Sunday, March 1, 2009

Group Post #1 - Zack, Ashley, Alex

Was the transition to narrative cinema bridged by the inclusion of "drama" into filmmaking practices? Is "drama" an inherently embedded aspect of cinema?

Beyond the stylistic implications of the long take, but do directors sometimes use these long takes as a means to demonstrate their proficiency and or expertise in coordination of mise-en-scene, blocking, and moving/tracking cinematography? Are they trying to prove something?

Is the long take dead? Is it dying? Modern peoples' attention spans are shrinking, so do contemporary long takes necessitate more densely packed drama and action?

What is "slippage," and how does it affect spectatorship?

Does "slippage" affect the relationship between the apparatuses?

How do intentional and accidental slippage variably affect the film? Does it matter? How do we know whether a certain part of "slippage" is intentional or not?

How do dialogue and/or narration during a montage affect the overall style and feeling of the sequence?


  1. Similarly to Bazin I enjoy and prefer long takes that provide a greater reality to the scene. I agree with him that mise-en-scene maintains the unity of space and the relationship between objects within this space.
    He argues that depth of field gives the spectator the freedom to direct his control over the viewing process ( what to look at, in what order, for how long), thus synthesizing the images himself. I do not agree with this, as it seems to me that long takes in contrary guide spectators through the scene, showing the director's view/idea of the the scene. I believe that the camera, controlled by the director allows us to see the event that he (the director) has intends and strives to show to the spectator.
    I also agree with him on his view about montage and cutting. He states that dramatic cutting within a scene does not add anything to the intent of a scene but only insults audience's intelligence with needless and obvious close-ups. The films that have subtle meanings and codings seem more fascinating to me and potentially have greater range of interpretations .

  2. stassia/others: what do you make of Godard's use of the long take in Weekend, which Brian Henderson talks about at length in his article? Esp. re: the group post comment that "the long take is dead"?

  3. I don't think long takes are necessarily "dead," but then again they certainly aren't thriving, especially when it comes to popular cinema and blockbusters of today.
    One particular example that comes to mind is the latest 007 movie, Quantum of Solace. I remember watching, and enjoying it, but this was after I took MC15, so I was slightly more "aware" of the filmmaking process. It could be that I would have noticed this regardless though, so I'm not sure. Anyways, there's a scene where Bond is fighting people on a boat while driving a different boat, and for one whole minute or so, it seemed as though the shots were less than a half second each. I temporarily lost track of what was going on, and that was when I realized the shots were so short. Needless to say, the boat fight scene was thrilling and exciting and all that.
    I don't have any particular recent dramas or dialogue-based films in mind that use noteworthy long takes, but I'm sure they exist. Maybe they don't top the box office like 007 does, but it's a different type of movie/film.
    As for the long take in Weekend, I think it's rather brilliant. If there's someone who doesn't know what type of movie Weekend is, they realize it after some number of minutes into the long take. And it isn't as though this particular long take is pressing you to explore the frame to make your own meaning, because it's constantly moving, though it is moving slowly. It's a quirky style of shooting that maintains its uniqueness by being the only tracking (really) long take in the film. And the anticipation of the end of the shot (which is no doubt building in the mind of the audience) culminates in that punchline of the overly gored accident victims that the film's protagonists treat with the disinterest characteristic of counter-cinema.
    So basically, I hope the long take isn't dead, because, like the quick half-second 007 shots, it has its uses. I am not so sure, however, that it has its uses in movies geared for capital gain.

  4. There’s some irony in Mike’s note about Quantum of Solace’s use of quick cuts because this is exactly what Bazin disparages and argues will naturally die out (aside from its use as a temporal ellipsis). I haven’t seen the film, but in light of having seen other relatively recent action flics, I wonder if we can compare these scenes to Eisenstein’s style of montage. It seems that we can find examples of metric and rhythmic montage specifically, in contemporary action films. Why have these emerged while the long-take has diminished? Bordwell argues that deep focus and long takes became prominent in film because they worked to further the film’s narrative. However, today, the long take especially distances its viewer, ripping the spectator from their passive spectatorship and so, has become increasingly obsolete. What’s at the root of this change in the long take’s function and prominence? I would argue, in the vein of Bordwell, that this reversal is the consequence of different narrative aims in today’s cinema, which is perhaps itself a function of the technology used today and the type of films that that technology engenders. The explosions and graphics computers allow more readily or at least more obviously (because perhaps the alternatives have simply yet to be fully explored) give themselves to quick jumps.
    To an extent, we can argue that Millennium Mambo uses the long-take, but it remains a different type of long-take than those we encounter in Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia or Godard’s Weekend. It is clearly a stylistic choice and all three directors have definite styles in these films. What is at stake in the differences we can find in the style of the long-take. Godard and Tarkovsky’s are more dislocating than Hsiao-hsien’s and perhaps it is the result of a demand in contemporary cinema for a passive, identifying spectatorial position. What do we expect when we go to the movies today? If scenes similar to Godard’s traffic sequence or musical number were to appear mid-film today, what would our reaction be and would we feel betrayed by cinema or if it popped up in the most recent Bond flic would we write it off as pretentious and would it matter?

  5. Like Stassia said, long takes are able to present a more realistic depiction of reality. However,as a prospective filmmaker, I appreciate them more for their ability to display the filmmaker's proficiency and mastery of his or her craft. For me, it's thrilling to see a director who has such a delicate control of his art. I am wowed when I realize that a shot has been occurring for such an extended period of time. When there's tracking and deep focus and everything clicks, it really shows the potential of film.
    A great example of this is Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men. At the climax of the film, there is a shot that lasts approximately 7 minutes in which Clive Owen is dodging bullets and frantically running up a stair case. A shot like this allows the viewer to really be in touch with the emotions of the characters. You feel their anxiety, their pain, their pleasure. You are traveling through this long take with them. And yes, such a shot allows for the realism of the scene to pop out. The audience comes to believe that Clive Owen is truly dodging the bullets of terrorists all the while protecting this baby. Finally, the only thing that I would say that a director would be trying to prove by way of the long take is that he has a complete mastery of his craft and he is trying his best to entertain you with it. He is attempting to expose the audience to the majesty of film.

  6. I think we can agree that one function of the long take is certainly to instill a greater sense of realism in a scene. However, I think the techniques used in Quantum of Solace (short takes and heavy editing) are also designed to elicit a greater sense of reality. I didn't really like these techniques in Quantum of Solace actually, but I thought they were used perfectly in the Bourne films, which I'm pretty sure inspired QOS shooting style. The grittily fast editing in the Bourne action sequences really brings you into the film, delivering something that feels closer to reality. So just as long takes can heighten the realism of a scene, extremely short takes have the same potential. It's interesting how both extremes can end up with the same result.

    And about the long take being dead--I think an audience's reaction to the long take depends entirely on how the director is using it, and how often he uses it. In Millennium Mambo, the long take is used to make the scenes more realistic (and is used repeatedly), employed to elicit an atmosphere, rather than being a spectacle within itself. I think this use of the long take has a greater potential of being "boring" with modern audiences (I actually found MM to be boring myself, but I think this was more a result of the uninteresting characters than the style of shooting). Nowadays, the long take is used, as Adam mentioned, to showoff the technical capabilities of the director, and his artistic sensibilities towards cinematography. It is very much alive, but the long take has become more of a spectacle in itself, designed to draw the audience in and stop them from getting "bored". The opening of The Player is a good example. Audiences are aware that they are watching a staged "movie", and these kinds of long takes are exciting because the audience responds to the precise choreography they know is going on in the scene (I must say, the first time I saw the Children of Men Shot I simply couldn't believe it). You could say these kinds of long takes bring more realism to the scene, but I think their captivating nature lies more in the fact that the audience knows they are fake, delighting in the painstaking effort that apparently went into them.

  7. I would have to agree that the long take is not exactly dead, but that it's definitely gasping on its death bed, particularly in American and popular film. I would also say that the montage, at least in the way that Eisenstein and Virtov and others used it, is also essentially dead, except when used in short segments like the newsreel-esque examples we saw. The greater trend in movies today, like QoS, seems to be on a fast and very kinetic (if not always coherent) editing style, one that is designed to be more of a sensual explosion to the audience than as some sort of narrative technique. This in large part can probably be traced back (ironically) to Godard and the "jump cuts" that made him and Breathless such a huge splash back almost 50 years ago. I, for one, am not all that in favor of this newer technique and it seems to me to be more of a cover for poor filmmaking than a form of good filmmaking. In general it's distracting and disorienting, and therefore doesn't allow the artistry of the filmmaker or the appreciation by the viewer that more purposeful, graceful techniques like the long take and the montage (at least the Soviet school of montage) do allow. Not to say that fast editing cannot be a demonstration of technical and artistic skill (some of Oliver Stone's films come to mind, like Natural Born Killers), but in general it does take away from some of the realism and stability and coherence of more smoothly-paced films. Whether that is good or bad is up to the viewer. But it is rather clear that, when used, the long take today is used as a demonstration, as something that is different from the mainstream, and therefore it calls attention to itself and is used for some ulterior purpose, not just that of realism and/or continuity. One of the first things that comes to my mind when i think about this is the static, unedited, 9-minute real-time rape scene in Irreversible. The scene is shocking in and of itself, but the main thing that i noticed which made it even more shocking was simply the technical aspect of it. The rest of the movie up to that point is edited in a fairly typical manner, with a constantly roving, twisting camera, but suddenly, at this point, it cuts to a static, up-close-and-personal long take, making the scene excruciating not only for its content but for its complete reversal of the style of the preceding film. This is definitely a brilliant use of a long take, and one (like most which we saw) that relies on its calling attention to itself, which is 180 degrees from the classical model, but which proves that it is not dead, just that its reasons and motivations have changed over the years.

  8. i'm enjoying the excellent discussion so far...seems like everyone has the long take on their minds. just want to point out that this question was also raised:

    "How do dialogue and/or narration during a montage affect the overall style and feeling of the sequence?"

    Also--I'm curious to hear what you all think of Michela's comment on Millenium Mambo, which is posted seperately from the group post.

  9. Long Tracking: Godard vs. Bazin:

    It seems to me that Godar's idea of a long tracking is very similar to that of Bazin. Both of them see the potential objectivity, truth and reality in this kind of a shot. Godar does not privilege particular actors but seems to move the camera independently, thus giving the spectator more freedom and allowing him to control the perception of the scene. In his long take Godar seems to reach the Bazin's ideal of real representation because as Henderson puts it "Godar's camera doe not affect the reality it unfolds and is not affected by it".
    Yet Godar's flatness of the displayed space contradicts the Bazin's ideal of a long take. I do not particularly agree with Handerson's claim about the opposition of Godar's and Bazin's views on the long take. Particularly I do not agree that "Godar is no realist". It seems to me that Godar succeeds at reaching a great deal of objectivity and reality in his long takes, despite the absence of the deep, multi-layerd space.

  10. I think that the underuse of the long take in today's popular
    cinema is a fact that is impossible to ignore. As mentioned by
    the original posters of the questions, this fact is quite certainly
    and I think intrinsically related to the audience's decrease in
    attention span. Quick cuts can quite easily stimulate the senses
    and thus can lead to increased entertainment value. This point
    is important when considering the fact that today's average moviegoer usually goes to the cinema with express objective of being entertained in a manner that requires very little contemplation.
    The long take's capacity as technical device, however, has a far
    greater and wide reaching potential in it's ability to encourage mindfulness and appreciation of each moment that in the end yield
    a much greater beauty.

  11. when all of you speak of the 'death' or the 'underuse' of long takes today, are you referring specifically to mainstream Hollywood films, or blockbusters? or its use in alternative/non-american film practices (if so, which)?