Alexander Payne agrees: Some movies today are simply “too damn long.”
The Sideways director was speaking at the Middleburg Film Festival on Saturday to promote his new film, The Holdovers, when he criticized overly long runtimes.
Payne added that a movie can successfully pull off a long runtime: But “if your movie is three-and-a-half hours, at least let it be the shortest possible version of a three-and-a-half-hour movie. Like The Godfather Part II [and] Seven Samurai are super tight, three-and-a-half-hour movies and they go by like that. So there’s no ipso facto judgment about length.”
Payne didn’t cite any particular offender, but his comments came on the opening weekend of Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour drama Killers of the Flower Moon. While the film has received considerable acclaim from critics, the top complaint about the movie — particularly among its audience reviews — is that the film drags on far too long and could have benefited from a much tighter edit.
Added Payne: “Film is a constant search for economy. You want the screenplay as short as possible. You want the acting as brisk as possible, given whatever the basic rhythm of that film is. And then in the editing you want it to be as short as it can possibly be, but no shorter.”
At the same time, the director admitted that when looking back at his own films, he also sees ways they could have also been shorter (with one exception: His 1999 high school political satire Election).
Payne received the MFF Director Spotlight Award at the festival. The Holdovers is a comedy-drama that reteams the director with his Sideways star Paul Giamatti, who plays a disliked private school teacher tasked with supervising students who are unable to return home for Christmas. The film opens Oct. 27.
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