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Cutter and Bone is an odd movie with an odd history. Directed by Ivan Passer , it's about a maimed Vietnam veteran who obsessively solves a murder case, pinning the crime on a powerful capitalist. It was released by United Artists a few weeks ago. Many critics loved it while many audiences loathed it. Box office returns were dismal. Buoyed by the good reviews, though UA Classics is giving the film another shot, with a new campaign and a new title -- "Cutter's Way." The ads now stress the fantasy element, not the whodunit plot, and a "select" audience (more conscious of "artistic values") is being sought. Technically, it's an ingenious film, with powerful moods and a unique performance by John Heard, among others. Will audiences respond to its new promotion? Or is its atmosphere simply too dark, with its portrait of a decaying California society and occasional images of sensuality and despair? Time will tell.

But regardless of the movie itself, it's heartening to note the optimism of director Passer, who insists that a whole new generation of film-wise viewers is coming up fast, and that the days of stupid, overbudgeted, underbrained pictures may be about to pass. Whatever happens to the controversial "Cutter's Way," let's hope Passer's vision prevails.

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