Curtiss Clayton on Film Editing, followed by To Die For

Editor Curtiss Clayton has worked with many directors-Jonathan Kaplan, Bill Duke, Vincent Gallo, Philip Haas, and others-but perhaps his most profound relationship developed during a quartet of collaborations with Gus Van Sant. For this special lecture, Clayton shares his thoughts on the art and craft of film editing, illustrating them with sequences from Van Sant's To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon. We'll see alternative cuts of scenes demonstrating how Clayton and Van Sant sought multiple editorial rhythms and compositions, until a stylish syntax emerged that supported the film's satiric and tabloid-like deportment. Clayton concludes his talk with a question-and-answer session with the audience and then a complete screening of To Die For beginning at about 8:30.

To Die For is a sly, sardonic, and sassy exposé of America's obsession with fame. Whether it is as the weather girl on a backwater cable show, or preening before the media at a funeral, Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman), a pert siren of alarming aspiration, soaks up celebrity. But her hometown of Little Hope, New Hampshire, offers just that, little hope. Kidman's chilling telecaster, at once small-town cute and big-time cutthroat, captures blonde ambition with caustic precision. To head for celebrity central, Stone must cut her losses, a dead-weight husband played by drolly good-looking Matt Dillon. Her arsenal: a dimwitted teenager, a benumbed Joaquin Phoenix, who'll do anything for the lady with the shapely weather map. Based on a notorious true crime, Buck Henry's darkly comic screenplay indicts our murderous meteorologist, but also glowers at her jury of peers. "What's the point of doing anything worthwhile if people aren't watching?" Stone's lethal self-delusions seep out into a larger culture with like obsession.

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