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Venice and Toronto 2011. Amir Naderi's "Cut"

Derided in the trades, Cut finds its defenders elsewhere.

"Cut, by Iranian expatriate Amir Naderi, is a brilliantly offbeat homage to Japanese cinema," blogs Kieron Corless for Sight & Sound. "It opens on a rootop in Tokyo, where keeper-of-the-flame filmmaker protagonist Shuji projects classic films to a group of friends. The rest of the time he spends haranguing the citizens of Tokyo through a megaphone about the destruction of 'pure cinema' by crass commercial fodder, and visiting the graves of Japanese masters Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa. The film then takes, via the death of his brother at the hands of the yakuza, what seems at first a strange but wonderful detour. Shuji must now clear, in just two weeks, a massive debt that his brother accumulated to finance Shuji's films; the unexpected method he hits on to do so opens up frightening perspectives on the depths of his devotion to cinema, in the most masochist way imaginable."

 



"Surely one of the most bizarre and upsetting commentaries on cinephilia ever committed to film," writes Gabe Klinger in Cinema Scope. "Shuji's dilemma is shared by Naderi, a filmmaker/activist battling against numbing commercial trends whose budget woes have occasionally set him on the path of humiliation and bodily harm. I don't doubt Naderi's sincerity — even as I cringed at the hackneyed idea of the film canon as it's presented in Cut — but the film's metaphorical directness has the tendency to lessen rather than amplify Shuji's passion for the medium."

"It is a cinephile film," writes Daniel Kasman here in the Notebook, "but a doubting one; it is a yakuza film, but a nihilistic one…. It rightly sees its cineaste with equal parts utter, regretful sadness and a heartfelt empathy and admiration. By seeing its hero and his dilemma with an understanding of its flaws, the film leaves one with nothing but hope and potential."

 



"While never achieving the renown of countrymen Kiarostami, Panahi or Makhmalbaf, Naderi has built a considerable reputation over the past four decades," notes Neil Young in the Hollywood Reporter. At 65, he "remains best known for his 1985 Iranian picture The Runner, and his latest Stateside production, Vegas: Based on a True Story (2008), which competed for Venice's Golden Lion. This follow-up opened the more experimental Orizzonti sidebar this year, presumably because of its ultra-violence…. Shuji's high-faluting cinephilia, meanwhile, chiefly serves to excuse a barrage of references, smug in-jokes and clips, each serving to emphasize the all-too-glaring deficiencies of Naderi's latest contribution to the art form. 'Cinema is already dying!' bellows Shuji, and the irony is that if this is indeed the case, the fault in no small part lies with egregiously tedious nonsense such as Cut."

"Kick-started via his friendship with actor Nishijima Hidetoshi (Dolls [2002], Tokyo Rendezvous [2008]), Cut is," finds Film Biz Asia's Derek Elley, "an over-long, poorly written and self-indulgent mess that unsuccessfully tries to merge film nerdiness with psychological drama."

"Simply in terms of craft, pic is all right, if somewhat repetitive," writes Leslie Felperin in Variety, "but its hectoring, self-important boosterism on behalf of what its hero and presumably its helmer consider 'pure cinema' is so strident, it would almost be comical if it weren't done with such solemnity."

 



Updates, 9/9: "Naderi manages to deliver a distinctly Japanese feeling while conveying at the same time a message of faith in cinema as a universal form of art," writes Pasquale Cicchetti in Reverse Shot.

For Mary Corliss, writing for Time, "at two hours plus, and with little variation in its sadomasochistic tone, this arthouse fanboy's Fight Club is also a punishment to viewers, who may wish they could barge into the editing room and yell. 'Cut!'"

Update, 9/12: "We need a film like Cut in this age of endless comic book-to-screen adaptations, remakes of classic films and re-imaginings of old TV shows, many of them best left to fade into memory," argues Chris MaGee. "The character of Shuji is a hero of cinema, just as dynamic and driven as any Hollywood action hero. One only needs to sit breathless in their seat as they witness him match the 100 punches of his final fight with his 100 favorite films of all time. It sounds like an odd exercise, but you could feel the energy of the audience at the North American premiere of Cut at the Toronto International Film Festival rise as Naderi flashed the titles of Shuji's most beloved films on the screen as he battled for his life."

Cut now heads to the Visions program in Toronto. If you're headed to Toronto, tiffr is a simple yet powerful way to schedule your festival. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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It takes more than two hours to explain how today cinema is not what cinema was years ago, but it never shows how today cinema should be. So what’s the point? Make a film that actually IS cinema, show us the real thing, your idea of cinema and prove you can do it. Or please spare me this kind of masturbation.

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