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March 2004, Week 3


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Mike Chopra-Gant <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 15 Mar 2004 12:46:56 +0000
TEXT/PLAIN (70 lines)
I'm coming late to this so I don't know if anyone will have
already mentioned Best Years of our Lives. There is a very
nice take of just over one minute around the middle of the
film where Al and Fred meet in a bar to discuss Fred's
affair with Al's daughter. The two characters sit in a
booth and with the camera positioned alongside the booth,
midway between the characters. At one point in the take a
waiter walks into shot and blocks the view of Fred - a nice
realist touch. The last part of the scene of which this
take forms part is a classic use of deep focus. In the
foreground Homer and his uncle play the piano, while Al
stands at the end of the piano furthest from the camera, in
the middle distance, his attention divided between the
piano players and Fred who we can see using a
phone booth near the entrance to the bar, breaking off his
affair with Al's daughter.
On Sat, 13 Mar 2004 02:31:00 -0500 David Tetzlaff
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> One of the central principles of film studies (or so it seems) is the
> distinction between a Bazinian realistic aesthetic on one hand, and a
> more Eisensteinian montage/presentational style on the other, with
> classical Hollywood film, or at least classical cutting, somewhere in
> the middle. The realist style is said to favor long takes and
> deep-focus cinematography, to preserve 'the ontology of the
> photographic image' by avoiding editing where possible.
> However, I can't seem to bring to mind any specific films that employ
> long takes that seem particularly realist to me. Most of the
> interesting long takes I can think of call attention to themselves by
> virtue of their length. For example, the long takes in Stranger Than
> Paradise seem more formalist to me than realist.
> So i have two questions. The first is practical:
> Can people recommend specific fiction films (and better specific
> scenes) where long takes are employed toward the end of a Bazinian
> realism?
> The second is theoretical:
> Have the representational markers of 'realism' changed. Is the
> absense of editing still what enables the integrety of a photographic
> images 'realness' (if it ever was)? I am thinking especially of
> 'Dogme' influenced films, which seem very invested in a kind of
> realism but have lots of cuts, and very obvious ones at that. My
> hypothesis would be that all this descends from Direct Cinema
> documentary, which established certain conventions of how
> moving-picture photography is used to capture
> life-as-it-actually-happens. The pragmatic necessities of Direct
> Cinema dictated often jerky, hand-held camera work, narrow depth of
> field, and often jerky edits -- which now seem almost universally
> deployed in any narrative that wants to seem 'real' and 'urgent',
> from the TV show 24 to the film Thirteen, just to take examples with
> numbers instead of names.
> Any thoughts?
> ----
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Dr. Mike Chopra-Gant
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