Term Paper: Movie Editing

Pages: 8 (2625 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Film  ·  Buy This Paper

Editing Analysis of Selected Movies

For modern motion picture audiences, the art of film editing has risen to the level of quality that it is unnoticed -- if it is done expertly. In its most fundamental, editing is a process that assembles raw film shots into a coherent whole through the creative use of layering images, story, dialogue, pacing, and even the actor's performances to craft a more cohesive whole. In many ways, the film editor is the final director and can turn a film into a piece of cinemagraphic art or, conversely, great actors into a tedious "B" movie offering.

Film editing is one of the processes in the industry that has benefited from technological advances. With the advent of digital editing, film editors are now responsible for numerous areas that were previously the prevue of others: sound, music, visual effects, etc. This gives even more importance to the art, and as a guide through the story, the editor is clearly one of the focal leaders (Reisz and Millar).

Editing is so important that such famous directors as Stanley Kubrick noted, "If I wanted to be frivolous, I might say that everything that precedes editing is merely a way of producing film to edit" (Walker). However, beofore we delve into our analysis, we should keep in mind the criteria that film scholars hold up as a standard for properly edited movies. First are seven rules of cutting that every editor should follow: 1) Never made a cut without a positive reason; 2) When undecided about the exact from to cut on, cut long rather than short; 3) Whenever possible, cut 'in movement'" 4) The 'fresh' is preferable to the 'stale;' 5) All scenes should begin and end with continuing action; 6) Cut for prper values rather than proper matches; 7) Substance first- then form (Dmytryk, 23-145). This is followed by six main criteria for deciding where to cut, in order of importance, with emotion holding a 51% portion:

Emotion -- Does the cut reflect what the editor believes the audience should be feeling at that moment?

Story -- Does the cut advance the story?

Rhythm -- Does the cut occur at a moment that is interesting and right for the mood?

Eye trace = Does the cut pay attention to the location and movement of the audience?

Two-dimmensional plane -- Is the cut true to the spatial relationships in the picture?

Three-dimmensional space -- Is the cut true to the physical relationships? (Murch, 18-40)

Film Noir describes rather stylish Hollywood crime dramas that tend to emphasize cynical attitudes, false friends, and above all, the sexual power of the sly seductress in her manipulation and corruption of what was good and wholesome. As a genre, Hollywood's film noir period is said to stretch from the 1940s to the late 1950s, typically done in black and white to emphasize texture. However, the genre did not die after 1960s, particularly the manner of the dark portrayal of sexuality, crime, and manipulation. Films of this genre may, in fact, encompass a number of plotlines -- private eyes, aging boxers, grifters, or a law-abiding citizen lured into crime. The mode of commonality though is the deep vision into the dark side of humanity; the way in which our species uses guile, wit, and sexuality to manipulate events and people. But also, film noir forces the audience to look deep inside themselves and ask -- is there part of me in this character? Almost Hitchcockian in tone and timbre, the psychopathology and darkness of the soul are somewhat self-reflective, and that darkness is not only present in the editing, but almost lifts off the screen and becomes part of us.

Film Noir is inherently pessimistic and cynical about the human condition. Most of the noir plots center around disaffected individuals who border on the sociopathic. Their own sense of morality is skewed by their desire to attain wealth and power, and they are able to disassociate themselves with accepted cultural mores to do so (Palmer). The world, in fact, is shown to be inherently corrupt -- and unless one is willing to take the step to being corrupt too, one will not be able to succeed in this type of world (Ballinger and Graydon 4). From a historical view, it is also interesting to note that much of the plotlines in noir are often seen as a reflection of the American cynicism of the time -- heightened anxiety, alienation, dissatisfaction with American culture (Sobachack). Some scholars go as far as to indicate that noir is really the Pandora's Box or the Genie in the Bottle -- pent up feelings of anger, lust, and unsatisfied sexual longings that are finally free and have no moral template from which to hide (Christopher 37).

Editing Example 1- We will utilize two short experts from the film noir genre, Billy Wilder's 1944 Double Indemnity and Jacques Tourneur's 1947 Out of the Past.

Double Indemnity

Out of the Past

Emotion

Tension built through rapid angle changes and an almost frenetic pace. Car runs red light, streets dark and dismal. Banter almost hostile.

Dreamlike, but more structured than Double Indemnity. Feels like a documentary; almost as if we are intruding on people's private lives.

Framing

McMurry (Neff) is center of most shots, plays off shadows. When Phyllis talks, she is center of scene. The framing is similar to portraiture -- boxed characters so that the audience focuses on the subtleties of facial expressions and voice.

Larger frames, larger scenes with more than central character. Rarely do we see character close ups -- instead, scenes and characters are placed against backdrop of location (Small town in California, New York, Mexico, and San Francisco).

Lighting

Silhouettes and shadows are key; while face is clear, the aura is dark. Contrasts with brightness of house, Stanwyck (Phyllis Dietrichson)- towel is light, hair is blonde, soft focus for Phyllis, clarity with Neff. Shot rings out in darkness; once gun drops Phyllis no longer in light -- but still centered in shadow.

Clarity; brightness and almost hyper realism. Even night scenes are well lit. Only shadows are Kirk Douglas (Sterling).

Composition

Dark, typical film noir; shadows, night, characters bundled up, hat down. Each person with dialog is framed in center. Soft shadows on Phyllis' face and hair.

Back and forth with dialog; town and features are stark, almost as if it is fall or early spring.

Rhythm & Tone

Paced; dialog staccato, feeling of futility (e.g. janitors dumping trash in empty office). Portrays sexual banter and innuendo between Walter and Phyllis.

Still staccato; dialog back and forth -- banter is just below hostile. Use of Black jazz in speakeasy sets tone of being out of place, out of time.

Overall Editing

Dark, frantic confession moves to reminiscence of events; although even in Dietrich's home, shadows from blinds, etc. Famous scene with Phyllis walking down stairs, showing her ankle -- very seductive for the time period. Dialog often in shadows; when Neff and Phyllis plan murder, composition has lighting on protagonist's face; mood stays somber.

Juxtaposition between present and past; film noir in sense of realism; but not as dark as many. However, the pieces we see of the characters seem to ooze with pessimism about the human race.

Both films are crisp, in the dialog, banter, and editing -- there are no extra scenes apparent, in fact every single incident and piece of film seems put there for an exact reason -- to draw the audience into the web of intrigue. It is this dark intrigue that is the focal point of both films -- somewhat different in tone, but not in style. Try as we might, we cannot find a hero -- all the film's angles, lighting, framing point away from that concept -- even when we want to emotionally like a person, the juxtaposition between characters becomes so ominous that we switch gears -- sometimes mid scene.

One of the most masterful touches is the way the editor portrays the sultry femme fatale -- blonde, shapely, small waisted, sultry, bedroom eyes; seems vulnerable and innocent in framing, but the camera catches the cynical and devious nature behind both Phyllis and Kathie. In the case of Double Indemnity, Phyllis is photographed in shadow or soft-focus, giving her the appearance of an innocent -- really of an almost Median character -- calm on the outside, quite sociopathic on the inside. Kathie, however, is framed as the rest of the picture -- as if we are spying on her from a brief distance; whether at the Mexican bar, the shore, walking, or in San Francisco. Both women have several traits in common -- they can kill in an instant; a fact the camera lets us know before the event.

Still, in these moral plays we find some semblance of retribution and justice in the choices made before the camera fades out: quick and almost anti-climactic events whirl around the main characters and last scenes until we find Phyllis… [END OF PREVIEW]

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