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May 21, 2007

Hollywood's Greatest Long Takes

With lots of video at Daily Film Dose.

Oldboy's hammer-fight sequence:

Hard-Boiled's hospital shootout:

And of course Serenity's single-hidden-cut introduction to the ship and crew:

Other ones -- real classics, not the guns & robots fare I favor -- at the link.

Meh. I've never gotten the appeal of the long take. The thing is, it's an incredibly difficult thing to do, costing loads of money, and yet it always looks kind of fake and feels slow (you suddenly realize how important editing is to pacing) and it adds nothing at all to a movie from a viewer's perspetive. In fact, it detracts from it, the moment you realize you're watching a long take. It calls attention to movie-making artifice rather than to the story being told.

So, basically, it's crap guys like DePalma do to show off for their friends.

I'm annoyed that that gorgeous long pulling back helicopter shot from the end of Lethal Weapon II isn't on there. Sure, the movie was crap, and the shot was hardly as difficult as a lot of the ones this guy features -- heck, it's just a stupid helicopter pulling back and back and back -- but it's marvelous. Only reason to watch that movie.

They don't have it on YouTube, so the closest I can come is Speed Racer with the "Cheer Down" Harrison song from LW2's closing credits/tracking shot.

So, like, imagine instead of a cartoon, it's film, and instead of the Mach 5, it's the LA docks at sunrise. That's pretty much the shot.

Another big tracking shot he didn't include is the split-screen double-long-take-turning-into-one-scene in the not terribly good Rules of Attraction. It went like this: Follow a guy on the right side of the screen, follow the girl on the left side. A single take for both as they go through their morning routines. The both meet at a message-board in a college building at which point, voila, it stops being split screen and they're both in the same scene together.

They spent a nontrivial fraction the film's budget on that one shot, plus they had to get a lot more money post-production to fix a technical error made during it. They were so proud of the little trick.

Impact on the viewer: Almost nil. You only even begin to appreciate it, from a technical standpoint, watching the commentary (and you only appreciate the difficulty of it because what seemed like it should be easy was expensively botched), but even with some appreciation for it, you can't help asking the obvious questions, "You spent how much money on this one stupid shot? Were you high and/or temporarily retarded when you made this decision?"

Oh, Here It Is: I guess I misremembered. It's only a "long take" before the split screens meld, and it's not a very long take at that.



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posted by Ace at 12:14 PM

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