You could fill a junkyard with the wreckage of films taken out of their creators’ hands to be “saved” by someone else. The self-appointed “savior” is usually the producer, but even when the execs are smart and sensitive, their interference is rarely beneficial. Usually the “saving” does little more than give the public the shattered distortions of a filmmaker’s intentions.
Case in point, Joseph Losey’s Eva. To judge from the director’s comments, it was potentially a masterpiece, but it is usually seen in a form truncated by its producers, the Hakim brothers. (The Kino DVD provides that version and a copy of the full-length cut made from a less than optimal 16mm print.) While the testimony of angry artists should always be taken with a grain of salt, the Hakim brothers had a reputation for high-handed behavior. So Losey’s complaints probably were warranted.
He often referred to Eva as his breakthrough. After working for years on exploitation projects, sometimes not even able to use his name (because of the Hollywood blacklist), Eva gave him a big budget, stars (Jeanne Moreau and Stanley Baker), photogenic backdrops (Rome and Venice) and the expressive freedom typical of the post-war art film. And in spite of the hatchet editing job, the best in the film testifies to his assurance and command of the medium. Moreau’s first full scene, for example, is a lengthy, single shot as she wanders footloose around a bedroom, slowly stripping to take a bath, the camera moving around her with all the silky sexiness of the director’s best work.
Unfortunately, the insensitive editing makes clear character development impossible. Tyvian Jones (Baker) is a successful novelist, Eve Olivier (Moreau) a high-priced prostitute who warns him not to fall in love with her. Thinking he is in control, Jones becomes little better than her lap dog, destroying his marriage and career in pursuit of an elusive something that Eve seems to represent. His humiliation is so total that we need to understand his motivation beyond the initial physical attraction. To be sure, Moreau burns up the screen, but Eve’s narcissism borders on sadism, so it is difficult to understand why the otherwise self-assured Jones would want to spend anything more than a wild weekend with her. The explanation for his groveling might have been in the director’s cut, but the shortened version bewilders as it jumps around haphazardly.
To be fair, Losey had a penchant for obtuse motivation, so the problem might have been there regardless. On the other hand, given that his next film, The Servant, is recognized as one of his major achievements, there is a good chance Eva might have lived up to the director’s expectations. So the Hakims could have been credited with helping a director create one of his greatest films. Instead, their interference achieved very little beyond the assumption, fair or otherwise, that Eva’s flaws result from their loutish mishandling.