Now here's a strange thing: a 29-year-old director being allowed to release a Director's Cut of his debut feature. Before, it should be added, he's even made his sophomore effort.
The cold reality behind this amended, pre-DVD re-release is, of course, money. No studio suit ever said, ""We like you and your movie, son - - here's the readies to flesh out your vision"." More likely, it went like this: ""Gee, everyone's talking about this Donnie Darko flick. Damn shame it came out just after 9/11. Damn shame we buried it...""
Not that Kelly cares. He gets to pamper his baby, twiddling sound dials and polishing its CGI. He gets to revisit his '80s record collection, plucking out Til Tuesday's `Voices Carry' and Oingo Boingo's `Stay'. And, most importantly, he gets to sweep curled celluloid off the cutting-room floor, bolstering Donnie from 113 minutes to 133.
Of course, anyone who's seen the customisations of Messrs Cameron, Spielberg and Coppola will know what to expect. Some of it adds, some of it detracts, meaning Director's Cut Donnie is impossible to either dismiss or embrace. On the one hand, it deepens relationships, Donnie spending more time with his family, girlfriend (Jena Malone) and shrink (Katharine Ross). On the other, it literally spells out meaning where ambiguity once swirled, Kelly unwisely presenting extracts from Roberta Sparrow's book The Philosophy Of Time Travel.
All of this material is on the DVD, mind - - bonus snippets that have been weeded out and re-planted by a green-fingered filmmaker. More troubling are the all-new additions, ostentatious flourishes that refuse to take root. Extreme close-ups of Donnie's eye? Fleeting footage of breaking waves? An electronic grid overlaying the undoing-time sequence, `PURGE' flashing in the corner? This isn't consummating your art; it's fucking with it.
So why does it deserve five stars? Because this is, primarily, the same bravura masterpiece that topped Total Film's critics' poll in 2002 - - the same mind-mangling blend of metaphysical sci-fi, suburban satire and high-school horror. You've been offered a wormhole to go back and see it afresh. Take it.
More companion piece than definitive version, Donnie 2004 is a (re)mixed bag: flawed but fascinating. Still a dazzling achievement.
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