By now, it's well known and irksomely tolerated that all films face the wrath of a given market's ratings board or censors if wide distribution remains in their sights. While the MPAA and BBFC occasionally produce a decision that leaves some films weakened by cuts or alternate takes, the latest verdicts laid down by China for two of the holiday season's bigger films have taken that concept to a new extreme. Minor spoilers below.
Though they premiered to polar opposite receptions both critically and financially, “Cloud Atlas” and Bond entry “Skyfall” have both fallen prey to the Chinese censors all the same. The country's government has a long history of altering films, homegrown and international -- the complete erasure of Chow Yun-Fat's character in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” comes to mind -- but now they've cut an entire scene and scrubbed dialogue from “Skyfall,” while essentially shredding “Cloud Atlas” by removing close to 40 minutes overall.
The version of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis' film in America and Europe ran 169 minutes, and the edit opening Jan. 31st in Beijing runs currently at 130. Among the scenes removed are any mentions or depictions of Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy's affair, as well as “passionate love scenes” elsewhere, presumably between Sonmi-351 (Doona Bae) and Hae-Joo Chang (Jim Sturgess) in the Neo-Seoul storyline.
None of the filmmakers were involved in the edit, which was instead covered by the film's co-producers Dreams of the Dragon Pictures. However, they told Chinese media they understood the changes, a diplomatic response from the notoriously hands-on directors.
As for “Skyfall,” with only its Shanghai-set scene -- showing a French hitman (Ola Rapace) killing a Chinese security guard -- and subtitles describing prostitution along with Javier Bardem's Chinese-led torture later on changed, there's no real comparison with the wreckage done to its calendar counterpart. Naturally, the controversy has only revived running-time quips regarding “Cloud Atlas,” but besides cutting out arguably the best section of that film, China's strict cuts here are yet another unflattering example of the rigidity of their film distribution scene today. [Yahoo/THR]