Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne also feels exhausted by the trend in recent years to continually increase the running times of films. “You want your film to be as short as possible. There are too many damn long films these days,” said the director of “The Holdovers” in conversation at the Middleburg Film Festival on Saturday, October 21st.
To be clear, Payne isn’t saying he’s against every movie that takes up an eighth of a day, but “if your movie is three and a half hours long, at least let it be the shortest possible version of a three and a half hour movie,” he said. “Like ‘The Godfather Part II’ [and] Seven Samurai are extremely tight three and a half hour films, and they fly by. So there is no ipso facto judgment about length.”
Elaborating more on his personal philosophy of filmmaking, Payne said: “Film is a constant search for economics. You want the script to be as short as possible. You want the acting to be as brisk as possible, regardless of the basic rhythm of the film. And then when you cut it, you want it to be as short as possible, but not shorter.”
The “Sideways” director counts himself as one of the filmmakers who could be even better here. Speaking before the screening of “The Holdovers” at the Virginia Festival, where he received the MFF Director Spotlight Award, he joked about extending the running time of his acclaimed new film about a moody history teacher and a rebellious student who falls for the Still wanting to shorten the fact that he was stuck in boarding school during the winter holidays of 1970. “It’s still a bit long. We started screening and [at] At the first few festivals I looked at the program and it said 133 minutes. I had to call the studio and say, ‘I don’t think it’s 133 minutes,'” Payne said. “I thought we got it down to about 124. ‘No, after the credits there are 133.'”
However, he said, “I’ve only done one movie that isn’t somehow too long.” His Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon starrer “Election” from 1999, for which Payne earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay received, “has a very good metronome, [almost] “Sharkish,” he said.