December 11, 1996

As I was walking to work this morning, the idea lodged in my head that, despite the inflexible way I had designed the film, I might actually be able to cut two long shots out of the film entirely and fix a major problem without ruining the cutting continuity. By afternoon, I had convinced myself. This would be a pretty radical move for me--I haven't cut anything significant out of the film yet. Most filmmakers, I dare say, would have removed a lot more of their footage during the editing process, and would have also given themselves the means to do so by covering themselves with alternate camera angles.

The particular problem I'm trying to solve has an interesting history. In the first draft of my script, the couple's sexual problems on their honeymoon were mostly related to Michael's inability to get an erection. My friend Fred, an excellent script advisor and an old collaborator, read the unfinished draft and commented that the film seemed to him to be too much about the absence of the erection, that the impotence issue was drawing attention from the real concerns of the script. I was already way sensitive about writing about impotence, and I decided to rewrite to make the sexual problem a bit more general. One of the changes I made was to let the couple have a tiny bit of successful intercourse early in the wedding night, which, in retrospect, I think was perhaps a cowardly way of getting Michael off the hook.

When I started screening the film, it became clear that audiences found the character of Mimi more unsympathetic than I'd wanted them to. I had to shrug off most of their criticisms of Mimi, because I had set out to make a film about a difficult character and I didn't want to renounce that mission. But one of the criticisms stuck in my mind: several people pointed out that Mimi's anxiety and hostility during the wedding night seemed especially crazy, as Michael clearly had no sexual problems before Mimi started in on him. I began to realize that, because of my sensitivity about the I-word, I had set poor Mimi up by taking away the only evidence that the couple's problems weren't entirely in her head.

Normally I would be stuck with the scene as it was filmed, because I shot so little camera coverage. But, by an amazing coincidence, the material that I would like to remove is in a passage that begins and ends with the actors and the camera in almost exactly the same positions! We'll see if the cut works.

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