The Weinstein Company successfully marketed the 70mm roadshow run of “The Hateful Eight” as a rare event, although their push was so focused on the format’s big-screen clarity that it glossed over something nearly as extraordinary: The image shown on film was completely untouched by digital technology. Even the vanishingly few films shot on celluloid are routinely scanned into the digital realm, but as cinematographer Robert Richardson told me, Tarantino forbade even the by-now-standard use of a digital intermediate. Although the movie was edited digitally, the 70mm version was physically cut together from the negative and photochemically color-timed, which at this point is the equivalent of writing an 800-page novel on a manual typewriter. (According to Tarantino’s sound mixer, he also forbids the use of re-recorded dialogue, which arguably pushes artistic purism into the realm of fetish.) Unless you’re lucky enough to live near an art house that screens classic on 35mm, the chances are good that “The Hateful Eight” is the only digital-free film you’ve seen in years, and quite possibly the last one you’ll ever see.
It’s also, according to the just-released specifications for the movie’s home video release, the last time you’ll see Tarantino’s preferred “roadshow” cut, at least for a while. Although the Blu-ray will include a featurette called “Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm,” the specifications list the running time as 168 minutes, which is the length of the shorter, intermissionless cut released to theaters after the roadshow exclusive run was over. (The movie will, however, stay in its intended ultra-wide aspect ratio of 2.76:1.) The shorter version was never screened for critics, and having seen the movie in its ideal format twice, I wasn’t eager to overwrite the experience with a version of the film its creator clearly views as inferior, but I’ve been told the wide-release version mostly cuts extraneous details like the conversation about the mysterious provenance of a half-plucked chicken. But if you’re watching a Tarantino movie, the digressions are largely why you’re there — he’s the reigning poet laureate of idly shooting the shit. The shorter version also loses the movie’s intermission, and while that’s a mere formality when an intermission of your own choosing is no farther than the nearest pause button, it’s as much a part of the film as any other. I don’t know how the Act 2 opening with Tarantino narrating the story so far plays when you’re not coming out of a break, but I can only imagine it makes a whole lot less sense.
Making different versions of a movie is sometimes a regrettable commercial necessity: Director’s cuts have their place, as do later reworkings like Michael Mann’s new “revised cut” of “Blackhat.” But omitting a version of the movie that was actually released to theaters and is the directors’ explicit favorite makes makes no sense at all. Realistically, this “Hateful Eight” release is almost certainly a prelude to a future double dip. (A representative of The Weinstein Company did not immediately respond about this or future releases.) But the truth is there’s only one real version of “The Hateful Eight,” and one truncated cut that no one needs to bother with (although it’s only fair to mention that there are many people who think neither version is worth bothering with). If you missed the film in theaters, that’s a shame, but if you’ve waited this long, you’ll have to keep waiting for the real thing.