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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

The Da Vinci Code: Extended Cut

Exclusive to Blu-ray, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a 175-minute Extended Cut 2-Disc Set presentation of Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code. In terms of entertainment, the shorter version works better. The film may have been rightly lambasted by critics, but it has a breathless pull-you-through-it pace and creates an intriguing blend of historical trivia and speculation as the academic hero, played by Tom Hanks, runs away from the French police after being accused of murdering a fellow scholar, and attempts to decipher the messages the scholar had left for him. The longer version, adding more background detail and character development, stretches things out a bit and slows that pace down, making a viewer more aware of how superficial the characters are and how artificially manipulative the ‘puzzles’ are. But cinematically, the longer version is a great improvement. One of the first added sequences is a stroll down a hallway in the Louvre as the hero and the cop who will be chasing him, played by Jean Reno, approach the crime scene. The conversation is a little absurd (they talk about the expense of security cameras) and it makes sense that Howard jumped over it to get to the corpse, but, especially on Blu-ray with its vivid, crisp image reproduction, the enormous, genuine Louvre canvasses that the two actors pass as they talk are stunning, and there is a strong temptation to back up the scene a couple of times to replay the visual pleasure it provides. There is also a terrific flashback earthquake sequence that was not necessary for the advancement of the narrative but is unlike any earthquake scene previously staged for film (there are extensive, and quite effective, long shots). Since most fans of the movie will have accepted its limitations anyway, Extended Cut, which is the only version available in the BD format, will be a worthy upgrade from the DVD.

The letterboxing has an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1. A couple of the added shots are a touch out of focus, but otherwise, the quality of the BD image is compelling, especially in the film’s exploration of architecture, sculpture and other antiquities (although one of Howard’s questionable choices as a director is to not have given The Last Supper a more detailed pan or a longer steady closeup while the conversations of the heroes ensue). The TrueHD 5.1 sound is less engaging. Although Hans Zimmer’s orchestral score has a suitable body that is well supported by the quality of the playback, the separation details in the mix are rarely interesting and there is a general blandness to the film’s sound design as a whole. There is an alternate French track in TrueHD 5.1, and optional English and French subtitles.

An option on the BD brings up a dizzying array of alternative background segments activated by a variety of icons as the film unspools. Most of the documentary material is available in other special features, but there are also trivia details, and a deconstruction of the film’s various symbols and codes. Additionally, Howard speaks over 39 minutes of clips from the Extended Cut, talking about both original scenes and new scenes, as well as about working with the various cast members and the challenges of shooting in various locations. An 8-minute promotional segment for the 2009 installment of the adventures of Hanks’ character,Angels & Demons, is also featured.

The DVD came with 106 minutes of decent production featurettes. The second platter of the BD includes those, and adds another 66 minutes. The new material is of ‘lesser’ importance, but is still informative not only to the construction of the film, but also to the context of the story and its interpretation of history.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon