The Washington Times - November 12, 2008, 11:37AM

“Final cut” (that is, the last word on which version of the movie is shown in theaters) used to be the holy grail for filmmakers. It’s an enticement, something to get a talented and proven commodity to agree to work for you. It’s a sign of respect, an acknowledgment from the suits that they don’t understand filmmaking in the way that a master of the craft does. It’s not something that comes to a director automatically. Consider this fact: After “Citizen Kane,” even Orson Welles didn’t have final cut on his movies.

Which brings us to Baz Luhrmann, the Australian director of exactly four films: “Strictly Ballroom,” “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge!” and this winter’s “Australia.” These are nice little films. “Romeo + Juliet” is an intriguing take on the Shakespearean play, while “Moulin Rouge!” earns its exclamation point: it’s too frenetic, too colorful, but still kind of wonderful. That being said: You wouldn’t confuse either with “Citizen Kane.”

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Yet Mr. Luhrmann has the audacity to think that when a studio gives him a $130 million budget they have no say in the resultant product. This is, at best, laughable and, at worst, megalomania of the first sort. Lou Lumenick has the rundown here, including some mild spoilers. He also has this little nugget:

“Are you kidding?” said Luhrmann when asked to comment on rumours that 20th Century Fox had forced him to change the ending. “It’s really simple: on a Baz Luhrmann film, I decide.”

I mean, really?

Movies are a collaborative process, and there’s nothing worse than a director who refuses to acknowledge that. Some of those collaborators are the money men, for better or worse. Don’t they have some say in how their $130 million gets spent? Or should it all be subject to the whims of a petulant child?