Media regulation

Parsing the Babel cuts

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Babel premiered in Beijing on Tuesday. The film has not been dubbed; all theaters are showing the subtitled version.

Here's how The Beijing News described the domestic version yesterday:

Less than 5 minutes of cuts to Babel

...the total length of the domestic screening of Babel is nearly 140 minutes, just three or four minutes shorter than the overseas version. The rumor circulating previously that the parts involving Japan had been completely excised was proven to be false, and the rumors that pixelization technology would be used to obscure revealing scenes was also incorrect - the domestic distributors used the most common method of cutting scenes. This reporter observed that apart from cutting out all of the scenes where Rinko Kikuchi's character is naked, the film also cut a scene at the beginning showing a Morrocan kid masturbating, and one in which Gael García Bernal tears the head off a chicken. After watching the film, this reporter felt that the excised content basically had no effect on a normal viewing experience.

Here's what the Mirror said:

Cuts to Babel not minor, objections from audience not major

...Upon watching the film, this reporter discovered that compared to the version that screened in the US, the movie had more than a few cuts. However, the majority of audience members interviewed said that they did not mind.

The Mirror article also reports that of the 50 audience members surveyed, 70% gave the movie an 8/10 or higher, and were particularly pleased with the plotting. The other 30% felt that it was hard to understand or that it did not live up to their expectations. 90% of respondents didn't think the quality of the film was affected by the deletions.

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There are currently 17 Comments for Parsing the Babel cuts.

Comments on Parsing the Babel cuts

Sigh.

"this reporter felt that the excised content basically had no effect on a normal viewing experience"

Then "this reporter" is not fit to report on the art form commonly known as "film".

The three (or more) scenes mentioned are crucial.

The masturbation scene sets up the "brothers sticking up for each other". There is no other setup for this.

Kikuchi's nakedness is used brilliantly for dramatic and emotional effect by the director -- the scene with the police detective, for example, would be totally stripped of emotional impact without the "shock" of her appearing before him unclothed. Not to mention the emotional "forgiveness" scene with her father at the close of the film.

And of course the "head off the chicken" is a foreshadowing, and beautifully sets up the uncomfortable "something's about to go wrong" vibe of the car-ride back from Mexico.

To see the film without these elements is to see another film.

> To see the film without these elements is to see another film.
Which would probably be a good idea.

I saw it tuesday at the wangfujing cinema and only noticed the cuts when the japanese girl's dad was comforting her, because the sound kind of skipped then. I think its kind of dumb the scenes were censored, but I still got the gist of the movie without the scenes. I kind of knew the girl was gonna appear naked when she disappeared like that anyway. I'm glad they chose not to overdub this one tho.

In reply to Shan: after seeing Babel, I certainly wished I had seen another film.

I wonder if the censors would be able to replace the nudity and chicken-choking (haw!) of the film with an actual coherent point.

"After watching the film, this reporter felt that the excised content basically had no effect on a normal viewing experience."

That's why you are a critic and a writer and not a filmmaker.

Any and all cuts NOT made by the director or the editor is a slap at their artistic integrity.

These censors are no better than the mormons in the U.S. (Clean Flicks I believe is the company) that destroys features...Its also a copyright violation.

Under the rules of China's Film and TV administration I understand it is standard practice to censor what they deem to be "inappropriate"...never however is that acceptable.

I bluntly and uncompromisingly hate them for doing this, "them" being anybody to interfere with the integrity of a work of part, bei it in China, US, Europe, anywhere. Removing scenes in a way that an audience is still able to get the "gist" of a film is equal to handing out readers' digest copies of Moby Dick and Ulysses - sure you get the idea, what you don't get is the composition, the structure, the development. Who is it to still wonder about the piracy scene when audiences get so insulted in the theaters?

Who would spend 50 yuan to watch a censored theatrical release that comes a couple months later than a uncensored pirated one that costs 10 yuan?

Mike said: after seeing Babel, I certainly wished I had seen another film.

Heh. I can understand that. I thought Fight Club was a waste of time, although everyone else seemed to like it.

But our likes and dislikes hardly constitute an argument about censorship, eh?

@dqma - you have hit the nail on the head. In fact, DVD-5s cost only 6 or 7 kuai in many provinces outside of Beijing. I picked up an uncut copy of Babel for 6 kuai in Kunming a month or two ago and the quality was excellent. This is illustrative of the insanity of the restrictions applied to theatrical releases in China. If the CCP is serious about combating the pirate DVD trade, it will allow more foreign films to be screened, uncensored, which would in turn lead to growth in the cinema industry and the eventual lowering of ticket prices currently out of the reach of most Chinese.

something similar happened when The Departed showed in Hong Kong. There's an essential scene missing in Hong Kong's theatre version, the part where Jack's character spills cocaine all over the girls and tells them to have sex till they can't move, while using a dildo. That's essential, because the symbolic dildo (later used in the porn theatre) highlights Jack's impotence and his failure to have any progeny, which speaks to the Lear-ish motion of the film and the Shakespearean moments of gratitude for shadowy father figures and the evils of overt sucking up and murderous treachery. Talk about a letdown. That scene when Matt Damon's character kills Jack just doesn't resonate without the cocaine scene.

>>the part where Jack's character spills cocaine all over the girls and tells them to have sex till they can't move

No, I think you've confused "The Departed theatrical release" with "the movie playing constantly in Doug's head".

:)

I'm a filmmaker and I don't think that all scenes are absolutely necessary, unless of course it is my film under the knife. The audience is not going to miss anything by not seeing a kid jerk off, and a chicken getting it's head twisted off - if those scenes are a set up for anything, then it must be for extra ticket sales for people who like seeing just those things.

"I'm a filmmaker.." - says it all really. Thanks for the laugh stan

I have yet to see Babel, so I am speaking of films generally, but Shan (first comment) has it absolutely right. Any reporter who says the cuts had "no effect" is not fit to review films and the film he/she reviewed was a different film.

Regardless of the cinematic effect, anyone denying the public of Rinko Kikuchi in the nude is evil.

"Regardless of the cinematic effect, anyone denying the public of Rinko Kikuchi in the nude is evil."

HA HA.........HA.

Damien is hilarious.
Rinko is a fox.

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