Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

ACTION! CUT?? PART 1

“FILM IS TRUTH 24 times a second,” French film director Jean-Luc Godard said, “and every cut is a lie.”

Given this, almost all films are filled with falsity: They’re formed from scads of cinematographic takes which are then cut, edited, and assembled into the final product. There are exceptions, however.

Russian Ark: Anniversary Edition, by Alexander Sokurov, Seville Pictures, 2002.

One of them, Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark, appeared here at SimanaitisSays. Today and tomorrow, in Parts 1 and 2, are tidbits on two other examples of extended takes: Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend.

Neither competes with Sokurov’s amazing 96-minute one-take epic filmed in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace. Each, though, is noteworthy cinema. And both, incidentally, have to do with automobiles.

Touch of Evil. As with Citizen Kane, 1941, Orson Welles wrote, directed, and co-starred in Touch of Evil. In fact, Citizen Kane had already displayed elements of Welles’ (and his cinematographic mentor Greg Toland’s) unorthodoxy: disorientating views (wide angle, low angle), deep focus (foreground, middle-ground, and background all in focus), and extreme closeup (Kane’s dying “Rosebud” utterance).

Touch of Evil is classic film noir, darkly emphasizing cynicism and sexuality. It’s one of the last and one of the best of the genre, its cast including Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, Akim Tamiroff, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Henry Mancini wrote the film score.

I’ll not give away its complex plot of corruption and intrigue at the U.S./Mexican border, but note that it begins with a car getting time-bombed. In fact, this is when the extended take occurs, with a three-minute thirty-two second shot of pedestrians Heston and Leigh accompanying the doomed car crossing the border into the U.S.

Entering the U.S. from Mexico in Touch of Evil, 1958.

We know the car is doomed because the first thing we see, even before the extended take, is a closeup of a hand setting the bomb’s kitchen timer. And then, chatting with the border guards, the gal complains, “I’ve got this ticking noise in my head….” There’s also talk of a drug bust, ominously only half accomplished.

A lot happens in three minutes and thirty-two seconds.

A Hidden Long Take. Justin Morrow’s “Watch: How Orson Welles Hid a 12-Minute Single Take in Plain Sight,” in nofilmschool.com describes yet more cinematographic trickery lurking later in Touch of Evil.

Captain Hank Quinlan (a bent cop?) is portrayed by Orson Welles, wearing padding, even during one of his heavier periods.

Watch an analysis of this scene at YouTube. The extended take also displays Welles’ mastery of disorientating angle, closeup, and deep focus.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see how Jean-Luc Godard uses the long take in Weekend to display a French country road tieup, bizarrely complete with blaring horns, circus lions, and a fine array of European cars circa 1967. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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