My New Favorite Blog

I tend to find film criticism either insufferably pedantic, ill informed, or both. I prefer to take my criticism with wit and irony. And possibly pedophilia jokes.

I recently found David Bordwell’s blog. His name sounded familiar, and after a bit of googling, I realized I’d read his book Film Art Introduction in film school.

At the time, I found him insufferably pedantic, but I’m starting to appreciate him more. Take the following quote about editing: “Intensified continuity [a pretentious film-school term if I’ve ever heard one] is about using brief shots to maintain the audience’s interest but also making each shot yield a single point, a bit of information. Got it? On to the next shot.”

This blew my mind. I mean, I knew that it was true. I had a sense about this, in the same way I knew what the Kuleshov Effect was before I’d heard the term, even though I’d never quite articulated it.

I even shoot my own shorts this way. I can think of only one shot in the past year that accomplished two points. I just never realized I was doing it until Bordwell pointed it out.

Excited by this concept, I called a friend to discuss the implications. It seemed like we’d hit a wall in terms of coverage; I mean, you can’t have less than one meaning per shot (although the coyote in Collateral comes close).

Should we go back to long takes? Fuck Brian De Palma and his “Hey, look at me, I’ve got a steadicam!” style of shooting.

On the other hand, take David Fincher, and Seven. The scene where Brad Pitt meets Morgan Freeman is a single, four minute long dolly shot. It’s not show-offy, MTV-style, music video aesthetic. (And Fincher started out as a music video director.) But the scene isn’t boring. The writing, the acting, the composition, the lighting, the set design, hell, even the rain effects all work together to create an absolutely engrossing scene.

My friend pointed out that getting that right is hard as fuck. One-shot-one-point is much easier. Each shot/point gets exactly the emphasis it needs, because you can cut it longer or shorter, pick the medium shot or the close up, whatever.

Maybe I rely on lots of coverage because I’m not as good a director as Fincher.

…Yeah, that’s definitely the reason.

Anyway, the point is, this discussion would never have happened without David Bordwell. I suggest you check him out.

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2 Responses

  1. Have you seen Atonement? If you have, well then I don’t have to explain the shot I am thinking of.

    If not, you should see it. The shot on the beach at Dunkirk is, well, it is worth seeing the film for.

    (And it is a good film to boot.)

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