Category Archives: Analysis

2 scenes of Crash

Crash - film posterSource and view the film Crash, 2004, directed and written by Paul Haggis, with J. Michael Muro as the director of photography. Working the cameras, J. Michael Muro is also behind the lens of many well known titles such as Dances with Wolves, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Point Break, True Lies, Titanic, Swordfish, and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Analyse and discuss two scenes:

  • one where editing increases the intensity of the situation,
  • one where audio and/or music is used to achieve the opposite effect.

Awards for the film Crash include 3 Oscar awards for Best Achievement in Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. It also received 3 nominations including one for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song.

Intensity from editing

1:15 – 1:19 The intensity in this scene builds rapidly and is amplified by some great editing techniques, especially fast cutting. The scene begins with Cameron Thayer (played by Terrence Howard) attempting to evade a carjacking by two black guys. The audience gets a few subjective shots from one harasser’s perspective and as Cameron retaliates, these are mixed in with a couple of objective shots (the police are initially in the distance).

Subjective shot from the perspective of a car-jacker. Objective shot while the police are in the distance.

Tempo quickens in the ensuing segment showing a vehicle chase by the police as Cameron tries to flee but with one of the aggressors in the passenger seat. Maintaining continuity through the segment, the editing combines camera shots from the street, shots from inside and shots from on top of the police vehicles, together with sound from the sirens and the police radio. Officer Tom Hansen (played by Ryan Phillippe) recognises the registration plates whilst in pursuit of Cameron’s car.

A longer shot establishing the commencement of action.

Cameron ends up driving into a cul-de-sac and a showdown segment begins. Here the confrontation between Cameron and the police includes a longer shot establishing the commencement of action, several subjective shots taken from Cameron’s perspective, and many quick paced over-the-shoulder alternating dialogue shots with medium close to close-up camera placement. There are several instances of head and shoulders close-up shots of the police officers aiming their firearms directly at the camera. These subjective POV shots combined with the diegetic sound of the shotgun pump action gives the audience a real sense of threat. A fever pitch is reached through a series of over-the-shoulder exchanges of short bursts of dialogue between Cameron and Tom, maintaining continuity by not crossing the 180 degree line. Background mood music further heightens the emotion with both shrillness and a fast heart-like beating sound. Throughout the scene, the continuity of the shots is so tight that not only does it seem better than live coverage of a sports event, but it also serves to build the intensity to a sizzling point.

Subjective big close up shot from the perspective of Cameron. Over-the-shoulder dialogue burst. Over-the-shoulder dialogue burst.

Opposite effect through audio/music

From thesaurus.com, direct antonyms for intensity are apathy, dullness, inactivity, laziness, lethargy, and moderation. However, in relation to this film, calming, soothing, or a cooling down would be more apt to describe the opposite effect of intensity. The original score for Crash was mostly written and composed by Mark Isham, but it was the song titled In the deep by Kathleen York (Bird York) and Michael Becker that received the Oscar nomination, and drives a soothing tone to some of the film’s final scenes. The editor has carefully moderated all diegetic sounds from the sets, ensuring key dialogue is heard and narrative elements are audible, while muting or compressing less important sounds.

1:40 – 1:46 The song In the deep sung by Bird York plays softly in the background, as the only element continuously smoothing over a series of jump cut edits across each character’s conclusion. In the arms of her housemaid, Jean Cabot has realised her daily anger problem. Tom has just set his car on fire to remove evidence. As the lyrics begin, the on-set sound of the gasoline can landing on the ground is suppressed. Another visual jump cut shows John Ryan helping his father, whose breathing and soft crying sounds are heard. The next jump cut reveals Rick Cabot with both the sound and close up shot of him locking the door. The song continues while Daniel’s family are peacefully sleeping. Cameron’s driving is much calmer in the next shot. The audience can only hear a very muffled engine noise as he pulls over to observe the silent falling snow. Cameron joins several youth figures and throws a piece of timber onto the burning car wreck, none of which can be heard. Then we hear the ringing of his mobile phone as he receives a call from his wife at home. Cameron hesitates then answers the phone. After each of them say Hi, we hear Cameron’s voice over the phone telling his wife that he loves her.

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.

2 scenes of No Country For Old Men

A poster for the film No Country For Old Men.View the film No Country For Old Men. There is a trailer on YouTube available.

This is a 2008 crime thriller film directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, with cinematography by Roger Deakins (director of photography).

Analyse and discuss two scenes:

  • one where the absurdity of the situation is re-enforced by image composition,
  • one where frustration is conveyed by choice of environment.

Absurdity re-enforced by composition

Dictionary.com defines absurd as:
utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false: an absurd explanation.

Early in the film, the main character, Llewelyn Moss, acquires a case of $2M from a criminal homicide in the desert, where all the drug dealers bar one has been shot to death. When he returns to his trailer park home, he answers the query from his wife, Carla Jean, who does not believe the case is full of money. Her docile behaviour may be explained by her character role, watching mind-numbing television. What is truly illogical however, is Llewelyn’s compassionate decision in the middle of the night to bring water back to the dying man in the desert. A frame from No Country for Old Men, showing an absurdity of the situation. This is completely senseless of him. Returning to a crime scene is never a good idea, especially for the purpose of delivering drinking water to a bloodied drug dealer who was obviously going to die anyway. It is absurd that Llewelyn left his wife in the middle of the night to deliver water to a dying man in the desert who he has just robbed. He even admits that he’s fixing to do something dumber than hell. Furthermore, he knows there is lethal danger in that he asks his wife to tell his mother that he loves her, if he does not return. Carla reminds him that his mother is dead, after which he proclaims that he’ll tell her himself. This is ridiculously foolish as Llewelyn’s compassion is worthless, inappropriate, and leads him directly into trouble.

Frustration conveyed by chosen environments

Here we can use the following definition of frustration; a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

Bringing drinking water to the now dead dealer in the desert, Llewelyn parks his ute atop the ridge and walks down to the scene of the shoot out. His decision to leave his ute at a distance quickly leads to disaster as a fresh group of Mexican bandits arrive and puncture his tyres, reducing his mobility. Now his escape from the bandits must be made on foot. Firing shots, they chase him in their vehicle to the river, at which point the bad guys release a relentless dog. To survive the approaching dog, Llewelyn must quickly clean and dry out his pistol that was saturated when he started swimming. After shooting the dog, he then must walk without boots and jacket back to his home.

Before realising there is a tracking device in the money case, Llewelyn is constrantly on the run. First he attempts to safeguard his wife by sending her to stay at her mother’s place. Then he checks into someplace cheap, Del Rio’s Regal Motel, and hides the case in the ventilation shaft. Returning to his motel, he is scared off by a suspicious looking vehicle parked at a room. He pays the taxi to take him to another motel. Frustration conveyed by chosen environment, room 138. Next he returns to Del Rio’s Regal Motel and takes out an additional room, directly behind his first room. Using recently purchased tent poles to form a hook, he retrieves the money case via the ventilation shaft from the safety of his new room, 38, while the Mexicans are slaughtered in the adjacent room 138, where Anton Chigurh has tracked the location of the money case to.

In room 213 at the next hotel, Llewelyn realises the coincidence of his hunters finding him by chance is impossible. He deduces that there must be a transponder and discovers it in the case. Anxiety heightens after a call to the reception goes unanswered. He realises the problem is drawing near. Frustration conveyed by chosen environment, room 213. Switching off the bedside lamp is all he can do as he prepares to fight off his predator from behind the door. Llewelyn’s crafty opponent dims the light from the hallway before commencing his assault. After the exchange of shots, Llewelyn bravely jumps from the window of his second floor room to escape.

Though each escape results in further injuries, Llewelyn is no closer to succeeding. He chooses to hide the money case on the riverbank beside the Mexican border gate. With his escalating injuries, throwing the money case over the high fence is difficult, but it puts it out of reach of everyone. Thus his final unmet needs are to kill Anton and retrieve the money.

Bibliography

absurd. (n.d.). In Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/absurd

Coen, E., & Coen, J. (2007). No Country for Old Men. Crime | Drama | Thriller, Paramount Vantage. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477348/

Poster for the film Amelie.

2 scenes of Amélie

Poster for the film Amélie.Source and view the film Amélie, originally titled as Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, with cinematography by
Bruno Delbonnel.

Analyse and discuss two scenes where camera movement is used to:

  • develop the narrative
  • portray emotion

There’s an enjoyable Amélie trailer on YouTube to watch. This romantic comedy stars Audrey Tautou as the title character Amélie Poulain, and Mathieu Kassovitz as the admired Nino Quincampoix. Union Générale Cinématographique (UGC) has produced over 150 films in France including Amélie which was inspired by The Idiot, a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The film has quite high-production values (with a glossy and expensive look) and was nominated for 5 academy awards. In addition to the familiar pan and tilt movements, Bruno Delbonnel makes creative use of a broad range of camera movements throughout Amélie including follows and leads, tracking and pedding.

A narrative scene

Direction for Nino in a narrative scene.Amélie happened to pick up Nino’s photo album. The shy waitress determines to do the good deed of returning it but would also like to risk the chance of meeting a potential boyfriend. Leaving a note on the back of one of his portrait prints, a rendevouz is arranged at the Monmartre carousel. Dressed incognito, she calls Nino via a public phone at the base of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Follow the arrows, Mr Quincampoix. The camera follows Nino in the ensuing scene as he travels along both the physical directions of various arrows and pointers, as well as his curiosity to discover the identity of his mysterious and quirky admirer. Starting with blue chalked arrows on the pavement, the camera initially pans with Nino along the arc ramps. It subsequently climbs the stairs maintaining a downward tilt to reveal the pigeons eating his latest arrow of birdseed. With Nino out of breath, the camera makes a dizzying pan around a living statue followed by an upward tilt to highlight the statue’s index finger indicating that Nino must go higher still, all the way to the coin operated binoculars. Upon looking through the binoculars, he sees Amélie replacing his precious photo album into his scooter saddlebag. Despite running all the way back down, she hides but leaves another mysterious clue to her identity on page 51 of the album. Throughout the scene, the tracking movement of the camera emphasises the characters effort to satisfy his curiosity, particularly after the previous scene where Nino wakes at night with the 4-shot portrait photos talking to him about who she is.
Nino sleeps with the photo attached to his bedside lamp.Nino's photos start talking to him about her.Nino asks about her identity.

An emotive scene

There are plenty of scenes packed with emotions, but most involve only subtle camera movement at best. The final scene, with Nino and Amélie taking a fun-filled ride through the back streets of Paris, has plenty of both camera movement and emotions. She has her arms affectionately wrapped around his waist as he pedals along the roads, the camera tracking out leading the characters. Throughout this 30 second take, the shots are quite fast paced to match the thrill of the action. Parallel right tracking shots are deliberately bumpy to remind viewers perhaps of the charm of cobblestone paved streets but more importantly, that love can be a bumpy road. Backgrounds are constantly blurry as the camera leads the characters around sharp corners of tight laneways and narrow streets, heightening both the viewers’ excitement and sense of bonding between the characters. A blurred close-up shot while tracking alongside Nino and Amélie as they ride, simultaneously reveals their exhiliration from the ride and their contentedness with filling each other’s personal space. Their love is fun-filled and they have no fear of showing it as depicted in the final aside. It is this scene that forms an audience-pleasing conclusion.
Tracking camera movement in final emotive scene of Amélie.Hands free riding in final emotive scene of Amélie.Aside in final emotive scene of Amélie.

Bibliography

Camera Movement. (n.d.). MediaCollege.com. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from http://www.mediacollege.com/video/shots/movement.html

Camera Movement – film. (n.d.). . Retrieved March 4, 2011, from http://www.filmreference.com/encyclopedia/Academy-Awards-Crime-Films/Camera-Movement.html

Dirks, T. (n.d.). Cinematic Terms – A FilmMaking Glossary. Filmsite. Retrieved March 5, 2011, from http://www.filmsite.org/filmterms2.html

Jeunet, J. (2001). Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain. Comedy | Fantasy | Romance, Dendy Films. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/