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
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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