Belton_Style - III/IIIIIIIIII an SELECT FILMO‘GRAPHY Some...

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Unformatted text preview: III/IIIIIIIIII an SELECT FILMO‘GRAPHY Some Like It Hat (1959) The Terminator (1984) Goodfellos (1990) The Gold Rush (1925) Citizen Kane (1941) Rear Window [1954) Vertigo (1953) SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Bordwell, David. “Classical Hollywood Cinema: Narration Principles and Procedures," to Philip Rosen, ed., Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. _ _ _ _ Bordwell, David. Narration in the Fiction Film. Madison: Umversity of W15- consin Press, 1985. I Bordwell, David, janet Staigex, and Kristin Thompson. The Classmal Holly- wood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. New York: Columbia Universi Press, 1985. ' Bordwell, gavid, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction, 4th ed. New York: McGraw—Hill, 1993. ‘ Eranigan, Edward. Narrative Comprehension and Palm. New York: Routledge, 1992. ' Gaines, Jane, ed. Classical Hollywood Narrative: The Paradigm Wars. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992. . Wolfiflin, Heinrich. Principles of Art History. Translated by M. D. Hotlmger. New York: Dover Publicala'ons, 1932. VIII/Illm CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA: STYLE FILM FORM AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT Classical Hollywood cinema is a character-centered cinema. Not only are narratives structured around the goals of indiVidual characters, but basic elements of film style are also put at the service of character exposition and dramatic development. Even at the level of setting, the narrative machinery seeks to mardmize its use of the medium—to use it to describe character psychology, to visualize the goals and desires of characters, and to convey their development as characters through the action which follows. Classical Economy: The Opening Sequence of Shadow of a Doubt The introductory sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) provides a perfect example of classical economy and etficiency in character delineation. A series of establishing shots connected by dissolves identify the setting of the action as a lower-class neighborhood in Philadelphia. Establish- ing shots function to present the spatial parameters within which the subse- quent ach‘on of a scene takes place. Here, long shots of the city, with derelicts, h-ash, and abandoned cars in the foreground, establish an aura of decadence and decay that dominate our perception of the world into which the dissolves bring us and of the character who Occupies the center of that world. Dis- solves, a fluid form of shot tmnsilfion which involves Eading out on one shot while fading in on another, gradually narrow the spectator's field of view from the entire city, to a specific block, to kids playing stickball in the street, to a rooming house on that block, and Emily to a specific window in that rooming house. The camera looks up from below at the second-story window of the rooming house. Then there is a dissolve to the second-floor interior. The camera tracks {first is, moves bodily) across a room to reveal Uncle Charlie (Joseph Gotten), lying fully dressed in a business suit on a bed in midday and smoking a cigar. On the nighlstand next to him has a wad of high—denomina— tion currency; some of the bills have fallen to the floor; there is also a half empty whiskey glass. The landlady enters through the door, pulls down the blinds of the win- dow, and announces that two men have called looking for him. The lowering 41 i2 PARTI THE MODE OF PRODUCTION § a": 2° 5 a u E _n ._ s "=‘ a; Uiicla Charlie (Ioseph Cotten) lies stretched out on a bed in a rooming house in the opening sequence of Shadow of .1 Doubt. of the blinds casts shadows on Cl-iarlie’s'face. Once she has left, llncle Cl;th rises, drinks the Whiskey, and angrily throws the empty glass into the in the adjoining bathroom, smashing it. Then he walks to the Window, Eises the blinds, and looks out onto the street where the two men stand. tin internal monologue in which we hear his thoughts, Charlie challengesh e men to prove that he has done anything wrong, declaring that they ave nothing on him. Finally, Charlie leaves the room, defiantly walks bythe inen, and subsequently eludes them in a chase through the surrounding ene- merits. the Art of Details This introductory scene establishes Uncle Charlie as an enigmatic figure. lHas clothing and bearing suggest that he is clearly out of place in this lower-ctialsst setting. Yet the money, the whiskey, and his violent-reaction to the news ‘ a he is being followed suggest that he belongs in a criminal milieu. The 1111:?» en—scene (that is, the staging of the sequence) presents Charlie as glmgn w 2 is at the end of his rope. l-lis posture is that of a dead man, a fuby;1 resstp corpse stretched out on a bier in the funeral parlor. The crumpled ] ls rim 1e floor convey his disregard for fmoney. 31-115 detprgsigiiditate is cleary ess a terial wants than 0 unstate spin us 1 . V . res‘l’lltt (iii: is also something monstrous about him. Charlie ns'es, like .Drac; ula from his coffin, when the room is made dark by the landlady s lowering o CHAPTB'! 3 CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD mew.- STYLE 43 the blinds. His subsequent behavior expresses his potential for violence: when he gets up, one of the first things he does is to smash his glass by throwing it across the room into the bathroom sink. At the same time, his actions express tremendous hubris: his internal monologue voices defiance toward his pursuers. At the end of the scene, he goes out to confront them, behaving like a character in a Dostoevski novel who is driven by a desire for such challenges. ' At the same time, the sequence epitomizes the narrative economy and efficiency of classical Hollywood cinema. Every detail in the scene serves a purpose, advances the narrative, and gets “used up" by the conclusion of the scene. The window is there for the camera to enter at the beginning of the scene, for the landlady to pull the blinds down upon, and for Charlie to raise the blinds on and look through to see the men outside. The bed is there for Charlie to lie upon and get up from; the nightstand is there to provide a surface on which the money and the whiskey can be placed. The whiskey glass is there for Charlie to drink out of and- the bathroom sink is there for him to use to smash the whiskey glass. The door is there for the landlady to enter and for Charlie to use upon his exit. By the time Uncle Charlie leaves, every prop and every feature of the room has been used to advance the narrative; the room has been rmrratively exhausted, so to speak, and it is time to move on to the next space. MlSE-EN~SCENE Not every Hollywood film is so meticulous in its use of decor and misc-en- scene: Citizen Kane, for example, overwhelms the spectator with detail, much of which never finds its way into the narrative except as "atmosphere." But films like Shadow afa Doubt reflect the general principles of narrative economy which informs the majority of Hollywood films and sets a standard for efficiency that a surprising number of narratives meet. Elements of film style are not merely ornamental. They are not the superficial coating of a story that could be told in a thousand different ways. Classical Hollywood style he- comes ihe irieans by which narratives are realized; it pr0vides the formal system that enables them to be told. Elements of style serve to shape the narrative. They function to "read" it for the audiences. They draw attention to, under- line, and point out what it is that the audience needs to see or hear in order to read or understand the scene. In presenting stories on the screen, the cinema relies upon actors and actresses to stage events, much as they are staged in the theater. The term “rrdse-en-srene" describes this activity. Misc-en-scene encompasses a variety of “theatrical” categories related to the staging of action. These range from purely theatrical areas of expression, such as set design, costume design, the blocking of actors, performance, and lighting to purely filmic techniques, such as camera movement, camera angle, camera distance, and composition. Strictly speaking, mise—enmscene (or "putting on the stage") includes the relation of everything within the shot to everything else within the shots—of actors to the decor; of decor and actors to the fighting; of actors, decor, and fighting to the camera position; and so forth. In the theater, miseven-scene serves as a "reading" of the acfion. Set design, costume, lighting, and the movement of actors are designed by the stage director (or producer} to present the ideas in the script to the audience in a more or less predigested way. That is, these elements of stagecraft, which are used to organize the drama, "process" the action for the audience. Mise- en—scene translates the contents of a scene into the language of the theater, producing a reading of the action that guides the audience’s attention in specific ways. THE CAMERA In the cinema, theatrical mise—en-scene provides a primary interpretation of the drama. Costume and set design become a reflection of character, as we saw in the introduction of Uncle Charlie lying fully dressed on a bed at midday in Shadow ofa Doubt. Lighting becomes an extension of the character’s psychological make—up into the surrounding space. The shadow of the blind which falls over Charlie’s face entombs him helplessly on his bed in the room and conveys the concern that creeps over him about the two men waiting outside for him in the street. The mise-en-scene’s "theatrica " reading of the action" is driven home, in turn, by means of a variety of uniquely cinematic techniques, such as camera position (which includes the camera's angle on and distance from the action) and camera movement (which includes pans, tracks, zooms, and combinations of all three). Thus, the low-angle shot of Uncle Charlie from below as he looks out of the window, coupled with the high-angle shot Erom above of what he sees (the two men outside), communicate ideas. They function in terms of both their narrative context and their relation to one another in a system of other shots to convey a sense of conflict or Opposition between his view and physical position in space and theirs. These two seemingly insignificant shots help to set up the tense controntation which follows, when Charlie wallcs directly toward, then past the two men. Meaning through Context: Camera Angle and Distance Camera angle and distance become expressive devices as a result of their participation in systems of difference. They possess no absolute meaning, but derive their meaning through a relative process that depends upon the specific dramatic context in which they are used and upon their relation to other possible angles and distances. Thus, a low-angle shot, in which the camera looks up at the action, might acquire meaning through a process of association, becoming identified with a specific character or situation that it is repeatedly used to film. i‘ r I i A-low-angle shot of Kane (Orson Welles) and his friend Leland {Joesph Gotten) after Kane's defeat at the polls. CHAPTER 3 CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINENW STYLE 45 At the same time, the particular meaning. of a low-angle shot derives not only from the content of the shot but also from the relation of that particular angle to the other angles used in the film, that is, from its place in a system of differences. Thus, a particular low-angle shot differs not only from other low— angle shots (which look up at different angles), but also from eye-level and high-angle shots, in which the camera looks at the action straight on or from above, respectively. It is often tempting to view low- or high-angle shots in somewhat literal terms as descriptive of the relative power of a character; thus, when the camera looks up at a character, it (and we) occupy an inferior position in relation to that character. As a result, our impression of that character's power or stature is thereby magnified. Similarly, high—angle shots automatically posrhon viewers above the action, giving them a quasi-omniscient, quasi- omntpotent, god’s-eye view of the action, indicating the relative weakness or inferiority of any onscreen character. However, this literal interpretation of camera angle proves to be rather limited, especially when it ignores the context In which the shot occurs. Thus the low-angle shot of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) in Citizen Kane (1941) as he stands in his deserted campaign headquarters and talks to his friend Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten) after his defeat in the race for state governpr conveys contradictory ideas. Kane’s power and mystery are sug— gested In the camera angle—yet in losing the election he has just proven how vulnerable he is. The extremity of the low angle actually captures his power- ful powerlessness, trunking it appear as if the character is about to topple over: Something similar takes place at the end of Ace in the Hole (1951). The film's central character, a newspaper reporter named Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) turns the Simple rescue of a man trapped in a cave accident into a sensational front—page story, then delays the rescue process in order to further his own career as a journalist. Frame enlargement by Kristin Thampsah 46 PART! THE MODE OF FRODUCTLON After the man dies, Tath is himself fatally wounded by the man’s wife. Back at his newspaper office, Tatum renounces the fame he has won through his coverage of the story. As he does so, director Billy Wilder films him in an extreme low—angle shot. The exaggeration of the angle serves to caricature his excessive abuse of the power of the press and look askance at his greed and self-interest; the shot concludes as Tatum drops dead on the floor, falling right into the camera. This particular low-angle shot can hardly be under- stood as a signifier of his power; rather it dramatizes the terrible conse- quences of too much power. Systematic Meaning: Some Definitions At the same time, camera angle and distance determine meaning system- atically. They participate in a system of differences which varies hrom film to film. Thus the extreme camera angles and distances employed in a Welles film, such as Citizen Kane, differ significantly from the more moderate angles and distances found in a film directed by Howard Hawks, such as Bringing Up Baby (1938) or His Girl Friday (1940). In Kane, the extreme close-up of Welles’s lips as he utters the word “rosebud” and then dies underlines the importance of that moment and that word in a way that would be unthinkable in a Hawks film. In other words, the Welles system depends upon exaggeration for effect, while the Hawks system employs a more subtle variation from shot to shot to drive home the meaning of its scenes. Although camera distance is clearly a relative phenomenon, the terms used to describe it are more or less fixed. The scale upon which the terms rely is that of the human body (though the content of shots, of course, is not restricted to human or even animate forms). Thus an exueme close-up pre- sents only a portion of the facemKane's mouth in Kane or the gunfighters' eyes as they face off against one another in Party Guns (1957). A close-up frames the entire head, hand, foot, or other object, such as the shot of the wad of money on the floor in Shadow of n Doubt or the closeup of Kane’s hand as he drops the glass ball onto the floor in his death scene in Kane. Medium close-ups give a chest-up view of individuals, as seen in most sequences in which two characters converse with one another, while medium shots tend to show the body from the waist up. Shots of characters which frame them from the knees up are referred to as medium long shots, while long shots range from full-figure images of characters, as well as a bit of the surrounding space immediately above and below them (such as the first image of Uncle Charlie lying on the bed), to shots in which the human figure is only a small part of the overall scene (as in thepoint-of-view shot in which the two men are seen waiting in the street below for Charlie). In extreme 10mg shots, the human body is overwhelmed by the setting within which it is placed, as in countless Westerns in which distant figures are seen as specks in a larger landscape. me a CLPGSICAL HOLLYWOOD cwswu SlVLE 47 Camera Movement Camera movement emerges as a powerful element of mise—en—scene which (in the majority of classical Hollywood films) serves the interests of narrative exposition. The term “camera movement” encompasses a variety of different formal devices, including one—the zoom—in which the camera makes no movement whatsoever. A zoom involves the use of a special lens that pos- sessas a variety of different focal lengths which range from wide angle to telephoto. Manipulation of the lens produces the impression of movement toward or away from objects by shifting from wide-angle to telephoto focal lengths or vice versa. These shifts simply enlarge or decrease the apparent size of the image. Since the camera does not literally move during a zoom shot (unless it is combined with other camera movements), its sense of movement is illusory. The famous “vertigo effect" in Vertigo, when the acrophobic central character, Scottie, looks down from a height, is achieved by the combined effects of zooming in and tracking out. This makes the space appear to expand and to contract at the same time. Zooms, which are frequently used to designate a character's subjective point of view or reaction to something, function as a kind of consciousness which surveys, studies, or scrutinizes the drama which unfolds before it. Achial camera movements consist of pans, tracks, and dolly or crane shots. In a pan, the camera rotates horizontally andfor vertically on its axis. Typ- ically, it presents a panoramic view of a space by rotating from right to left (or from left to right) a certain number of degrees to reveal what lies before the camera on either side. At the start of the cattle drive in Red River (1948), the camera pans 180 degrees as the owner of the herd (John Wayne) surveys his cattle and the men (including his adopted son, Montgomery Cliff) who will drive them to market. The pan not only conveys the enormous size of the herd, but also sets up the conflict between Wayne and Clift which will dominate the rest of the narrative. In tracking shuts, the camera moves bodily through space in any of a variety of directions parallel to the floor. To facilitate smooth movement, the camera was either mounted on tracks fixed to the ceiling (as in the long tracking shot of the man's rendezvous with the woman from the city in the swamp in Sunrise, 1927) or to the floor. In the majority of instances, however, 1t was affixed to a moveable camera support, such as a dolly, as seen in the continuous camera movements in Rope (1948). if mounted on a dolly, the camera can track in a variety of different directions. It can move laterally, either to follow the movements of a character walking parallel to it or explore space in one direction or the other. It can move circularly, tracking around a central subject or Observing a scene that is taking place around it from the center of a circle. The camera is also capable of moving circuitously in out and around the scene. ’ r 43 PART I THE MODE OF PRODUCTION The camera, mounted on a makeshift crane (cen- ter). descends to photograph the key in lngrid Bergman's hand in Notorious as director Alfred Hitchcock looks on. LIGHTING Most typically, the camera tracks in or out on an axis, moving at an angle to or perpendicularly to the dramch action. In a crane shot, the camera cannot Only move forward, backward, or circuitously on the ground, as in any dolly shot, but can also rise or descend. The party sequence in Notorious (1946) begins with a crane shot that descends from an overhead long shot of the ballroom floor and surrounding staircase to an extreme close-up of an irnp0r~ tant key clutched in the hand of the heroine (played by Ingrid Bergman). Like other camera movements, this crane shot “reads” the action for the spectator, singling out a crucial detail that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Though set and costume design remain the most obvious and most. forceful elements of expression among all the techniques of mise—en-scene, lighting comes to play an increasingly important role in the articulation of the mean— ing of a particular sequence. For the most part, lighting is a fundamental requirement. A certain minimal amount of lighting is necessary in order for the camera to photograph the contents of any scene. But there is more to fighting than ensuring proper exposure. Lighting becomes a tool for "read- ing" the contents of a scene; and directors of photography carefully "build" their lighting setups to accomplish this goal. Three-Point Lighting In classical Hollywood cinema, the lighting Setup begins with what: is called “general” set lighting, which is designed not only to ensure proper exposure Author's collection CHAPTER 3 comm Houmooo CINEMA' STYLE 4? but to establish overall lighting directionality. Natural or realistic lighting always establishes (or refers to) the source of the light. In exterior, daytime sequences, light typically comes from above—from the sun. For many inter— ior daytime or nighttime sequences, the same rule also applies because most interiors are lit from lighting fixtures located on the ceiling. in these instances, the “key” or dominant source light comes from above. In other instances, however, the major illumination for a scene comes from the front, the side, or the rear. Its source is a table or floor lamp, a fireplace, or a doorway or window through which exterior light comes. These lighting setups are real- istically motivated; their source and direction are determined by the location or setting specified in the script. ' The standard lighting setup employed in Hollywood films is called “three- point lighting.“ The "three points” to which the term refers are dominant sources of illumination. Most three—point lighting setups involve dozens of actual lights, not just three, but they are soar-ranged as to suggest three basic somces or "lights." These lights are known as the key light (or chief direc- tional light sources), the fill light (or weaker light sources which “fill in" the shadows cast by the key light), and the back light, the minor lights that are used to light the space between the back of the set and the characters in order to separate or distinguish them from the background. in certain situations, lights are also positioned to the sides or beneath characters in order to delineate important features. At the same time, a number of back lights are deployed to create the illusion of depth by lighting various levels of the set, Artist's sketch of the three—point lighting system. back ' camera 50 PART] IHE MODE OF PRODUCTION curved surfaces of the set, or the shoulders of the characters; the latter are known as “clothes lights." High-Kev/Low-Key Lighting Three—point lighting can be manipulated to produce a variety of different lighting effects. However, most of these etfects fall under two basic stylistic categories. These are either high-key or low-key lighting. The terms "high" and “low,” unlike their use in connection with camera position, have no thing to do with the position of the lights. Rather, they describe the ratio of fill light to key light. In a high—key lighting system, this ratio is high; that is, there is a high amount of fill light, which washes out shadows cast by the key light. This produces a more or less brightly lit scene in which light is evenly distributed throughout the set. This style of lighting is associated with upbeat games, such as comedies and musicals. In a low-key fighting system, the ratio of iii] to key light is low. Shadows cast by the key light are not fully filled in, producing a shadowy effect and an uneven distribution of light. This style of lighting is used in conjunction with downbeat genres, such as mysteries, thrillers, and horror films, and With films noirs. These conventional associations of different fighting systems with different moods are occasionally violated. Billy Wilder, for example, uses low-key lighting to film a number of comedies, including Love in the Afternoon (1957) and The Aparfrizcnf (1960). Yet his appropriation of the low~key style is done deliberately to match the bittersweet moods that dominate these films’ narrations. In other words, the low-key style retains its “darker” associations, even in a comedy. The key light in a Western filmed outdoors in the daylight will normally be the sun. Shadows cast by the sun on the faces of actors wearing cowboy hats are regularly "filled in” with light from reflectors or lamps positioned on or near ground level. This fill light violates the logic of nature; in dayllt exteriors, light always come from above and never from below. Yet it seems perfectly natural; it has established itself as a convention, which owes its existence to the necessity that faces be as legible or readable as possible. In fact, Westerns like Tom Horn (1980), which do not always till in the shadows under the brims of hats, appear unrealistic because they do not abide by this time-worn fighting convention. Star Lighting Readability plays a major role in the development of lighting styles and conventions, serving to justify their violation of the dictates of realism and directionality. The building of the fighting setup begins with a nonrealistic foundation—with general illumination that is merely there in order to secure proper exposure (that is, to achieve literal roadability}. Over this is laid directional fighting, which is realistically motivated. On top of this, in turn, is a...” Blight, evenly lit high-key lighting in Gone With the Wind. Shadowy low~key lighting in a scene from The Grapes of Wrath. 51 Courtesy of Sclznicl.‘ International Courtesy of 20th Century-Fax 52 PARTI THE MODE OF PRODUCllON SOUND placed star lighting, which highlights (or conceals) certain features of the major performers and makes the expressions on their faces readable. Star lighting singles out the chief figures in a scene by giving them their own special lighting system. Star lighting thus functions to guide the atten- tion of the audience to the actors and actresses whose roles in the scenes are of primary importance and to relegate other figures to the literal or figurative background. At the same time, star lighting serves to heighten the charis— matic presence of certain performers. Directional lighting casts shadows on the faces of the minor players, whose faces become mere surfaces which reflect light coming from elsewhere. Star lighting, on the other hand, works to transform the faces of the major performers into apparent sources of light. Since the light on their faces has no identifiable origin in the scene, it appears to come from within them—to radiate from them as if they were, indeed, astral bodies or stars. In other words, every scene in a Hollywood film combines realistic, directional, motivated lighting with unrealistic star light- ing. And audiences never seem to be bothered by the apparent contradiction. Miking ond Mixing A blend of the realistic and the unrealistic, similar to star lighting, takes place in sound recording. Microphones are positioned to pick up sound effects and dialogue in a quasi-realistic way,- the microphones duplicate, as it were, the general position of the camera, recording the sounds of what it sees. How- ever, the intelligibility (or readability) of dialogue always takes precedence over that of other sounds in determining actual microphone positions. As a result, the overall realism and directionality of sound is combined with “star rniking.” Specially placed microphones ensure that the words of major per- formers and crucial lines of dialogue will be heard and sound~rnixing practices lift them out of the general hubbub of sounds in the scene. Sound mixing, which takes place on the set, in a recording studio, or in a sound-mixing facility, involves the combination of three different categories of film sound—dialogue, sound effects, and music. Sound mixers combine the various tracks in order to "hear" the scene for the audience. The heat- ing” of a scene is the aural equivalent of the reading of the scene—that is, sound recordists and mixers provide an aural perception of the action. For example, the sound effects of the noise of an automobile engine might accompany the introduction of a scene in which two characters converse while riding in a car. But after establishing the aural atmosphere through the presence of engine noise, the sound mixer will normally lower these particuv lar sound effects in order to make the dialogue more intelligible. The same sort of manipulation will take place with the music track during dialogue S equ ences . Wltli J \JLHDDIMHL l'lULLl’WUUU LINENLHI Dl'lLI: 3" The Musical Score The musical score of a film, which is written by the film’s composer, functions as a commentary upon the action. Music serves to direct the audience’s attention to specific Characters or details, to provide information about the time or place of the action, or to establish mood. Thus characters are fre- quently associated with or identified by specific musical motifs. In Westerns, for example, Indians will routinely be introduced with the familiar “1'4 alle- gretto drumbeat that signifies "Indian territory." Melodramatic moments will be underlined with musical crescendos, and the season of the year will be cued by appropriate traditional music, such as Christmas carols, “Auld Lang Syne“ (for New Year’s), and so forth. Like camera angle, distance, and movement, the musical score comments upon the action without the characters’ knowledge. Much as the characters cannot (or pretend they cannot) see the camera, so they cannot hear the underscoring. However, they can obviously hear music that emanates from the space of the drama, such as that from radios, record players, and musical instruments played by characters within the fiction. The musical score pro— vides yet another level of interpretation of the drama in addition to those already built into the mise-en-scene. Sound and Continuity Sound is both a feature of mise—en-scene and of editing. Sounds occurring within the shot, whether dialogue, sound effects, or music, automatically interact with one another (as do the visual elements of mise-en-scene) to provide narrative information. In other words, sound is not only a part of mise-en-scene but it also behaves and functions just as mise-en-scene does. But sound, both as a phenomenon and as an aesthetic category, cannot be as easily confined as is misewen-scene to the borders of the frame or the limits of the shot. Off-screen sound penetrates the borders of the frame. We see characters react to unseen voices and/or noises that come from outside the frame. And sound continues Over cuts. Dialogue, sound effects, and music extend from one shot to the next. Sonnd editing becomes an integral aspect of the film-editing process. Thus, much as film editors cut from shot to shot, they also cutfrom sound to sound,- or they use sound to bridge those cute and to make them less visible. Musical scoring plays a major role in transporting Spectators smoothly through highly edited sequences by giving them a melodic line that can carry them over disjunctive edits. In conversation sequences, the dialogue will provide a stream of continuous aural information that helps to bridge the cuts from one speaker to another. Sound effects are orchestrated to accomplish a similar goal. In all of these instances, the flow of the sound serves to stabilize the audience, to hold them in place across the visual discontinuities which appear on the screen. ‘ 54 PART] THE MODE OF FRODUCTtON EDITING FROM SCENE TO SCENE Classical continuity editing serves a purpose similar to sound editing. Often referred to as "invisible editing," classical editing is designed to render more or less imperceptible the 600 to 800 separate shots that constitute the average, feature-length film. The goal of this editing strategy is to disguise the transi— tions from shot to shot, making the film appear to be a seamless flow of images. At the Same time, invisible editing provides yet another level of interpretation of the onscreen action for audiences by singling out details or making connections from One shot to another. Thus a cut to a close-up proves to be an efficient and relatively unobtrusive way of conveying important plot— or character-related information. Shortly after the title characters in Strangers on a Train (1951) accidentally meet on a train, the film cuts from a medium shot of one character, Bruno (Robert Walker), to a close—up of his lobster—patterned tie and his tie clasp. The unusual patient of the tie and the tie clasp, which bears his name, "Bruno," communicate vital aspects of Bruno‘s character (his eccentricity and his narcissism], as well as his name to the audience. The physical juxtaposi- tion of shots could be used to express ideas that cannot be conveyed through the more theatrical means of misc-en-scene. At the beginning of Modern Times (1936), for example, Chaplin cuts from urban workers entering the subway to a herd of sheep. This simple shot transition establishes the fihn’s dominant metaphor—that modern workers in industrialized society are like sheeP. Transitions Editing serves as a primary means of organizing the film. On the most basic level of organization, shots are assembled to create a Scene. A shot is an unbroken strip of film made by an uninterrupted running of the camera. A scene is the film's smallest dramatic unit; it consists of one or more shots, which present an action that is spatially and temporally continuous; that is, which takes place in a single space at a single time. Certain scenes consist of two or more actions set in two or more spaces and times which are intercut to form a single, complex scene. At a larger level of organization, scenes or groups of scenes are assembled to create a sequence of scenes, a large segment, or an entire film. Thus the ten-n "editing" encompaSSes two differ- ent forms of organizationm—editing within a scene and editing from scene to scene. Editing from scene to scene provides the fundamental structure for the film as a whole. it employs five basic transitional devices—the cut, the fade, the dissolve, the iris, andloi- the wipe. The cut is a simple break where two shots are joined together. The fade involves the gradual darkening of the image until it becomes black (the fade-out) or the gradual brightening of a darkened image until it becomes visible and achieves its proper brightness (the fade—in). The dissolve is achieved by simultaneously fading out on one shot while fading in on the next so that the first shot gradually disappears as the second CHAPTER 3 CLPGSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA; STYLE 55 gradually becomes visible; during the middle of the dissolve, the two shots will briefly be superimposed. Though rare in contemporary cinema, the iris-in or iris-out serves as a major transition in the silent cinema; an adjustable diaphragm or iris in the camera or a moveable mask placed over the camera lens will gradually open, in an iris-in, to reveal more and more image within an expanding, geomet- rically shaped frame, or it will gradually close down, in an iris-out, to narrow the field of view, which is surrounded by more and more blackness. The wipe, which has also become something of a dated device, is a transition in which the second shot appears to wipe the first shot off the screen. Cuts figure significantly in both editing from scene to scene and editing within scenes. The other transitions, however, are generally used to signify shifts from scene to scene. The fade, like the lowering or raising of the lights between scenes or acts in the theater, marks a change in time andfor place. The in's functions like the opening and/or closing of a theater curtain to designate major transitions. However, the dissolve and the wipe, which communicate similar information, provide a more fluid, less discrete marking of temporal and/or spatial change. Editing and Narrative Structure Editing from scene to scene provides structure for the narrative in a variety of ways. Scenes can be organized in a purely linear fashion, as seen in the journey structure of Some Like It Hat (1959) analyzed in the previous chapter. Or they can be narrativer linear and structurally circular or symmetrical, as seen in the seven-part, A-B—C—D—C—B—A pattern found in The Gold Rush (1925). Or they can be organized into a flashback structure, as in Citizen Kane (1941), which commences with Kane‘s death at his mansion, Xanadu; reviews his life through five flashback interviews with his friends, associates, former wife, and butler; and concludes, roughly a week after the film began, with a return to Xanadu where the mystery of "rosebud" is solved. Yet again, films can be organized around an alternating pattern, which interweaves two or more story lines, as in D. W. Griffith's intolerance (1916), which cuts back and forth from stories of social intolerance set in four different periods of history, or around the dovetailed pattern of successive stories, such as Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train (1989), in which three separate plots unfold over the course of a single evening in a Memphis hotel. Crossoutting or parallel editing provide the structural backbone of count— less Hollywood narratives from the silent cinema of Griffith to the sound films of Hitchcock and George Lucas. Crosscutting or parallel action involve shift- ing back and forth between two or more characters andlor stories, which are orcnrring in two or more separate spaces more or less simultaneously. (Intol- erance is an exception to this rule in that its events, although thematically parallel, take place in different centuries.) Hitchcock’s Strangers an a Train alternates between the exploits of a tennis star and a psychopathic killer, while his Fail:in Plat (1976) juxtaposes the actions of two couples, a phony 56 PARTI THE MODE OF PRODUCTION medium and her boyfriend and a pair of kidnappers/jewel thieves, whose paths repeatedly intersect. in American Gmfi‘iti (1973), Lucas' narrative shifts from character to charac- ter on a summer night in 1962. In the Star Wars films, Lucas cuts item the efforts of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and their compatriots to defeat the Empire and the counterefforts of the Emperor, Darth Vader, and his underlings to suppress their rebellion. From Griffith to the present, crosscutting builds toward a climax where the various narrative strands cross and where the dramatic tensions and conflicts which they represent are finally resolved. EDITING WITHIN SCENES The transitions employed in editing from scene to scene are marked as such; that is, they are necessarily visible, functioning to convey dramatically signifi- cant shifts in time andJ'or place. Editing within scenes, on the other hand, pursues a strategy of self-effacement which disguises its operations and makes the scene appear to be more or less seamless. This is accomplished through a variety of “matching” techniques that make transitions from shot to shot smoother. These techniques involve the careful observance of narra- tive logic in the analytical dissection of dramatic action and the strict adher- ence to certain rules of thumb that ensure that the space within which the action takes place will be perceived by audiences as coherent and unified. Editing serves the narrative logic; it "reads" the drama in a purely logical and descriptive way. Thus a conversation sequence will cut back and forth from the person speaking to the reactions of those listening and then to the next speaker,- the discovery of a safe that has just been robbed might be followed by a shot of the open window through which the burglar has escaped. Scene dissection tends to follow an orderly pattern. It begins with an establishing or master shot, which is followed by a series of shots (scene dissection} that analyze the dramatic cantents of the space presented within the establishing shot, and it closes with a return to either the master shot or to some other shot marking the ending of the scene. The establishing or master shot, which is frequently along shot, establishes the space within which the subsequent action will take place. It will occasionally also indicate the time of day or year. In Shadow of a Doubt, the shots of kids playing ball in the street and the Crane shot up to Charlie's window serve as establishing shots, informing the viewer where and when the action was taking place. Charlie's conversation with his landlady and his subsequent behavior alone in his room constitute the body of the scene, which concludes with a medium long shot of his open door just after he has left his room to confront the men waiting outside. The interior shot of the door echoes the exterior establishing shot of the window and conveys to audiences that the scene is overs In more recent years, a number of filmmakers have dispensed with tradi- tional establishing shots, opting to begin scenes more abruptly in the middle mama-mm ' Wmem mulmmcM—_\sfi=_-m .i _=.,.a,o warm 4.755s,“ ! .A .3. CHAPTER 3 CLASSICAL uoumooo cavst some 57 of an action or with a close—up of a significant detail. In these instances, the space within which the action will occur is indicated in subsequent shots that are not reserved exclusively for establishing the location but which are part of the scene dissection. - Matches Scene dissection relies upon a system of "matches" to provide continuity for the action. This system involves the matching of shots in such a way that potential discontinuities are cosmetically concealed. Matches include graphic matches, matches on action, and eye-line matches. In a graphic match, major features of the composition in one shot will be duplicated in the next shot, providing a graphic continuity that serves to bridge the edit. The editing of most conversation sequences employs rough graphic matches in that charac- ters retain their approximate positions in the frame from shot to shot. The introduction of Xanadu during the opening sequence of Citizen Kane involves an extremely subtle series of exact graphic matches. Successive shots of the mansion from different perspectives (with different objects in the foreground) are linked together by dissolves. They are all united by a common featurew—a single window with a light in it—which occupies the same place in each frame of each shot as the editing gradually brings the viewer closer and closer to the window. Matches on action use the carryover of physical movement from one shot to the next to conceal cuts. Thus, as a character begins to sit down in medium long shot, an editor often cuts in to a closer shot as the action continues. Or as a character opens a door and begins to walk through it, there is often a cut to a different camera position on the other side of the door as the same character walks through the open door and closes it. Yet the cut and the change in camera position are more or less imperceptible, disguised by the continuity of the character's movement. Eye~line matches and point-of—view editing play crucial roles in the conti- nuity system, serving the interest of character exposition and character psy- chology. Eye-line matching involves two shots in which a character in the first shot looks offscreen at another character or object. The next shot shows what that character sees from a position which reflected, in its angle, the character's position and the direction in which he or she had looked, but which remains more or less objective in nature. That is, it does not duplicate that character’ 5 actual perspective. In effect, the second shot obliquely answers the first, presenting the space to which the character's eye line refers or looks from the neutral position of the camera. Point-of-View Editihg Point-of—view editing is a subset of the eye—line match which involves a series of three separate shots—a shot of a character looking offscreen, a point-of- view shot of what the character sees, and a reaction shot of the character as he or she reacts to the thing that was seen. Thus in Rear Window (1954), Hitch- cock cuts from a shot of his hero (James Stewart) looking out his window at 5B Point-oE-view editing in Rear Window: jeff flames Stew FNlTl m5 MODE OF PRODUCTION Aill'lmr's frame enlargements a shot of Ieff's reaction. Miss Torso, one of his neighbors, to a point—of—view shot from his perspective of her dancing in a halter and shorts, and back to a reaction shot of Stewart as he smiles somewhat lecherousiy. Unlike the second shot in the standard eye- line match, the point—of—view shot duplicates what the character sees, repre« senting his or her actual perspective. in other words, in point~of—view editing the second shot is subjective rather than objective. Thus while the eye—line match describes the character's interactions with others from the outside, point-of—view editing involves the audience in the mental processes of the character and gives them privileged access to character psychology. The tall-Degree Rule At the center of the continuity system stands its fundamental principle—the illusion of spatial reality. This illusion is created and maintained in the cinema through the observance of one simple law, which is known as the lBO—degree rule. In order to guarantee matches in screen position and movement and to cOnstruct a realistic playing space for the characters, filmmakers film the action from one side of an imaginary line [the axis of action) that runs through the center of the scene’s major action. By remaining on one side of this line, the camera ensures that screen direction remains constant. That is, if one character stands on the right of the frame and another on the left, those characters would retain their relative screen positions from one shot to the next (unless, of course, they moved). if, however, the camera crosses the axis of the action after one shot and films the next shot from the other side of the WEI-degree line, the original screen position of the characters would be reversed in this second shot, making them appear to switch posih‘ons as the film cuts from one shot to the next. if there is any onscreen movement from right to left (or vice versa) and the axis of action is crossed, that movement would‘appear to change direction from shot to shot. Certain directors, such as john Ford, repeatedly violate the MiG-degree rule; others, such as Howard Hawks, scrupulously obey it. Hawks's respect for and Ford's lack of respect for the rule reflect their different attitudes toward the representation of space, which Hawks con- ceives of quite physically and Ford quite abstactly. In observing the lBO-d-egree rule, filmmakers rely extensively on shot! reverse—shot editing. This editing pattern employs paired shots to cover conversations or other actions. The shots alternate back and forth between an Marisa-truer: -;, - “Hi-"TLW'; 1%. 2w: " far;- 4': CHAPTER 3 CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD cwswv amt 59 angled shot from one end of the ISO-degree line and another from the other Ell-I15]; {htehsecond shot views the action from the same angle as the first, oppogiite darling}: is now reversed, that is, the shot is taken from the Classical Hollywood style achieves semitransparency by putting itself at the servrce of film narrative. Elements of mise-en-scene and editing funcdo to advance the narrative and/or to further character exposition As a resull1 the narratives “visibility” relegates technique to the status of'a facilitatin' ‘ tool. Stylistic Invisibility becomes a goal of the system, which its technician? and craftspersons seek to achieve on both a conscious and an unconscious level. Cinematographers, editors, and directors in Hollywood declare that 'f audiences-notice their technique, it is no good and they immediatel set tlo work to hide it. Ironically, their art consists of its own self~effacemeynt Y t that art remains visible no matter what they do to hide it. It can be seen in ifs invrsibility, for it is a style and system of conventions that work to convince audiences that_no work is taking place. And that work could never u'te disappear. For in making the film legible for audiences, classical I-Ioll qulxl Cinema leaves the marks of this iegibility on the film itself. But ll'lESEYll‘la ks remain hard to see because classical Hollywood style is not su erl'iciarll supermipOSed upon the narrative. it cannot be seen as EOmEthlI‘: th t “y Separate from the narrative because it is the means by which that ha3 tie1 is realized. in other words, it is invisible because it is the narrative Ha we 15 Artists sketch illustrating the lilo—degree rule. ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/28/2012 for the course STATISTICS 3010 taught by Professor Ooz during the Spring '11 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Belton_Style - III/IIIIIIIIII an SELECT FILMO‘GRAPHY Some...

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