Monday, October 10, 2005

The Kindest Cut

The recut "trailer" of THE SHINING as goopy family dramedy SHINING shows the power of music and voiceover in selling emotion, but even with the sound off, the juxtapositions zing, thanks to clever editing.

Jack Nicholson's hilarious look of comic frustration? Brilliant! Especially since it was homicidal rage the first time around.

The documentary THE CUTTING EDGE: THE MAGIC OF MOVIE EDITING (forgive them the obvious/dorky title) goes into fascinating detail about this invisible art, starting with film's birth and seminal films such as THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY to the Kuleshov experiment right up to the present with the impact of videogames and MTV on how -- and how quickly -- we process visual information.

In between, the documentary explores different schools of editing (the seamless style of D. W. Griffith as opposed to the media-aware jump cuts of Eisenstein), the role of editing in crafting stars out of actors (Sharon Stone's BASIC INSTINCT flash of naughty bits, anyone?), and the amazing care and detail required, as shown in scenes where Walter Murch constructs a sequence of COLD MOUNTAIN like a mosaic-maker placing tiles.

Should writers care about editing?

Spielberg, Scorsese, Cameron, Tarantino, and the rest of the all-star interview subjects all agree that the editing room is where the final draft of the screenplay is born. The unforgettable opening sequence of APOCALYPSE NOW wasn't in the script.

Even the SHINING trailer was prefigured decades ago, when Charles Ridley recut TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, Leni Riefenstahl's infamous Nazi propaganda piece, into a silly musical short, THE PANZER BALLET, a somewhat less infamous British propaganda piece.

THE CUTTING EDGE aired as a special on Starz a while back, but is out now on DVD. Give it a spin.

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