I’m a regular listener of Penn Jillette’s podcast, so I’ve heard about his film “Director’s Cut” for years. I knew it was crowdfunded, had an idea of the concept and plot, and I remember Penn very excitedly announcing when they cast the female lead (Missi Pyle). Finally saw the movie today and… it’s very Penn.
This isn’t the sort of film that can really be “spoiled” because the concept becomes clear as the film progresses. But stop reading now if you’d like to see it without any prior knowledge.
The idea is that a crazed fan (Penn) kidnaps an actress (Pyle) midway through the filming of a schlocky buddy cop / mystery / horror movie. He then “completes” the film with her under duress in an incompetent and creepy manner. We see the finished product, such as it is, with Penn’s character providing the “director’s cut” commentary track. It’s very meta, with the actual director and crowd funders appearing in a movie full of making-of scenes and that was actually crowd funded. Penn is suitably weird and creepy, and his sense of humor is all over it. It has elements of a horror movie, but mostly it’s played for quirky humor. Perhaps inevitably, Penn’s magic partner Teller has a (speaking!) role. Probably the biggest laugh moment is a police officer informing him he has the right to remain silent.
What I enjoyed most was how it blended seemingly behind-the-scenes footage with “real” movie sequences. Must have been interesting for good actors such as Pyle and Harry Hamlin to turn in intentionally trite and awful performances for the “real” scenes, while making the BTS stuff seem very genuine. They all had to have had a good sense of humor and understood the concept well.
I suppose it shares some DNA with The Blair Witch Project and a few similar films. But “Director’s Cut” struck me as having its own voice, and it seems to have accomplished what Penn was after. Definitely not for everyone, and I could envision a lot of people finding it not to their taste. But hearing Penn talk about it for a long time, it exceeded my expectations.