cut.
A small warning: Though most of the original elements were discovered, the editor had to resort to using the original VHS dailies to make up some missing scenes. This is a bit of a distraction as the film suddenly changes from crystal- clear Blu-ray quality to grainy VHS on multiple occasions. I was surprised this was not noted anywhere on the Blu-ray’s cover. For the casual film watcher, this may be a deterrent. For the fanatic, seeing these missing scenes, in any quality, will only add to the experience. I just wanted to mention it so you will know exactly what to expect.
The original release of 54 was a strange fish: part salmon swimming hopelessly upstream, part peacock. And just as a fish and a bird might fall in love, it had no where to live. The film titillated, but it failed to commit. The story seemed to drift off, earning razzies for all involved, despite some good, even some excellent performances. Now we know it was ruthlessly cut up by film editors trying to make it acceptable to the mall theater crowd.
Here it is in all of it's original glory. A unfiltered lens on a time and a place with the famous and hangers on who created it.
The director's cut is a revelation, the need for which shows how paranoid Hollywood can be about any display of homosexual activity in the movies, however minor. Of course things have changed a lot since the theater version of the movie was released, but not all that much. Ryan Phillipe's character is quite frankly presented as bi-sexual, and not in any kind of "ashamed and struggling with it" way, remarkable for 1999. It's simply presented in the context of the hedonism of the era.
The way this was edited out is especially clear in the "raising my profile" scene , the theater version outtakes of which are on YouTube. To name only one example, the character is shown waking up next to three different partners in quick succession in both versions, but in the director's cut one of these is a handsome young man, replaced by a voluptuous young woman in the theater version.
It's a great evocation of an era when for a brief time everything seems possible, in this case the sexual revolution - thrilling illusions, while they last. And while there is usually a price to pay the morning after, it doesn't necessarily mean you regret having been at the party.