Fan Editing as Film Criticism and ‘Raising Cain Re-cut’

In my previous post I discussed a fanedit entitled Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut (2009) as an example of new form of film criticism in which the critic demonstrates his or her arguments through creative recutting of the film itself. To my knowledge, the Ebert case is the first of its kind. However, Roger Ebert did not participate in the recutting of Psycho (1960), he merely described what he would have done in his 1998 film review. A faneditor called “Stomachworm” actually recut Psycho according to Ebert’s ideas eleven years later.

The original Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut was eventually lost when its download links were broken, and although torrent trackers index the fanedit, there are rarely any seeders today. For the purposes of commentary, I reconstructed that fanedit.

Raising Cain: Re-cut

Not long after I posted my essay on Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut, media artist and writer Peet Gelderblom re-edited Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain (1992) such that the first act of the film concentrates on the character of Jenny (Lolita Davidovitch) rather than Carter Nix (John Lithgow). In an essay on Indiewire.com’s Press Play blog, Gelderblom explains Raising Cain: Re-cut is his attempt to restructure the film according to the De Palma’s original intentions before he changed the film in post-production.1 Gelderblom cites a 2006 interview of De Palma:

The interesting thing about that movie is that I could not make the beginning work, and it drove me crazy. (…) I always wanted to start the movie with (the woman) and her dilemma instead of with the Lithgow story.2

Hitchcock’s Psychiatrist Revisited

In his previous films such as Sisters (1973), Obsession (1976), and Dressed to Kill (1980), Brian De Palma often emulated the style and stories of Alfred Hitchcock. Likewise, Raising Cain draws inspiration from Psycho (1960) with its tale about a man haunted by an overbearing parent and a murderous alternate personality. Some scenarios in Raising Cain are even borrowed directly from Hitchcock’s film, such as the killer sinking a car into a lake with a corpse inside — including a moment of suspense when the car appears to become stuck on the way down.

There is also the character of Dr. Lynn Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen), a psychiatrist who provides exposition about certain characters and the science of multiple personalities. Where Hitchcock framed his psychiatrist scene with nearly static shots and neutral angles, De Palma “turns the obligatory Psycho-esque psychiatrist explanation into visual extravaganza by putting movement in the scene and crafting an intricate tracking shot that even tilts to move parallel to the doctor and the cops [down a flight of stairs].”3 With her larger role in the story, including her professional connection to the devious character, Cain, Dr. Waldheim can be seen as De Palma’s revision of Hitchcock’s under-developed psychiatrist in Psycho.

In Gelderblom’s Raising Cain: Re-cut, De Palma’s film bears even closer resemblance to Hitchcock by focusing on Jenny Nix, who can be seen as De Palma’s version of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in Psycho. Rather than a narrative diversion in the second act of the plot, Jenny’s dilemma involving misplaced gifts for her husband, Carter, and her secret lover, Jack Dante (Steven Bauer) becomes a MacGuffin that functions like Marion’s theft of $40,000 in the Hitchcock film.

Fan/Filmmaker/Critic = Faneditor

Although Stomachworm fulfilled a film critic’s idealizations of a recut version of Psycho, Gelderblom performs as a surrogate for De Palma by constructing the “Director’s Cut” that never was. It’s refreshing to find a filmmaker such as Gelderblom writing and recutting in a critical mode with a fanedit. He draws upon a variety of critical sources as well as the original screenplay for Raising Cain in order to justify his creative objective and he follows through with a fanedit to prove his point.

Matt Singer at IFC.com reviewed Raising Cain: Re-cut, noting that Gelderblom’s version could have included more scenes between Jenny and Carter Nix (John Lithgow) in order to set up “domestic bliss” before the Carter’s sinister reveal. However, Singer was generally supportive of Gelderblom’s effort and discussed the project within the context of contemporary fanediting, including references to The Phantom Edit. Reflecting on De Palma’s films such as Blow Out (1981) as a mashup between Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) and Francis Coppola’s The Conversation (1971), Singer surmises that De Palma would approve of Raising Cain: Re-cut because the director is himself a sort of remix artist who borrows and reframes media.4 Perhaps it is appropriate to mention here that a recurrant musical theme in Raising Cain by frequent De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio bears a striking resemblance to Joe Harnell’s “The Lonely Man Theme” from The Incredible Hulk television series (1977-1982), which is another story about a monster lurking within an otherwise peaceful man.

Singer framed his discussion Raising Cain: Re-cut with speculation about film critics becoming filmmakers, but it is important to consider the inverse of that concept. Not only are critics are becoming filmmakers, but filmmakers such as Gelderblom are becoming critics through the practice of fanediting. As I discussed in my post about Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut, a remix or revision of a film will always be compared to its original. The editor’s motivations for a creating an alternate cut are always critical because the original version supplies the media for scrutiny and the subsequent experimentation. Therefore, a fanedit is inherently a critical work and those who make them should be considered critics.

We can observe the convergent roles of producer and consumer in contemporary media, but more specifically the once isolated roles of fan, filmmaker, and critic are also converging. Gelderblom is a filmmaker by trade and a fan of De Palma’s work, and by recutting Raising Cain he has become a critic. He also created a video essay that explains his intentions, similar to a filmmaker’s audio commentary included in commercial DVD/Blu-ray releases. Faneditor commentaries are sometimes created as well, like those found on the DVDs of The Phantom Edit and Attack of the Phantom.

M.I.A.?

Gelderblom published the complete Raising Cain: Re-cut on Indiewire.com with an embedded video and included an interesting annotation: “For a limited time only.” Perhaps these words were an implication that the video will be voluntarily removed in the near future to avoid an DMCA takedown, or perhaps it’s an expectation of a forceful removal.

In either case, it highlights the issue of accessibility and rights regarding critical works such as Raising Cain: Re-cut and Psycho: The Roger Ebert Cut. Fair Use regulations under U.S. copyright law protect transformative works that are created for noncommercial purposes of criticism and commentary, which arguably describe these fanedits. The press coverage about Raising Cain: Re-cut may garner it some public support, much like The Phantom Edit has enjoyed, but its popularity could also make it an target for an eventual copyright claim.

Here is Raising Cain: Re-cut — perhaps for a limited time:

 

  1. Gelderblom, Peet. “Feature Film with Video Essay: Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain is Re-cut,” Press Play, January 31, 2012: http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/feature-brian-de-palmas-raising-cain.
  2. Faraci, Devin. “Exclusive Interview: Brian De Palma (The Black Dahlia),” CHUD.com, September 8, 2006: http://www.chud.com/7568/exclusive-interview-brian-de-palma-the-black-dahlia/.
  3. Cole, Jake. “Brian De Palma: Raising Cain,” Not Just Movies, July 6, 2011: http://armchairc.blogspot.com/2011/07/brian-de-palma-raising-cain.html.
  4. Singer, Matt. “The Rise of the Film Critic Filmmaker.” IFC.com, February 7, 2012: http://www.ifc.com/fix/2012/02/film-critic-filmmaker.