2 scenes of Punch Drunk Love

Poster for the film titled Punch Drunk Love.Source and view the film Punch Drunk Love, 2002, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, with cinematography by Robert Elswit and film editing by Leslie Jones.

Analyse and discuss two scenes:

  • One where the intensity of the situation is re-enforced by a combination of camera movement, camera angle and editing,
  • and one where a similar combination is used to relieve tension.

Intensity

0:56 This scene begins when Barry Egan has just paid off the hired goons. He starts to explain his unfair treatment when the biggest goon comes up and punches him in the face. Diegetic sound is just one of the techniques employed in continuity editing over these shots. Cutting on action, the subjective camera takes a sideways dive and falls to the ground (with a bounce), revealing a leading actor POV shot (Barry’s view) of the Utah registration plate of their vehicle. Imediately following is a countershot showing Barry’s reaction, him lying on the ground, then the build up as he tails away into the darkness. A panning shot across the white walls, first on his shadow, then on the character himself, also contributes to the increasing intensity. A track in shot follows Barry running down a narrowing dark alley, further deepening the excitement. Barry runs himself into a dead end with a closed door, taken from a high angle shot to heighten the sense of the character’s probable claustrophobia. A track out shot leads with Barry gasping, back to the street, adding further fuel to the fire. Barry exits the frame right. Another right tracking shot keeps pace with Barry, incuding his insane dive-roll over some out of frame obstacle or, more likely, an unknown fear. Barry dive-rolls in a vain attempt to hurdle an out of from obstacle? Repeated use of the same screen direction is understood as the actor continues his previous movement and extends it to cover a greater distance. The last right tracking shot is of Barry on foot, finally paralleled by the goons in their vehicle, as one of them reminds him how foolish running is as they know his home address.

Relief

0:59 Shopping for the extra pudding after Barry’s mugging is one scene of relief, but a minor one as he soon discovers it will take 6-8 weeks to redeem the frequent flyer miles. In the ensuing scene, Barry must pass a series of checkpoints. 1:02 The action is established with a long head-on shot as he approaches the airline staff to check his boarding pass.

Barry is boarding a plane for the first time.

A quick pan followed by a tail-away shot as Barry walks along the boarding gangway. The slow motion as he nears the end of the gangway is used to great effect to begin relieving the audience. In a cross-cut to a close-up of Barry and an adjacent passenger, we learn that he has never been on a plane before. Undeterred, Barry flies himself to Hawaii. The audience assumes this with a cross-cut to a palm-treed airport. For continuity, a tracking shot follows him out of the airport. Next, a taxi driver’s POV shot shows Barry getting in, with the vague destination of where the beaches and hotels are.

A quick cross-cut back to his sister shows Barry’s next hurdle: obtaining Lena’s hotel phone number from her. A cross-cut back to Barry talking on a public phone, gradually tracking in on him to a close-up shot, just as he is getting closer to his goal.

A jump cut is used to tell the audience that Barry is onto the next step. From the objective crowd of the street parade, the cinematographer has made deliberate use of blocking. Barry’s call is directed to the wrong room – the final hurdle Barry must overcome. With the camera at eye level height from behind him, a determined Barry makes his last call and gets through to Lena – magically, the phone booth light switches on when she says hello.

Barry making the right call.

As the couple arrange to meet up, the tension subsides. A cross-cut to a long shot is used to establish Lena skipping in to the lobby toward him, a couple of tracking in and subjective shots from Lena’s and Barry’s perpectives, approaching until she’s close enough to reach him. An objective full-length shot from the side shows the silhouetted couple embrace and kiss to finish the scene.