21 Grams Rebalanced

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(Updated: July 16, 2012)
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9.0
Sometimes you just have to sit back and be grateful that the world of the fanedit can bring such diverse delights. For every Superman or Star Wars edit, there’s a L.A. Confidential or a Killing of a Chinese Bookie. It should be no surprise therefore that the editor of the last film mentioned, is the person responsible for being brave enough to attempt a linear edit of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s fragmented masterpiece, 21 Grams.

To me, Iñárritu is one of the best directors working in cinema today. His much discussed “death trilogy” (Amores Peros, 21 Grams and Babel) arguably represents the finest example of non-linear storytelling and direction in cinematic history, even if by the time Babel comes to a close you could be forgiven for wondering if he’s capable of directing in any other fashion. One’s curiosity as to how a film such as 21 Grams would play if it were to unfold in a much more conventional linear style was, before the world of fanediting, exactly that – nothing but a curious thought. Now, thanks to Gatos, this has become a reality.

If I’m honest, I was a little worried about how well a rebalanced edit of 21 Grams would play out. After all, on the bonus features on the blu-ray of the film Iñárritu actually points out that life does feel very fragmented and more or less hints that the only way 21 Grams would work in its editing, would be in this very fashion. As I say, Gatos, you’re a braver man than me So, I settled down for another round of emotionally exhausting cinema with 21 Grams Rebalanced, praying that the edit would still hold the same powerful effect as Iñárritu’s cut, which I had watched and still hadn’t really recovered from, just one day earlier.

Had I been watching this with Gatos, my first reaction as the credits rolled would have been to turn to him and shake his hand. Some may say that re-balancing a non-linear film such as this is easy, but it’s more than just completely reordering the scenes of the film. Some small sequences still have to be cut completely (in fact, about 12 minutes is trimmed here in total) and more importantly for a film of this quality, cut with some degree of care and skill. I know that Gatos experienced some tough audio challenges with the edit, particularly in scenes where the gentle score from Gustavo Santaolalla would spread from a scene Gatos wanted to keep to another which he wanted to cut or reorder. Not an easy task at all and its to his credit that the cuts, both audio and visual are nearly perfect throughout the edit.

As for comparing this edit to the theatrical cut, well that’s a tricky one for this viewer. Having loved Iñárritu’s non-linear style, I have to say that this Rebalanced cut does not quite play out with as much emotional force. It’s difficult to say why exactly, but ultimately I believe that Iñárritu’s claim that life and death work in such fragmented ways, in both how they unfold and effect other people, is one which rings true for the style in which 21 Grams was originally edited together. I know that Gatos is a huge fan of the original film, so it’s not as if he’s trying to represent a version which will replace Iñárritu’s. Indeed, I still believe this is one of the most skillful fanedits you could wish to see and makes for a fascinating alternate take, while managing to maintain the spirit and tone of the original film.

I suppose the way in which the terrible accident which changes the course of three people’s lives is explored seems to hold more surprise and fascination in its fragmented form. It’s to Gatos’ credit therefore that he manages to stick with two bookends which actually belie his “Rebalanced” title a little. It’s as if he’s brought the weight back down to a much more conventional narrative, but still displays an acknowledgement for the more unsettling side of life and death with the edit’s opening and closing moments. A nice balance indeed.

Onto the technical side of things… Picture quality is a 10/10 for me. I watched the original version on blu-ray the day before, but Gatos’ DVD version was excellent none-the-less.

Audio wise, it would be a well deserved 10/10 as well. Some tough work involved, and there’s only one tiny scene were Santaolalla’s score comes in and then fades out very abruptly (not harshly though!), but it’s not distracting and as I say, it is a very small hardly noticeable glitch, hence my still perfect score.

Finally the editing itself is, as touched upon above, basically flawless. The scenes are reordered with skill and the pace of the movie still feels spot-on – the scenes which are cut are barely noticeable and therefore not missed. 10/10.

Summing up, I would actually give the edit a 9/10. I wanted to give a perfect 10, as this really is a beautifully crafted fanedit, but ultimately my feeling that the “rebalanced” style of the film did not quite maintain the danger and intriguing nature of Iñárritu’s original vision was too much to ignore. Nevertheless, this is a quite excellent fanedit which should be seen by anybody interested in the medium. It’s a difficult film to endure at times, but I urge you to enter the world of Alejandro González Iñárritu – it’s a fascinating glimpse into the beauty and pain of life and death which will always stay with you. Congratulations Gatos, on a quite excellent piece of fanediting.
L
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(Updated: March 08, 2013)
Overall rating
 
10.0
Audio/Video Quality
 
10.0
Audio Editing
 
10.0
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10.0
Narrative
 
10.0
Enjoyment
 
10.0
I saw the workprint of this back in October and finally got around to watching the final version. My original review holds still holds true:

“21 Grams Rebalanced” is as close to perfection I could imagine a fanedit of this type being. When I first read Gatos’ intention I thought to myself, “Man, how’s that going to look? That movie was chopped up to hell.”
But, Gatos himself said it best: “It was really like trying to put together a puzzle and figure out which scenes go where.”
Consider the original “21 Grams” a Rubik’s Cube with everything mixed up. To most, it looks a jumble of colors, but there’s a certain poetry to how it’s mixed up. The reds and the greens are placed evenly apart and the yellows never touch the blues.
“21 Grams Rebalanced” is the same cube, fully solved. The colors are all there and technically it’s the same cube, but it’s not the same beast. It’s even, smooth and looks beautiful.
10/10

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(Updated: July 16, 2012)
Enjoyment
 
10.0
Nonlinear storytelling can make for great entertainment—take Pulp Fiction. But the degree of fragmentation also matters. Pulp Fiction’s nonlinearity worked because its fragments came in big enough chunks.

21 Grams, in its theatrical incarnation, was as fragmented as a puzzle on the floor of Mr. Plinkett’s dungeon. For that reason, it took me almost half an hour into the movie to become invested in its characters.

Gatos’s version is a masterful retelling of the same story. Aside from a few well-selected scenes at the beginning of the movie, the story is told from A to Z, and it works very well. Inarritu’s atmosphere of pain and disintegration are still there in this linear version, but, my knowledge of the story notwithstanding, I felt I got my bearings sooner while watching Gatos’s version.

Viewing both the theatrical and rebalanced version of 21 Grams would be instructional for any student of film. No longer does one have to wonder what it would be like to view a chronological version of the director’s vision, because Gatos gives us a highly refined alternative. I offer my highest recommendation for this edit.

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Yes
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Overall rating
 
10.0
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10.0
Audio Editing
 
10.0
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10.0
Narrative
 
10.0
Enjoyment
 
10.0
"The structure simply doesn't let any of the characters build an arc of growth or despair; aside from being confusing, the narrative locks us out." - from Roger Ebert's review of 21 grams.

21 grams revisited justifies its existence on that quote alone.

It's been several years since I watched the original movie - it sits on the shelf in the "maybe another night" department. This is heavy material, and as Gatos knows, I have taken my sweet time to get around to finally watching and reviewing this edit for the same reason. You have to get your head into the right space to enter this movie, knowing what awaits you.

Having said that, I'm extremely glad that I finally did watch this edit. Without the 'lock out' that Ebert described, we are arguably more present with the characters, and more lost in their stories. Without the editing artiface that causes us to consistenty be reminded we are watching a story from a distance, we are now able to follow the natural flow of events. We can 'go on the journey' with the characters, and share their discoveries and revelations as they occur.

At this point, I should point out that I think the non-linear style in the original works equally well, but for different reasons. The fragmented model is arguably more poetic, and has to find a rhythm in a less traditional sense. It's a collage of hugely emotional and intense moments that we piece together - like a dream, as discussed in the lunch date scene between Watts and Penn. But from the point of view of relating more directly and personally to these characters and their stories, Gatos' version draws you right in, in a way that the original perhaps doesn't allow.

As for the balance of scenes, they work beautifully. Nothing feels out of place or missing. The pacing is spot on, and the impact very intense. This movie is a sledgehammer, but you feel grateful when it hits you in the face. The acting is so amazing, the music incredible, the cinematography the perfect balance of gritty, light and dark.

Technically, the editing is pretty much invisible save for two notable audio changes between scenes (but to be honest, I imagine there were many more potential moments like this that Gatos was cleverly able to avoid!). There was also a slight lip sync issue in the scene at the hospital when Watts receives the bad news. But this only lasted for a minute or so, and was nothing major.

Well done Gatos, you've offered a powerful alternative experience of an already powerful film that can proudly sit beside the original on the shelf. 10/10
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Overall rating
 
10.0
Audio/Video Quality
 
10.0
Audio Editing
 
10.0
Visual Editing
 
10.0
Narrative
 
10.0
Enjoyment
 
10.0
This review is shamefully late. I was chatting with Beezo about favorite edits and I realized I had never actually written a review of this beautiful edit. So after much delay...

This is quite simply my favorite fanedit that I have ever seen. It not only represents all the best that fanediting has to offer, the resulting film is incredible.

Audio/Video Quality
Flawless. No loss between original and fanedit.

Visual Editiong
Flawless work here. Truly seamless. Every edit feels natural. No flash frames, no amateurish work here. Indistinguishable from a theatrical release

Audio Editing
Again, flawless work. Not a single stray audio note that I could find and again, indistinguishable from a theatrical release.

So before I get into the narrative, this edit represents everything that every faneditor should be aspiring to create. Each edit is hidden. No change stands out. If you were to show this to a person who'd never seen the original, I guarantee you they'd think it was simply the theatrical version. It is as good as it gets.

But where it really matters is the narrative.
Truth be told, I hated the original. To be clear, 21 Grams IS a very good movie, but it's not a very enjoyable movie. After watching it, my wife and I swore to never watch it again. We only bought it so that I could provide some feedback to Gatos on his workprint. The original beats the viewer down at every turn. The non-linear editing of the original is a constant weight that makes it actually feel oppressive, and when the movie finally fades to black the message is haunting, desolate and barren.

Gatos' edit reveals that the story itself is actually.. beautiful. To borrow a theme from one of my all-time favorite movies.. "Look closer...". Freed from the constant jumping around of the original, Gatos' linear approach allows you to experience the story as a normal person would, you feel the devastation of loss, the rebuilding.. the challenges.. and in the end, even though it ends exactly the same way.. the journey feels like a validation or vindication of life, rather than feeling life is fleeting, pathetic and pointless.

It's important to note however, Gatos didn't just put it chronological order. There was a great deal of leeway he had in how to stitch the pieces together and still be 'chronological'. But the timing of his edits, the sequences that he juxtaposed against each other were truly wonderful. Each cut is perfectly paired with the piece that comes before and after, it helps guide your emotional journey in watching the events unfold.

It's pretty much unfair praise, but I'm doing it anyway.. When I walked out of seeing American Beautify the first time I knew I had seen Best Picture for that year. It was impressive and.. beautiful even though tragic. That is what Gatos has created here. For me it was every bit as rewarding as AB.

Well done Gatos.. 10/10 across the board. Best edit I have ever seen. Bar-none.

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Yes
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