Film Some films are impossible to return to in their theatrical cuts once you've visited their director's cuts or extended versions and Untitled, the longer version of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous is one of them. As The AV Club identifies in adding forty minutes, Crowe doesn't really make substantial changes to the story, "much of it in the form of short conversations and anecdotal fragments depicting life on the road. But those small additions make a huge difference, fleshing out the hero’s unrequited attraction to super-groupie Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson), and showing more clearly how his evolving relationships with the people he was supposed to be covering wound up compromising his objectivity."
After seeing Almost Famous originally at The Filmworks in Manchester, I've since bought the film three times. Firstly the theatrical, full price mind you, from the old Music Zone in Liverpool's Williamson Square (the company which is now essentially trading as That's Entertainment), then Untitled in Region One with the cardboard cover and additional Stillwater EP via playusa.com when that was thing and then again in R2 in an HMV sale (and I can't remember which one). The blu-ray's a confusing animal with its extended version on disc, but no extras and the artwork featuring Penny Lane from the theatrical version. Such are the vagaries of film publishing. Of all of them, the R1's clearly the most beautiful, with its sepia set images plastered across the interior and some effort made to make the Stillwater cd look like a re-release of some old album.
One of the cornerstones of the Untitled's extras is an epic deleted scene of William Miller (Fugit) convincing his mother to let him go on the trip by playing her Zepplin's Stairway to Heaven as a way of demonstrating that rock music is an artform, has depth. As an addition to the film itself this would have been incredibly brave; having the audience sit and listen to all seven minutes of a record in this way isn't something you'd usually see in a relatively commercial film. In the event we didn't have to, the band denied them the usage. As the wikipedia explains:
"Crowe took a copy of the film to London for a special screening with Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. After the screening, Led Zeppelin granted Crowe the right to use one of their songs on the soundtrack — the first time they had ever consented to this since allowing Crowe to use "Kashmir" in Fast Times at Ridgemont High — and also gave him rights to four of their other songs in the movie itself, although they did not grant him the rights to "Stairway to Heaven"."And so the scene appears without sound, and a direction so that viewers can begin listening to the song at the correct moment. Now, fifteen years later, someone has cheekily uploaded the scene to YouTube with the song added for speed:
If nothing else this is a reminder to me that perhaps I don't listen to enough music or rather I don't listen to enough music whilst not attempting something else at the same time even if it's simply trying to get to work. But long ago I made peace with films demanding my sitting time, that I'm more likely to spend ninety-odd minutes in the company of pictures and sound and a narrative. Which isn't to say I haven't had a similar reaction to Frances McDormand in this scene when faced with something of such inarguable majesty.