Patrice Chereau edited the original cut of the film (roughly 160 minutes) to a smaller 138 minutes for international release. This was due to a disappointing box-office performance in France and the criticism (by, among others, Variety critic Todd McCarthy) of the film as being too violent and often incoherent. The French press were scathing of this 'American censorship' (they described the film as having been 'given a face-lift' for American audiences) but the new version was defended by various French critics being both more coherent whilst also maintaining Chereau's artistic vision. The shorter cut was later released in France too, in the hopes of increasing the film's box-office takings.
The film was the highest-grossing foreign film in Britain during the year of its release; its box office gross of £600,000, at the time, ranked it amongst the highest grossing foreign films of all time in the UK.
The scene between Margot and La Mole, where they stand outdoors wrapped in nothing but a red cloak, was included for the American release even though it had not appeared in the original cut. The American distributors had insisted on the relationship between the two characters being more substantial (the romance was to become the focal point for the American marketing campaign).