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July 2005, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jason Grant McKahan <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 14 Jul 2005 14:45:03 -0400
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Dear Lou:

I have seen cross-cutting and parallel action used synonymously countless 
times.  However, the helpful distinction for me is not only in the 
execution of the montage, but its intended effect. It might be seen in 
terms of a dialogue dating back to Griffith and Eisenstein.

Cross-cutting is a Griffithian (well countless others, including Porter 
used it) process through which conflict, suspense and tension are built 
through the distance of compared spaces - a distance that must be 
surmounted. Classic cross-cutting (I believe Griffith's term was 
"switch-back") in Biograph films, Birth of a Nation and Orphans in the 
Storm juxtaposes a scene of captivity and the approach of a hero-savior. 
The idea is to eventually conjoin the figures (hero, victim) within a 
single space (frame).

Parallel montage is more dialectical.  It is constituted through the mutual 
juxtaposition of thesis and antithesis so as to produce a tertium quid, or 
synthesis. This is more in tune (in theory) with Russian montage and 
Hegelian dialectic. The relation between subjects and spaces does not 
necessarily call for the final conjoining, but rather the spaces are 
unified through a more abstract and intellectual process of synthesis for 
the spectator.  Well cited examples are the baptismal scene in The 
Godfather. I think much of the parallelism in Fosse's Cabaret stands as a 
great example as well.

Jason Grant McKahan
Film Instructor
College of Communication and Film School
Florida State University
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At 06:37 PM 7/13/2005, you wrote:
>   Can anyone explain to me the difference, if there is one, between cross 
> cutting and parallel action?
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