Philosophy Of Nonlinearity

Perhaps the most useful way to suggest a philosophy on nonlinearity is to begin with an operating principle related to expectations. Just as nonlinear editing has been called random access editing, sourcing shots, scenes, and sounds on an as-needed basis, we can view the narrative style of the nonlinear narrative as having an equally random quality. A does not follow B cause is not followed by effect. The result is an altered narrative shape sufficiently unpredictable as to create a spontaneity...

And Continuity

Much has been written suggesting that the art of film is editing,1 and numerous filmmakers from Eisenstein to Welles to Peckinpah have tried to prove this point. However, just as much has been written suggesting that the art of film is avoidance of editing,2 and filmmakers from Renoir to Ophuls to Kubrick have tried to prove that point. No one has managed to reconcile these theoretical opposites this fascinating, continuing debate has led to excellent scholarship,3 but not to a definitive...

Change In Location

This principle of cutting each shot down to its essence can be applied to show a character changing location. Rather than show the character move from point A to point B, the editor often shows her departing. If she is traveling by car, some detail about the geography of the area is appropriate. Unless there is a dramatic point to the scene other than getting the character from point A to point B, the editor then cuts to a street sign or some other indication of the new location. If the...

Dialogue And Character

Black Sunday (1977), directed by John Frankenheimer, is the story of a terrorist plot to explode a bomb over the Super Bowl. The plot is uncovered by an Israeli raid in Beirut, and the story that unfolds contrasts the terrorists' attempts to carry out the attack and the FBI's efforts to prevent it. For the authorities, this means finding out how the attack will be conducted and who will carry it out. Dalia (Marthe Keller) and Michael (Bruce Dern) are the primary terrorists. She is a...

Dialogue And Plot

The direction of a dialogue sequence is influenced by the genre, and certain genres (the melodrama, for example) tend to be more sedentary and dependent on dialogue than others. The action-adventure genre, which is less reliant on dialogue, offers an example of more fluid editing. In The Terminator (1984), James Cameron used an interesting dialogue sequence to advance the plot. Reese and Sara Connor are being chased by the Terminator. Their car weaves and crashes throughout this sequence. They...

Dialogue As Sound

A key question related to the narrative goal of a scene is whether the dialogue plays a central role. Numerous directors use dialogue indirectly. Although this is the exception, some directors like Robert Altman, Richard Lester, and, more recently, Jim Jarmusch and Terry Malick have used dialogue as a sound effect rather than for the information it imparts. This question must be asked throughout the sound edit because some dialogue is crucial, and some is not. For the editor, the distinction...

Digital Technology II

In the last chapter we introduced the notion that there is a tradition of nonlinear storytelling and that the technological shift to nonlinear editing has accelerated the consideration that this alternative approach to story is a viable option. As an option, however, it proceeds differently regarding shot selection and pace principally because the audience no longer experiences the narrative through a single main character nor is the audience following the experience of that character from...

Filmography

Addams Family, The (1991), Barry Sonnenfeld, United States Adventures of Dolly, The (1908), D. W. Griffith, United States Age d'Or, L' (1930), Luis Bunuel, France Aguirre The Wrath of God (1972), Werner Herzog, West Germany Alexander Nevsky (1938), Sergei Eisenstein, USSR Alfie (1966), Lewis Gilbert, Great Britain Alice in the Cities (1974), Wim Wenders, Germany Aliens (1986), James Cameron, United States All About Eve (1950), Joseph Mankiewicz, United States All That Jazz (1979), Bob Fosse,...

Fourth Edition

AMSTERDAM BOSTON HEIDLEBERG LONDON NEW YORK OXFORD PARIS SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO SINGAPORE SYDNEY TOKYO Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier 30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USA Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK Copyright 2007, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,...

General Goals Of The Sound Edit

The first task that the editor faces is determining the narrative point of the scene. The narrative point must be supported or, more precisely, surrounded by sound. In a film like Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (1965), which was a dramatic re-creation of the Algerian struggle for independence from France, authenticity is central to our involvement with the film's story. Because the film was composed entirely of re-created footage (not news-reel footage) of the war, the sound effects...

Want to live

In I Want to Live , Wise again dealt with a story in which the inner life of the character comes into conflict with society's view of that person (Figure 5.1). In this case, however, the consequences of the difference are dire. In the end, the main character is executed by society for that difference. Barbara Graham enjoys a good time and can't seem to stay out of trouble. She perjures herself casually and thus begins her relationship with the law. Figure 5.1 I Want to Live , 1958. 1958 United...

Ideas about society

The coming of sound was closely followed by shattering world events. In October 1929, the U.S. stock market crash signaled the onset of the Great Depression. Political instability led to the rise of Fascist governments in Italy and Germany. The aftereffects of World War I undermined British and French society. The United States maintained an isolationist position. The period, then, was unpredictable and unstable. The documentary films of this time searched for a stability and strength not...

Ideas and Sound

Just as a visual juxtaposition or a cutaway can introduce a new idea or a new interpretation, so too can sound. Chapter 20 discussed how the narration altered the meaning of the opening visuals in Memorandum (1966). Any of the elements of sound music, sound effects, dialogue can accomplish this. The juxtaposition of different sounds or the introduction of a sound cutaway can be as effective as a visual in introducing an idea. This concept is so important that this chapter is devoted to it....

Imitation versus innovation

There is a definite demarcation point between imitation and innovation. Imitation is simply referential we have seen it before, and the implication is we've seen it too often. It's become somewhat of a clich . The gunfight in George Stevens' Shane (1953) is a good example. The gunfight between Shane (Alan Ladd) and his antagonist (Jack Palance) is staged in a careful manner. It is referential to many other gunfights we have seen. The result is predictable, imitative. That is not to say that...

Music

The broadest generation of ideas develops from the musical decisions of the filmmaker. The mixture of Home on the Range and the music of Edward William Elgar in Humphrey Jennings's Listen to Britain (1942) suggests that patriotism and culture are a potent mix that suggests national strength. If Jennings had selected only the music of the upper class or of the lower classes, that sense of unity and strength would not have resulted, and the purpose of the film it was a propaganda piece for...

Narrative and style

Style in and of itself can contribute to the narrative or it can undermine the narrative if it is not clearly dramatically purposeful. The elements of style most obvious to the viewer, are compositional elements camera placement, movement, the juxtaposition of foreground and background people or things, the light, the sound, and, of course, the editing. Whether the filmmaker relies on the editing, the pace, to explain the narrative, or she avoids editing, moving the camera, using the planes...

Narrative Conventions

The international advances of the 1950s and the technological experiments in wide screen and documentary techniques provided the context for the influence of television and theatre in the 1960s and 1970s. The sum effect was twofold to make the flow of talent and creative influence more international than ever and, more important, to signal that innovation, whether its source was new or old, was critical. Indeed, the creative explosion of the 1950s and 1960s was nothing less than a gauntlet, a...

New Technologies

The 1950s brought many changes to film. On the economic front, the Consent decrees of 1947 (antitrust legislation that led to the studios divesting themselves of the theatres they owned) and the developing threat of television suggested that innovation, or at least novelty, might help recapture the market for film. As was the case with the coming of sound in the late 1920s, new innovations had considerable impact on how films were edited, and the results tended to be conservative initially and...

Notesreferences

Just as Anderson, Reisz and Richardson railed against the British film establishment during this period, Truffaut, Godard, and Chabrol were critical of Claude Autant-Lara, Rene Clement, and the other established directors of the French film industry. 2. Mise-en-scene, or the long take, meant moving the camera to record the action rather than ordering the action by fragmenting and editing the sequence. 3. The personalized reference in this prologue is typical of the New Wave. One of the moving...

Organization Of This Book

This book is organized along similar lines to the Reisz-Millar book. However, the first section, the history section, is more detailed not only because the post-1968 period had to be added, but also because the earlier period can now be dealt with in a more comprehensive way. Research on the early cinema and on the Russian cinema and translations of related documents allowed a more detailed treatment than was available to Karel Reisz in 1952. Many scholars have also entered the theoretical...

Origins

Although Luis Bunuel's early antinarrative experiments in Un Chien d'Andalou (1929) and L'Age d'Or (1930) bear certain similarities to the contemporary music video, the more critical shaping device is music that has a narrative as well as emotional character. This means that we have to look to the two early Beatles' films, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help (1965) for a starting point in the mid-60s. Very quickly, the Lester films were joined by John Boorman's film with The Dave Clark Five,...

Pace

Lean did not rely on pace as much as other directors working in similar genres. That is not to say that the particular sequences he created don't rely on the tension that more rapid pace implies. It's just that it is rare in his films. One such sequence whose success does rely on pace is all the more powerful because it's a complex sequence, and as the climax of the film, it is crucial to its success the climax of The Bridge on the River Kwai. The group of three commandos has arrived in time to...

Pare Lorentz And the plow that broke the plains

A more critical view of society was taken by Pare Lorentz in The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936), a film sponsored by the Resettlement Administration of the U.S. government. Lorentz looked at the impact of the Depression on the agricultural sector. The land and the people both suffered from natural as well as human-made disasters. The purposive message of the film is that government must become actively involved in recovery programs to manage these natural resources. Only through government...

Realism As A Goal

Naturalistic sound effects and believable dialogue are the basis for creating a realistic film. How far should the editor proceed to achieve this goal The answer to this question is as important as the editor's understanding of the narrative point and emotional character of a scene. In the rough cut, the editor must begin to catalogue a series of sounds that will support the realism of a scene. These sounds can be the underpinnings to the narrative and dramatic center of the scene, or they can...

Robert wise

Wise is probably best known as the editor of Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Within two years, he codi-rected his first film at RKO. As with many American directors, Wise spent the next 30 years directing in all of the great American genres the Western (Blood on the Moon, 1948), the gangster film (Odds Against Tomorrow, 1959), the musical (West Side Story, 1961), and the sports film (The Set-Up, 1949). He also ventured into those genres made famous in...

Sound Effects

Sound effects can be equally powerful in their introduction of an idea into a scene. The classic example is the scream in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935). As we hear the scream, we see a train. Not only is a transition accomplished, but the simulation of human and mechanical elements makes the human response seem louder and more terrifying. In Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954), the attack on the village provides an excellent example of the use of sound, space, and loudness. When the attackers...

Technological improvements

It awaited a wide variety of technological improvements in addition to the decision to run sound and film at 24 frames per second (constant sound speed) rather than the silent speed of 16 frames per second (silent speed of film). By 1929, camera blimps were developed to rescue the camera from being housed in the ice box, a sound-proofed room that isolated camera noise from the action being recorded. As camera blimps became lighter, the camera itself became...

Technological limitations

Although experiments in sound technology had been conducted since 1895, it was primarily in radio and telephone transmission technology that advances were made. By 1927, when Warner Brothers produced the first sound (voice) feature film, The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, at least two studios were committed to producing sound films. The Warner Brothers system, Vitaphone, was a sound-on-disk system. The Fox Corporation invested in a sound-on-film system, Movietone. Photophone, an optical system...

Television

No post-war change in the entertainment industry was as profound as the change that occurred when television was introduced. Not only did television provide a home entertainment option for the audience, thereby eroding the traditional audience for film, it also broadcast motion pictures by the 1960s. By presenting live drama, weekly series, variety shows, news, and sports, television revolutionized viewing patterns, subject matter, the talent pool,1 and, eventually, how films were edited....

The Comedy Director

Comedy may be a difficult genre to direct, but there are some directors who have been superlative. Aside from the great character comics who became directors Chaplin, Keaton, and, in our time, Woody Allen a relatively small number of directors have been responsible for most of the great screen comedies. Ernst Lubitsch was the best at coaxing more than one meaning from a witty piece of dialogue. His films, including Noel Coward's Design for Living (1933), Samson Raphaelson's Trouble in Paradise...

The Documentary

Griffith and his contemporaries were part of a growing commercial industry whose prime goal was to entertain. This meant that the ideas presented in their films were subordinate to their entertainment value. Griffith attempted to present conceptual material about society in Intolerance and failed. Although other filmmakers such as King Vidor (The Crowd, 1928), Charlie Chaplin (The Gold Rush, 1925), and F. W. Murnau (Sunrise, 1927) blended ideas and entertainment values more successfully,...

The Early Sound Film

A great many innovations in picture editing were compromised with the coming of sound. The early sound films have often been called filmed plays or radio plays with pictures as a result of the technological characteristics of early sound. In this period, however, there was an attempt to come to grips with the theoretical meaning of sound as well as an attempt to find creative solutions to overcome its technological limitations and to return to a more dynamic style of editing. It is to these...

The Framework

If there is no main character, no resolution, what are the goals of the editing of the nonlinear film The first goal must be to assure that the narrative coheres, that it holds together. Each of the narrative tools of character, structure, genre, and tone may be used, but it is structure that is most critical in a macro sense.2 The structural option most directly applicable to the nonlinear film is a shaping device. The murderous career of Mickey and Mallory is the shaping device in Natural...

The Limits Of Technology

The best place to begin is to state the obvious that a computer-driven editing machine such as an Avid or Lightworks, no matter how sophisticated, cannot make the creative decision of where to cut and why. The decisions for continuity or dramatic emphasis are creative, if you wish aesthetic, choices. They are made by the editor or the editor or with the director or producer. The speed of computer-assisted editing will enable creative decisions to be arrived at more quickly than earlier editing...

The media looks at itself

Just as the character stands apart and comments on himself within the film, so too does the media. The MTV style embraces a self-reflexivity of the particular form, film or video, upon itself, its power, and its manipulative techniques. The MTV style also embraces a referential base to comment upon as well as to include other media. Top Gun deploys and celebrates the techniques of the TV commercial the recent music videos of Madonna reference the paintings of Frida Kahlo and Michael Jackson's...

The moment as eternity the extreme closeup

There is perhaps no sequence in film as famous as the shower scene in Psycho.1 The next section details this sequence more precisely, but here the use of the extreme close-up will be the focus of concern. The shower sequence, including prologue and epilogue, runs 2 minutes and includes 50 cuts. The sequence itself focuses on the killing of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a guest at an off-the-road motel run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). She is on the run, having stolen 40,000 from her...

The musical

The musical's importance is underlined by the success of The Jazz Singer (1927), the first sound picture. As mentioned earlier, however, the early sound films that favored dialogue-intensive plots tended to be little more than filmed plays. By the early 1930s, however, many directors experimented with camera movement to allow for a more dynamic approach, and post-synchronization (adding sound after production is completed) freed the musical from the constraints of the stage. As early as 1929,...

The Popular Arts

Film as a narrative form had numerous influences, particularly the popular novel of the nineteenth-century1 and the theatrical genres of spectacle, pantomime, and melodrama.2 The character and narrative conventions of those forms were adapted for film through editing. The types of shots required and how they were put together are the subject of Chapter 1. This chapter is concerned with the ongoing development in the popular arts and how they affected editing choices. In some cases (radio,...

The Role Of Experimental And Documentary Films

Although the early innovations in film occurred in mainstream commercial movies, many innovations also took place in experimental and documentary films. The early work of Luis Bunuel, the middle period of Humphrey Jennings, the cinema verit work of Unit B of the National Film Board of Canada, and the free associations of Clement Perron and Arthur Lipsett (also at the National Film Board), contributed immeasurably to the art of editing. These innovations in editing visuals and sound took place...

The Role Of Technology

Film has always been the most technology-intensive of the popular arts. Recording an image and playing it back requires cameras, lights, projectors, and chemicals to develop the film. Sound recording has always relied on technology. So, too, has editing. Editors needed tape, a splicer, and eventually a motorized process to view what they had spliced together. Moviolas, Steenbecks, and sophisticated sound consoles have replaced the more basic equipment, and editroids, when they become more...

The selfreflexive dream state

To create a dream state is to imply that the viewer temporarily loses oneself in that state. The self-reflexive dream state suggests that on another level, viewers watch or reflect upon themselves dreaming, or to put it another way, to be simultaneously very involved and not involved at all. Turning back to the Monty Python films, as well as the Beatles films, there is in both the acknowledgement by the characters that they are performing as well as participating. Almost ironic in tone, these...

The setup

The Set-Up is the story of Stoker Thompson's last fight. Stoker is 35 and nearing the end of his career he is low on the fight card but has the will to carry on. He fights now in a string of small towns and earns little money. This screen story takes place entirely on the evening of the fight. Stoker's manager has agreed to have his fighter lose to an up-and-coming boxer, Tiger Nelson. But the manager, greedy and without confidence in Stoker, keeps the payoff and neglects to tell Stoker he is...

The short film

The short film and its relationship to the short story, as well as to the world of the visual arts, has yielded many explorations of form, the creations of particular styles. The work of Luis Bunuel, Maya Daren, and the more recent work of Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol are marked by a number of characteristics we now find in the MTV style. So too video art. The antinarrative position of Bunuel, and the stream of consciousness visual style of Maya Daren have far more in common with the MTV style...

The Sound Edit And The Dramatic Core

Every film has a central idea that drives the story. This dramatic core may be reinforced by the film's sound. It is useful to find a powerful sound idea to support that dramatic core from the perspective of the sound. The sounds of nature deployed by Jean-Jacques Annaud in The Bear were mentioned earlier. Clint Eastwood used jazz improvisation in Bird (1988), the story of Charlie Parker. Performance pieces punctuate the film, but beyond that, the improvisation dictates the dramatic structure...

The Sound Edit And The Picture Edit

To understand the goals of the rough sound edit, it is critical to understand the goals of the picture edit because they must proceed in tandem. They should help to clarify the narrative, and they should support the emotional character of the scene. The deployment of particular types of sound can help the audience maintain a sense of time and place and can clarify the movement from place to place. It is useful to use special sounds as motifs for particular characters. Sound should help create...

The theatre

Like the musical, the theatre became an important influence on film with the coming of sound. Many plays, such as Oscar Wilde's The Marriage Circle (1924), had been produced as silent films, but the prominence of dialogue in the sound movies and the status associated with the stage provided the impetus for the studios to invite playwrights to become screenwriters. Samuel Raphaelson, who wrote The Jazz Singer, and Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, who wrote The Front Page (1931), are among those...

Theatre

If the influence of television in this period was related to the search for immediacy, the influence of theatre was related to the search for relevance. The result of these influences was a new freedom with narrative and how narrative was presented through the editing of film. During the 1950s, perhaps no other filmmaker was as influential as Ingmar Bergman. The themes he chose in his films relationships (Lesson in Love, 1954), aging (Wild Strawberries, 1957), and superstition (The Magician,...

Time And PlacE

Pace can help establish a sense of time and place. Examples from Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) and Barry Lyndon (1975) were discussed in Chapter 10. Kubrick exploited pace to the same extent in the battle for Hue in Full Metal Jacket (1987) (Figure 26.1) as he did in his earlier Figure 26.1 Full Metal Jacket, 1987. Courtesy of British Film Institute. Figure 26.1 Full Metal Jacket, 1987. Courtesy of British Film Institute. works. The pace of the sequences, the cinema v rit camera...

Timing

One element of pace is the timing of particular shots. Where in a sequence should a particular close-up or cutaway be positioned for maximum impact When is a subjective shot more powerful than an objective one What is the most effective pattern of crosscutting between shots or juxtapositions within shots These are editing decisions that directly affect the issue of dramatic effectiveness. The editor's understanding of the purpose of the sequence as a whole helps her make these decisions. The...

Transition And Sound

Dialogue, sound effects, and, occasionally, music are used as bridging devices to unite scenes. Transition is necessary to imply continuity when changes in location or time are involved. A dialogue overlap between scenes or a sound effect dissolve from one scene to another will imply that transition. Editors often rely on repetition, or the echo effect, to achieve this transition. A word is repeated at the end of one scene and at the beginning of another, or a sound effect may be used. For...

W S Van Dyke And the city

In the late 1930s, the American Institute of Planners commissioned a film about the future city to be shown at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. W. S. Van Dyke and Ralph Steiner, working from a script by Henwar Rodak- iewicz and Lewis Mumford (and an outline by Pare Lorentz), fashioned a story about the future that arises out of the past and present. The urgency of the new city is born out of contemporary problems of urban life. The images of those problems are in sharp contrast to the...

Kubrick New Worlds And Old

Stanley Kubrick has made films about a wide spectrum of subjects set in very different time periods. Coming as they did in an era of considerable editing panache, Kubrick's editing choices, particularly in 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) and Barry Lyndon (1975), established a style that helped create the sense of the period. 2001 A Space Odyssey begins with the vast expanse of prehistoric time. The prologue proceeds slowly to create a sense of endless time. The images are random and still. Only...

Where we are nowthe state of the mtv style

Because of the volume of music videos produced to promote records and because TV stations and international networks welcome programming that appeals to the 15- 25-year-old audience, MTV is not only here to stay, it is a powerful force in broadcasting. Its interrelationship with advertising underpins its influence. Consequently, we must view the MTV style as a new form of visual storytelling. Part narrative, part atmosphere, sound intensive, and image rich, the form has a remarkable appeal to...

Dramatic discovery cutting on motion

This sense of punctuation via editing is even more compelling in a brief sequence in Spellbound. John Ballantine (Gregory Peck) has forgotten his past because of a trauma. He is accused of posing as a psychiatrist and of killing the man he is pretending to be. A real psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) loves him and works to cure him. She has discovered that he is afraid of black lines across a background of white. Working with his dream, she is convinced that he was with the real psychiatrist who...

Rouben mamoulians Applause

As Lucy Fischer suggests, Mamoulian seems to 'build a world' one that his characters and audience seem to inhabit. And that world is 'habitable' because Mamoulian vests it with a strong sense of space. Unlike other directors of the period he recognizes the inherent spatial capacities of sound and, furthermore, understands the means by which they can lend an aspect of depth to the image.2 Applause (1929) is a tale of backstage life, and it creates a world surrounded by sound (Figures 2.8 and...

The orthodoxy of the visual the chase

The famous cornfield sequence in North by Northwest (1959) is unembel-lished by sound (Figure 6.1). Without using music until the end of the sequence, Hitchcock devoted a 91 2-minute sequence to man and machine Roger Thorndike (Cary Grant) chased by a biplane. As usual in Hitchcock's films, the death of one or the other is the goal. In this sequence of 130 shots, Hitchcock relied less on pace than one might expect in this type of sequence. In a sense, the sequence is more reminiscent of the fun...

Altering Meaning Away From The Literal

The imaginative documentary uses the tools of editing to fashion a unique interpretation from documentary footage. That this can be done is a tribute to the power of editing and to the imagination of such filmmakers as Robert Flaherty, Humphrey Jennings, and Lindsay Anderson. The editor has many options for creating a new interpretation of reality. The editing style of Leni Riefenstahl in Olympia (1938) is an excellent example. Sound offers many options, as does the juxtaposition of sequences...

Vaudeville

In the work of Griffith and Vidor, narrative goals affected editing choices. In the subsequent work of Eisenstein and Pudovkin, political goals influenced editing choices. Vaudeville, as in the case of the documentary, presented yet another set of priorities, which in turn suggested different goals for editing. Vaudeville, whether associated with burlesque or, later, with the more respectable theatre, offered a different audience experience than the melodramas and epics of Griffith or the...

The downgrading of the plot

It's not that this new audience is disinterested in plot. The success of films such as Amy Heckerling's Clueless (1995) and Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1995) with a young audience is proof that the narrative drive and energy in both of these love stories appeals to that audience. Ironically, both are based upon the novels of Jane Austen. But these films, although popular, are not icons to this young audience. Those filmic icons are Reality Bites, Natural Born Killers, and Slacker (1991)....

WENDERs mixing Popular And Fine Art

Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas, written by Sam Shepard, demonstrates Wend-ers's role as a director who chooses a visual style that is related to the visual arts and a narrative style that is related to the popular form sometimes referred to as the journey. From The Odyssey to the road pictures of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, the journey has been a metaphor to which audiences have related. Wenders used the visual dimension of the story as a nonverbal roadmap to understanding the characters, their...

West side story

Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (1961) is a contemporary musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Instead of the Montagues and the Capulets, however, the conflict is between two New York street gangs the Sharks and the Jets (Figure 5.2). The Sharks are Puerto Rican. Their leader is Bernardo (George Chakiris). The Jets are American, although there are allusions to their ethnic origins as well. Their leader is Riff (Russ Tamblyn). The Romeo and Juliet of the story are Tony...

David lean

Through his experience in the film industry, including his time as an assistant editor and as an editor, David Lean developed considerable technical skill. By the time he became codirector of In Which We Serve (1942) with Noel Coward, he was ready to launch into directing. As a director, he developed a visual strength and a literary sensibility that makes his work more complex than the work of Robert Wise. Lean's work is both more subtle and more ambitious. His experience as an editor is...

The Early Comedy Of Role Reversal

The Lady Eve (1941), by writer-director Preston Sturges, tells the story of a smart young woman (Barbara Stanwyck) who is a professional gambler. She meets a rich young man (Henry Fonda) aboard an ocean liner. She determines their fate they fall in love. When he learns that she is a gambler, he breaks off the relationship. Ashore, filled with the desire for revenge, she dons a British accent and visits his home. She convinces him that, because she looks so much like the first woman, she must be...

The unity of sound

The remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is commendable for its use of style to triumph over substance. If Psycho is the ultimate audience picture, filled with killing and nerve-wrenching unpredictability, The Man Who Knew Too Much is almost academic in its absence of emotional engagement despite the story of a family under threat. Having witnessed the killing of a spy, Dr. McKenna (James Stewart) and his wife Jo (Doris Day) are prevented from telling all they know when their son is...

International Perspectives

Griffith was the first great international filmmaker and that the drop in European production during World War I helped American production assume a far greater international position than it might have otherwise. It should not be surprising, then, that in 1918 Griffith and his editing innovations were the prime influence on filmmakers around the world. In the Soviet Union, Griffith's Intolerance was the subject of intense study for its technical achievements...

Editing Concerns

Beyond understanding the characteristics of the genre he is working with, the editor must focus on the target of the humor. Is it aimed by a character at him- or herself, or does the humor occur at the expense of another Screen comedy has a long tradition of comic characters who are the target of the humor. Beyond these performers, the target of the humor must be highlighted by the editor. If the target is the comic performer, what aspect of the character is the source of the comedy It was the...

Style for its own sake

It is not always the case that style supports the narrative. Often style is presented as a substitute for a weak narrative or is, in the view of the director, a necessary overmodulation simulating the thematic extremes of the narrative. To be specific about style, we need only look to films such as Fellini Satyricon (1970) or Cornel Wilde's Beach Red (1967) to see style overwhelming the content. On the other hand, in each case, the style spoke to the director's view of ancient Rome or about...

Radio

Whether film or radio was a more popular medium in the 1930s is related to the question of whether film or television is a more popular medium today. There is little question today that the influence of television is broader and, because of its journalistic role, more powerful than film. The situation was similar with radio in the 1930s. Radio was the instrument of communication for American presidents (for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats) and for entertainers such as Jack Benny...

The Return Of Miseenscne

As a style, mise-en-sc ne is associated with Orson Welles in Citizen Kane (1941) and Touch of Evil (1958), with Max Oph ls in Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and Lola Mont s (1955). These filmmakers, building upon the work of F. W. Murnau in the 1920s (The Last Laugh, 1924), essentially moved the camera to avoid editing. The elegance of their camera movement recorded performance and added a more subtle editorial direction. In Welles' case, a sense of aesthetic virtuosity was created in the...

Altman the freedom of chaos

Robert Altman is a particularly interesting director whose primary interest is to capture creatively and ironically a sense of modern life. He does not dwell on urban anxiety as Woody Allen does or search for the new altruism a la Sidney Lumet in Serpico (1973) and Prince of the City (1981). Altman uses his films to deconstruct myth (McCabe and Mrs. Miller, 1971) and to capture the ambience of place and time (The Long Goodbye, 1973). He uses a freer editing style to imply that our chaotic times...

The Technological Revolution

Film and video, the two most technology-dependent art forms of the twentieth century, have witnessed a profound acceleration in change, the shift from analog to digital-driven technology. The implications are enormous. In pre-production, computer software is available for pre-visualization of scenes. Color and design opportunities, in essence computer animation, deepens the predictability of the potential elements of an image. During production, nonlinear editing allows for rapid assemblies...

Experimentation with sound

Francis Ford Coppola's entire career seems to have been driven by a need to innovate and to find artistic solutions to narrative goals. Early in his career, he used music to suggest that You're a Big Boy Now (1966) was more than a story of one teenager, but rather like George Lucas's American Graffiti (1973) the story of an entire generation. In The Conversation (1974), he elevated the sound effect to the equivalent of dialogue. The film's lead character is a private investigator who...

An Early Dialogue Sequence

As stated earlier, the very first dialogue sequences were visually structured to facilitate the actual recording of the sound. Consequently, the mid- to long shot was used to record entire dialogue sequences. As the technology developed, more options complemented the midshot approach to the dialogue sequence. But as important as the technology proved to be, the creative options developed by directors were equally effective in broadening the editing repertoire of the dialogue sequence. By...

Amplification

The process of amplification can expand the realism of the film to embrace emotional as well as physical realism, or it can alter the meaning of the visuals to suit the intended vision. The process, then, is not so much emphasis as it is expansion or alteration. Perhaps no task of the sound editor is more important than the decision about physical realism versus emotional realism. The opposite extremes are present in two cinema verite documentaries. Roman Kroitor and Wolf Koenig's Lonely Boy...

Evolution of pace in filmmaking

Eisenstein opened the door on the issue of pace and a wide variety of filmmakers walked through that door. King Vidor effectively used pace to build an aesthetic tension in the march through the woods sequence in The Big Parade. Walter Ruttmann used pace to capture the energy of the city in Berlin Symphony of a Great City. And Frank Capra used pace to energize his dialogue-heavy narrative in You Can't Take it With You. The great leaps forward, however, would await the 1950s. In that decade,...

The Role Of The Editor

It is an overstatement for any one person involved in filmmaking to claim that his or her role is the exclusive source of creativity in the filmmaking process. Filmmaking requires collaboration it requires the skills of an army of people. When filmmaking works best, each contribution adds to the totality of our experience of the film. The corollary, of course, is that any deficit in performance can be ruinous to the film. To put the roles into perspective, it's easiest to think of each role as...

The Case Of The Thin Red Line

Terry Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998) is a war film about the battle for Guadalcanal. War films, whether they focus on a battle, a war, or a patrol that is a minor piece of a war, have a beginning, middle, and end. The end or resolution addresses whether the main character survived or did not. The tone of such films usually varies, ranging from patriotic films such as Guadalcanal Diary (1942) to the antiwar polemic of films such as Too Late the Hero (1970), a Pacific war film made while the...

Feminism and antinarrative editing

Although some female directors have chosen subject matter and an editing style similar to those of male directors,5 there are a number who, like von Trotta, have consciously differentiated themselves from the male conventions in the genres in which they choose to work. For example, Amy Heckerling has directed a teenage comedy from a girl's perspective. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) breaks many of the stereotypes of the genre, particularly the attitudes about sex roles and sexuality....

Intensity the closeup

In Notorious (1946), Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) marries Alex (Claude Rains) in order to spy on him. She works with Devlin (Cary Grant). Alex is suspected of being involved in nefarious activities. He is financed by former Nazis in the pursuit of uranium production. He is the leading suspect pursued by Devlin and the U.S. agency he represents. Alicia's assignment is to discover what that activity is. When she becomes suspicious of a locked wine cellar in the home, she alerts Devlin. He suggests...

Cinema verit

The wide screen forced filmmakers to give more attention to composition for continuity and promoted the avoidance of editing through the use of the foreground-background relationship. Cinema verit promoted a different set of visual characteristics for continuity. Cinema verit is the term used for a particular style of documentary filmmaking. The post-war developments in magnetic sound recording and in lighter, portable cameras, particularly for 16 mm, allowed a less intrusive filmmaking style....

Action

Because film is a visual medium, movement, which was originally the novelty of the medium, has naturally become its showpiece. Nothing better illustrates the power of movement in film than the action sequence. Action sequences are a key reason for the success of the Western and gangster genres. Whether it features a chase, a showdown, or a battle, the action sequence has a visceral appeal for audiences. This type of sequence is not confined to the genres where action seems natural, however....

The Elevation Of Cinema Verite

Cinema verite, beginning with its ideological underpinnings in the work of Dziga Vertov (see Chapter 1), has been principally viewed as affiliated with the documentary. Indeed, together with the personal documentary and the educational-political documentary, cinema verite is one of the 3 principal ideologies of the documentary. Its affiliation with the dramatic film dates from the 1960s the British kitchen sink dramas, the New Wave films of JeanLuc Godard, and the docudramas of Peter Watkins...

Word About Film Examples

When Reisz's book was published, it was difficult to view the films he used as examples. Consequently, a considerable number of shot sequences from the films he discussed were included in the book. The most significant technological change affecting this book is the advent of the VCR and the growing availability of films on videotape, videodisc, and now on digital versatile disc (DVD). Because the number of films available on video is great, I have tried to select examples from these films. The...

Innovations in Documentary I

Too often in the past two decades, the announcement has been made, The documentary is dead. But stubbornly it has not come to pass. The reason, principally, is the documentary's flexibility. For so long associated with educational and political goals, the documentary has more recently aggressively embraced the entertainment impulse that has swept through broadcast news and reality programming. Less obvious but no less important is the documentary's hold on past generations. Its affiliation with...

Changes In The Use Of Narration

Although narration is totally absent (by definition) in cinema verite, it is a formative presence in the other genres of documentary. Narration, as one of the three layers of sound (dialogue and music are the others), is a very powerful tool. As we will see in our discussion of Clement Perron's Day After Day (1965) in Chapter 28, The Sound Edit and Creative Sound, narration has the capacity to alter the meaning of the visual. The classic role of narration, the Voice of God, was essentially...

Randomness upon pace

One of the remarkable elements of editing is that the juxtaposition of any grouping of shots implies meaning. The pacing of those shots suggests the interpretation of that meaning. The consequence of this is seen in microcosm when a random shot or cutaway is edited into a scene it introduces a new idea. This principle is elaborated where there are a number of random shots in a scene. If edited for effect, the combination of shots creates a meaning quite distinct from the sum of the individual...

Imitation and Innovation

In this chapter, we explore a new phenomenon, the movie whose style is created from the context of movie life rather than real life. The consequence is twofold the presumption of deep knowledge on the part of the audience of those forms such as the gangster films or Westerns, horror films or adventure films. And that the parody or alteration of that film creates a new form, a different experience for the audience. This imitative and innovative style is a style associated with the brief but...

The Closeup And The Long Shot

Griffith created a pattern of fragmentation of shots that differentiated long shots, or shots that established location and context, and close-shots, or shots that were emphatic, emotional, and intense. Eisenstein built on Griffith's innovations by using the juxtaposition of images to create conflict. In effect this meant a polarization of the kind of shots used, with Eisenstein using more close-ups than had been the practice. Those directors who sidestepped mise-en-sc ne and chose to be...

Innovations of Sound

In the era of digital Dolby sound, a logical question to pose is whether the technical innovations in sound, which have been considerable, have led to a new aesthetic, or at least to a number of innovations that broaden the sound repertoire. The answer is no and yes. Before we discuss those innovations, it's useful to look at how we have gotten to where we are in sound. As mentioned earlier, the earliest use of sound in film quickly progressed from novelty to creative deployment in the work of...

Leni Riefenstahl And olympia

It would be simple to dismiss Leni Riefenstahl's work as Nazi propaganda (Figure 3.9). Although Riefenstahl's Olympia Parts I and II (1938) are films of the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin and hosted by Adolph Hitler's Nazi government, Riefenstahl's film attempts to create a sensibility about the human form that transcends national boundaries. Using 50 camera operators and the latest lenses, Riefenstahl had at her disposal slow-motion images, microimages, and images of staggering scale. She...

Past Reliance On Linearity

In the period where film and video narratives were popular cultural forms intended for the largest mass audiences on an international as well as national level, linearity as a narrative principle was critical. The codes of linear narrative the goal-directed main character, the antagonist so superior in his counter-goal as to make a hero of the main character, the linear plot veering from point to counterpoint with an accelerating speed, and, of course, the inevitable resolution which justified...

The Wartime Documentary Imagination And Propaganda

The remainder of this chapter provides a more detailed examination of Humphrey Jennings's Listen to Britain (1942). It explores how Jennings edited his film to be more than a record of everyday life in war-torn Britain (Figure 21.1). Figure 21.1 Listen to Britain, 1942. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive. Figure 21.1 Listen to Britain, 1942. Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive. Listen to Britain was one of many documentaries made during World War II. The most...

Innovations in Documentary II

Fahrenheit 9 11 (2004), by Michael Moore, represents a watershed in documentary film history. On one level, having earned almost 200 million, including ancillary revenue, it is the most commercially successful documentary of all time. Earnings rivaled the vast majority of dramatic films made in 2003. On another level, however, the film demarks the adoption of dramatic-entertainment values as opposed to the educational-informational values more often associated with the documentary. Fahrenheit 9...

Interior life as external landscape

The premise of many of Resnais's narratives that the past lives on in the character was very much the issue for both Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. They each found different solutions to the problem of externalizing the interior lives of their characters. When Fellini made 81 2 in 1963, he was interested in finding editing solutions in the narrative. In doing so, he not only produced a film that marked the height of personal cinema, he also explored what, until that time, had been...

The importance of feeling states

One of the central features of the MTV style is the importance of creating a definite feeling state. This is not an issue of the need to challenge the primacy of plot. Rather it begins with the close relationship of the MTV style with music. Music particularly without lyrics synthesizes human emotion. The brain processes sound. It was Bergman who faster than images stated the goal of the film experience it should be like music. This equation of music with heightened emotional experience was...

The Sound Edit and Clarity

In the picture edit, the rough assembly begins the process of narrative clarification. The goal at the end of the rough picture assembly is a clear narrative in which performance and story progression can be evaluated. The goal of the rough sound edit is equivalent to achieve believability of performance and a progressive sense of the story. Issues of dramatic emphasis and metaphor are left for the fine cut for sound as well as visuals. The fine-tuning of the sound edit is discussed in the next...

Role Reversal

In 1982, Blake Edwards wrote and directed Victor Victoria. In the 40 years between The Lady Eve and Victor Victoria, the balance between the verbal and visual elements of comedy shifted. Today's films have a much greater variety of visual humor. Victor Victoria is the story of a young performer, Victoria (Julie Andrews) who is not very successful in 1930s Paris until she meets a gay performer, Toddy (Robert Preston), who suggests that she would improve her career if she pretended to be a man...

Dreamstates subjectivity and motion

Perhaps no film of Hitchcock's is as complex or as ambitious as Vertigo (1958), which is the story of a detective, Scottie (James Stewart), whose fear of heights leads to his retirement (Figure 6.2). The detective is hired by an old classmate to follow his wife, Madelaine (Kim Novak), whom he fears is suicidal, possessed by the ghost of an ancestor who had committed suicide. She does commit suicide by jumping from a church tower, but not before Scottie has fallen in love with her. Despondent,...

Alexander Dovzhenko Editing By Visual Association

In his concept of intellectual montage, Eisenstein was free to associate any two images to communicate an idea about a person, a class, or a historical event. This freedom was similar to Vertov's freedom to be playful about the clash of reality and illusion, as illustrated by the duality of the filmmaking process in The Man with a Movie Camera. Alexander Dovzhenko, a Ukra-nian filmmaker, viewed as his goal neither straight narrative nor documentary. His film Earth (1930) is best characterized...

Artificial Reality

To understand this imagined reality more deeply, its best to consider the operational choices different filmmakers have used to achieve an imagined reality by pushing artifice. Consider five options as pathways to what I will call artificial reality. These pathways are the use of video rather than film, the use of constructed artifice, the use of the imagined over the observational, the use of spectacle, and the use of special effects. Each of these options is clearly artificial. At times, the...