The extras should really be called the Robert Evans Section - he's all over them. He has the usual producer trait of endlessly talking up the project, but at least he does it with some intelligence and authority. Schlesinger's only contribution (from '76) runs to about forty-five seconds, poor man.
On first look, it's all the usual gush plus Evans's prattle about how this "incredible international cast" features the "finest actors of their age group" in Olivier and Hoffman, as well as Scheider who will be "the Bogarde of the Seventies" - considering the date, he needed to hurry - and the chase scene on the bridge is "the most unique chase ever on screen", etc.
This sort of nonsense is, however, given some credibility by the programme from 2001, where it becomes clear that they did get everyone they first wanted for every role, that Olivier struggled valiantly with his various illnesses, that it was a remarkable cast. Also, we learn a few neat titbits, such as the rewrite by Robert Towne, which seems to have been an improvement - even novelist and scriptwriter William Goldman almost admits it - and that Scheider came up with the look of the Paris hotel room fight.
The rehearsal footage is the gem, though. It reveals Hoffman to be a master of improvisation and something of a scene stealer. Marthe Keller obviously went through quite an improvement between rehearsal and production. Here, her English and acting are bad enough to wreck the movie.
These scenes add genuine value, because each is very different from what was filmed. Also, they throw up the idea that the movie might have been over-rehearsed. Some of them are better than those in the final cut. Where Doc comes into Babe's room has more on the relationship with the father and the scene where Babe pesters Elsa for a date contains enriching elements. If the plot had been smoothed here, tightened there, the undeniable quality of the acting would have had more room to express itself.Printer-friendly version