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: Visual Motifs (Doors, Mirrors, Timepieces)  ( 29253 )
dave jenkins
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« #30 : June 07, 2021, 06:34:57 AM »

Even the shooting in the feather factory seems to tell us we're "inside a bed".
Love it!



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« #31 : October 13, 2021, 03:13:25 PM »

I have been reading David Bordwell's Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (2017).

One of the things that we take for granted today is the use of flashbacks. Of course, the flashback was not invented in the 40s, there are examples going back to the days of the silents. But Hollywood seems to have gone crazy for them in the 40s. This is unlike the previous decade, where the technique was used sparingly. In fact, Bordwell points out that there were more pictures using flashbacks in 1946 than in all the Hollywood movies made in the 1930s put together. The 40s vogue saw any number of variations, and Bordwell notes two of the most interesting, the film version of the play Death of a Salesman (1952)--for his purposes, Bordwell extends the "40s" to 1952--and a movie called Enchantment (1948), based on a novel by Rumer Godden.

Enchantment contains two love stories, one set in the past, and one in "the present" (London during the Blitz) . The earlier story involves Lark, Rollo, Selina, and Pelham. The modern story features Old Rollo, and the younger generation of Grizel and Pax. Neither story is anything by itself, interest is created through the interplay of the two timelines.

Quote
Anticipating the single-take time shifts of Death of a Salesman, a shot may link two periods. Typically these passages highlight enduring parts of the house. Old Rollo has grudgingly let Grizel stay in Selina's bedroom. While Rollo says, in an auditory flashback, "There's no such thing as an empty room," we see Grizel at the dressing table. The clock stops [or perhaps Grizel merely suspects it has], and as she puts it up to her ear, she looks screen right. The camera pans to the door, with a maid calling [from behind it], "Miss Selina," and then pans back to show Selina as an adolescent [perhaps some 60 years previous] at the dressing table [also holding the clock to her ear]. The parallel renders Grizel, during her first night in the house, as similar to Lark, who as a child spent her first night in Selina's room. [270]
Parallelism is the whole point of the technique. Situations in the present mirror episodes sixty years before. The action alternates between the two time lines, presented in blocks, six in the present, five in the past (the film opens and closes in "the present"). Although paralleling each other, the two timelines contrast: the lovers in the past were separated,  the present-day lovers, at the end of the film, unite.

To maintain the parallels, and to indicate time jumps, the film employs what Bordwell calls "single-shot transitions". The camera picks out an object in the room in which the action is occurring, focuses on it, then moves away to reveal that we have changed characters and timelines.
Quote
Nearly all of these single-shot transitions pivot on items that have remained in the house over the years: a clock, a chandelier, the central staircase.
By the way, what Bordwell calls "single-shot transitions" aren't always one take each. In the Selina's Bedroom transition, for example, there is a shot that ends on the closed door, followed immediately by a shot that begins on the door before moving away. The beginning of the second shot is superimposed over the end of the first shot, to make it look like one take, but the illusion is imperfect. The superimposition is discernable as the lighting in the second shot differs from that in the first (this may have been intentional; the second half of the scene takes place not only years earlier, but during a different time of day).
 
For our purposes, it is enough to note how the use of time shifts and the devices that signal those shifts anticipate Leone's approach in OUATIA. As Bordwell observes, the time changes are somewhat objective, not tied to any character's thoughts or memories. "This is rare in classical cinema of the period, which usually motivated returns to the past by someone's recounting or recalling earlier events." (271).

I have no idea if Leone was in any way aware of Enchantment, or if Enchantment should be seen as a kind of precursor to OUATIA,  but I was struck by a bit of deja vu when reading about that first transition scene above which includes, interestingly enough, both a clock and a closed door. Happily, amazon has the film on Prime, streaming free for members, and I was able to check it out. Yup. A clock and a door and a time jump. Hmmmmm.



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« #32 : October 14, 2021, 06:12:26 AM »

When I took my only film class, they called these "match cuts".  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Match_cut

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« #33 : October 15, 2021, 08:41:46 AM »

I don't think all the time transitions in Enchantment occur as match cuts. Some of them do, but others may in fact be clever stagings done in a single take. All the transitions in OUATIA, though, IIRC, are match cuts.



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