We haven’t done a Wednesday Debate for a while, alas, the news that a bunch of Charlie Chaplin films were being prepped for 3D re-release filtered out of Hollywood earlier this week, provoking many a diverse response ranging from anger to complacency. With that in mind, and following a recent discussion on the virtues of colorising classic films, we thought it apt to relaunch the Wednesday Debate to accommodate peoples thoughts on the subject.
For our money Orson Welles put it best, when, from his death bed, Welles told his friend and fellow filmmaker Henry Jaglom “Don’t let Ted Turner deface my movie with his crayons”. Indeed, Welles considered black and white film to be “the actor’s best friend”, and never actually finished a colour feature film. Yet Welles is a complicated figure when one begins to look at the posthumous treatment of his work, with Touch Of Evil famously reconstructed in the wake of his passing. Walter Murch famously headed up a team of researchers tasked with restructuring the famously studio-abused Touch Of Evil in 1998, for the films 40th anniversary, using Welles’ extensive notes on his original vision of the film to guide this inherited/interpreted vision. For our money, the 1998 cut of Touch Of Evil is the strongest version of that particular film.
This week a German media group announced that a title named Chaplin 3D – Little Tramp´s Adventure was in production, the resulting product of which will be a 90-minute long feature incorporating an array of Charlie Chaplin set pieces, post-converted in to 3D. While the idea alone is enough to make one flinch in disgust, if, and this is a pretty big “if”, done properly, it might not be that bad an idea. And I say this as someone who’s generally not a fan of 3D.
So, what are the pro’s and con’s for tinkering? Well, the first negative point, and probably the key one in the whole argument, for a figure or a group to come along and change a particular work following the death of the director at hand represents a gross abuse of artistic intent. This point applies to both Chaplin and Welles, although only the latter (as far as we can tell) ever expressed his wishes on the subject.
Yet on the other hand, a 3D redux of selected scenes from the career of Chaplin would arguably, or presumably result in a wider audience for the films said sequences are taken from (assuming an audience is engaged enough to seek out further viewing). Ultimately, and from a purely complacent position, any kind of re-interpretation of a particular film doesn’t replace the original, nor does it render the initial vision as obsolete, so why should we be so concerned? This particular argument is one that is reeled out in the defence of remakes, so why not apply it here too?
So, where do you stand on the posthumous tinkering of another artists work? Fire away in the comments below.