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July 1997, Week 2


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 10:23:29 -0600
TEXT/PLAIN (42 lines)
Another thought about Dennis's comments on GOODFELLAS:
"The long sequenced shot introducing the
litany of Henry=D5s friends all collected in the Bamboo Lounge plays upon the
coordination of Henry=D5s voice-over introduction of each character with the
diegetic conversation, as they each address Henry by speaking to the camera
head-on.  At the end of the shot, Henry steps into view and the camera then
follows him -- and in that moment we see how interchangeable are the literal
transpositions of first- and third-person narrative structures from
literature to cinema.  The remarkable smoothness of that sequence shot,
however, barely disguises its physical impossibility as the diegetic
subjective view of Henry Hill.  The camera fleetingly stoops to knee-level,
tilts up slightly, and zooms in, to get a better view of a man sitting at a
table.  Just as quickly it drifts up above and over the bar, panning back
around to view the patrons at the bar.  One by one they speak to =D2Henry,=D3
who ostensibly saunters down the length of the bar from the bartender=D5s
side.  The convenient arrangement of the all of Henry=D5s old friends who
each speak to him, as he (in voice-over) speaks to us about them, along with
the dreamy, irreal flow of the sequence shot mark this scene as a *synthetic*
remembrance -- i.e., not a scene from Henry=D5s life, but how he remembers
all his old friends."
It's interesting how often this technique--of an apparently subjective shot
that includes the person who is apparently looking at the scene--shows up.
It is exploited in a very obvious way by Dreyer in VAMPYR but Scorsese actually
seems to pushing the limits of a fairly common Hollywood technique.
For example, in CROSSFIRE, the character of "Mitch" falls down in a subjective
flashback but as he gets back to his feet, he stands up into the camera's
view.  Even in STAGECOACH, which has very few subjective shots, after the
shootout we see Dallas as the camera moves toward in a lurching gait, suggesting
that it is Ringo who is walking toward her, but he too walks into the camera's
view at the end.  Yet these two examples have to be watched carefully to be
noticed, unlike the strangeness of Dreyer's film or even Scorsese's.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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