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July 2005, Week 3


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 20 Jul 2005 10:03:09 -0500
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Just to muddy up the conversation, parallel *action* is just one
possible subset of parallel *editing* (or "montage").  The key term is
"parallel," which also implies some commonality--but not necessarily of
action or even of narrative.  The commonality could be purely visual (in
the form graphic matches or conflicts), rhythmic (matching qualities of
action and/or camera movement for their own sake), etc.  In the case of
INTOLERANCE, the parallels among the four narratives are to some degree
keyed to actions, but main parallel is thematic--that all of these
stories are linked by the common theme of "man's inhumanity to man."

Cross-cutting, it seems to me, is not necessarily the broader term, but
it is different in emphasis.  In OCTOBER, for example, Eisenstein
cross-cuts between the images of Kerensky climbing the stairs and the
Czar's mechanical peacock, implying a parallel between the two.
Somewhat similarly, the "degradation of the gods" sequence uses various
world religious images and icons to imply a parallel meaninglessness to
them all (activated further by his use of graphic contrasts).  Both
sequences involved parallel editing but not of actions as such.
However, when he invokes the renewal of the Provisional Government's war
effort, he cross-cuts between soldiers huddling in the trenches and
images of tank descending on a chain in a factory, leading to the
suggestion that the tank (war) is "crushing" the soldiers.  That
dialectical conclusion is based on cross-cutting actions that are not
strictly "parallel."

Cross-cutting can also be used to establish parallel actions that are
not necessarily resolved either through surmounting divisions of time
and space or through a dialectical synthesis, (as Jason McKahan
suggested).  SLIDING DOORS, for example, cross-cuts between the two
versions of Gwyneth Paltrow's life, but each narrative line has its own
line of development and ending.  Of course, cross-cutting can also be
used to raise false expectations, as in the sequence toward the end of
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS when Demy cross-cuts between "Buffalo Bill" in his
basement, Clarice approaching his door, and the FBI team descending on
the house in Illinois.  On at least a first viewing, the audience is
likely to be confused or expect that Clarice has been misled, only to
raise suspense when we realize that she is actually on her own with the

SLIDING DOORS--along with other uses of split-screen framing (TIMECODE,
many of De Palma's films, etc.)--also raises the question of how such
simultaneous presentation of parallel spaces or actions actually differs
in effect from cross-cutting.  In some ways, it seems to come back
full-circle to the supposed invention of cross-cutting by Porter in LIFE


"Only connect!" -E.M. Forster
Donald F. Larsson
Department of English 
Armstrong Hall 230
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001
mailto:[log in to unmask]
-----Original Message-----
From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On Behalf Of Lou Thompson
Sent: Thursday, July 14, 2005 11:14 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCREEN-L] cross and parallel

Thanks, David.  It seems to me that parallel action refers to the
content and cross-cutting more to the editing technique.  
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: David Tetzlaff 
  To: [log in to unmask] 
  Sent: Thursday, July 14, 2005 8:55 AM
  Subject: [SCREEN-L] cross and parallel

  Cross-cutting is a broader term.

  In parralel action, the things intercut are actions - something is
  happening in each setting - and these actions are connected to each
  as actions - they have some commonality in form, purpose, or narrative
  convergence: chase scenes across different eras in Intolerance. The
  intercutting between two people preparing for a date (in a billion

  Cross cutting could include something that is not action, say if we
  between shots of The Governator beating a thug to a pulp and
  Peter-Huttonish landscape vistas - and (same example will do) also
  things that are in no way parallel.

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