Study List: Giannetti, Chapter 4 – “Editing” How did Pudovkin rate film editing (p. 133)? Define editing – joining one strip of film to another (p. 134). Generally known as ‘montage’ in Europe.
The editing spectrum – from sequence shot (realist; uncut), to classical cutting (classical style) to thematic montage (formalist).
Early sequence shots – Lumière Brothers (4-3: Arrival of a Train, 1895). A single take. Time is objective.
Cutting to Continuity (showing an action with omissions) – including establishing shots and fade-in/fade-out; initiated by the ingenious George Méliès (4-4).
D.W. Griffith’s innovations
Classical cutting (Birth of a Nation, 4-5) – the style of Hollywood fiction films; “for dramatic intensity and emotional emphasis.” The director is able to shift the viewer’s perspective at will, and manipulate his reaction. “Breaks down the unity of space, analyzes its components, and refocuses our attention to a series of details.” (p.141)
Analyze stills from Fat City (4-8) and The Last Picture Show (4-12), where a little classical editing can change the meaning of a sequence.
Parallel editing or cross-cutting suggests speed and builds tension, as at the end of Birth of a Nation. Unity of Griffith’s Intolerance – achieved through thematic montage (p. 151).
Further issues in editing
Editing and time: compress it (most movies)? Elongate it (pretty rare, see Eisenstein)? Treat it literally minute for minute (see High Noon, 4-22).
Cutting “at the peak of the content curve.” (p. 145)
“Tact” and judgment reign in the end. Editing is usually subordinated to the needs of the characters and the plot.
Soviet Montage and the Formalist Tradition in Editing
Lev Kuleshov’s famous experiment: proves that ideas in film created by the edited link.
V.I. Pudovkin’s approach to editing – not terribly different from Griffith’s (4-19, Lifeboat: Alfred Hitchcock as Pudovkin’s disciple; his editing principles (“…little black dots…”), and yet he “contradicts” himself in Rope.
Sergei Eisenstein’s theory of editing – dialectical montage; the domination of contrasts (“rapid fire juxtaposition of opposites”) (4-21, The Odessa Steps sequence, the most famous edited sequence in film: down and up; light and dark; close-ups and long shots; general and particular).
André Bazin’s Realist Alternative
His main values (“sense of wonder before the ambiguous mysteries of reality”); his objections to the Soviet school. He was even suspicious of classical cutting. Excessive reliance on editing is too manipulative.
The essential: put all images in the same frame; “unity of space;” Jurassic Park scarier because dinosaurs and humans in same frame (4-24); the street and Harold Lloyd in Safety First (4-26); ghost and Deborah Kerr in same frame in Innocents (4-32) convinces audience that ghost really exists.
Bazin’s attitude toward:
Sound – a welcome addition since it adds realism.
Deep-focus photography: Bazin greatly admired William Wyler. Deep-focus allows a more “realist” unity of time and space and minimizes editing (4-27 – Mizoguchi cuts only when there is a sharp psychological shift within a scene).
Italian Neo-Realism (late 1940s) – Robert Rossellini: “things are there, why manipulate them?”
Widescreen – Akira Kurosawa as early master (4-31): horizontal visual democracy! Bazin would see it as a “step away from the distorting effects of montage.”
The French New Wave had an eclectic style of editing (Bazin, Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol).
Cornfield Chase Scene in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (pp. 182-205): “I would prefer to write all this down, however tiny and short the pieces of film are – they should be written down in just the same way a composer writes down those little black dots from which we get beautiful sound.”