TV review: EDGE OF OUTSIDE documentary

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TCM Premiere on July 5th at 8 pm ET

TV review by David Blackwell

Independent filmmakers and documentaries about their struggles have always fascinated me. I want to be an independent filmmaker one day. EDGE OF OUTSIDE is the story and history of the struggles of various independent minded directors who wanted to do things their way. Whether it was David Lynch, John Cassavates, Sam Peckinpah, Nicholas Ray, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, or Orson Welles, they all tried to make films their way to various degrees of success. Orson Welles had the hell of a time with at least of his films being edited down and some or all of the cut footage being lost (THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, MR. ARKADIN, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS). EDGE OF OUTSIDE does have one weakness as a documentary is that they don't cover some of the other various independent filmmakers from today like Robert Rodriguez or Kevin Smith.   Also they do seem to be hung up on three directors and go back to them over the course of the documentary.  However it helps illustrate the problems and the struggles independent directors have.

Every Wednesday night during July will showcase some of the films by filmmakers who did films their way or as much as they could do it. In a day where the Hollywood way of making movies might not result in a great film or the way a director wants the film, it is nice to have people who fight for their films or need to make the films the way they see it. Sam Peckinpah had a couple of films taken from him. MAJOR DUNDEE lost some scenes only to have some of them restored for DVD almost 40 years later and THE WILD BUNCH took almost as long to have the director's unedited cut shown (since the violence was toned down for the original release).

Orson Welles wasn't as lucky because we will probably never see a longer version of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI due to the cut scenes being thrown in the rubbish bin. Sometimes Welles is lucky from beyond the grave with the restored version of A TOUCH OF EVIL. MR. ARKADIN received the Criterion treatment with two versions that were released in theaters and a new version trying to bring the two different cuts together closer to what Orson might have wanted. In the age of Extended Cuts and Director's Cuts on DVD, the independent directors from decades ago would have loved DVD. Look at the case of KINDOM OF HEAVEN, Ridly Scott hot everything he wanted and he still got to release the better version of film to DVD and it makes you wonder why 20th Century Fox didn't release the longer and better version to theaters. Some directors join the studio system and stay in it while other indie directors back away after not having a good experience making films for a major studio. Then there are directors like Robert Rodriguez who are smart enough to keep costs down and do films that would have cost other directors millions more to make. How much control do directors have when the budget gets bigger for them when they go make it for the studio system? Doug Liman used the system so he could release his favorite cut of MR AND MRS SMITH to DVD last month.

With the advent of digital video and High Definition digital video camera technology getting better and cheaper, almost anyone can make and direct their own film if they just buy a camera and go shoot it. It is not about finding the money as much these days. Look at the cost of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and how much it made. It was made for very little. I just wonder what the independent minded directors from decades ago would have done with digital video cameras if they had the chance back then. Digital video is changing the way films are made and bringing about many new independent filmmakers and future directors.

EDGE OF THE OUTSIDE reveals a part of the movie world that some might not have focused on, but the first in-house documentary from TCM makes me eager to see what they will make for future documentaries for the channel.  I loved the interviews with the family and people who worked with these independent directors.  Anyway I love a director who believes in a project to finance it or fight for the their films every time if making under the studio system.

this review is (c)7-4-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com