Editing Analysis of Selected Movies Term Paper

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Of note, Out of the Past was released in Europe and Great Britain as Build My Gallows High. It seems that both films could have been subtitled with this alternative note, particularly when we focus upon the editing -- each piece is but a plank in the construction of the gallows and when the camera has had enough of these nefarious people they are then cast aside as they do others (Homes).

Editing Example 2 -- Geometric vs. Sound-Based Editing- Geometric editing is essentially a technique that uses the positions of the camera, one following each other, when put together, form a geometric shape or picture of the action. For example, the interaction of close ups (when the policemen are talking, for instance) with long shots, of traffic and the city, in The Line Up. In addition, the geometry of the editing moved from box to box, almost in a lineup (Quandt and Ontario, 120). For example, in the scene in which the two detectives confront Bressler, the unwitting courier of heroin from the Orient:

Closeup of the two Detectives Leavning the Lab

Long shot of the detectives entering the Opera House

Interior shot of the detectives entering the Opera House, echoing corridor

Close up of Dressler's Office, framed with three men talking.

Dressler's face close up, Detective's face close up.

Place bag on the table, medium long shot of all three.

Detectives leave Opera House, longer shot as they walk down the street

Detectives travel to Customer's House

Close up of Office in Custom's House, trio close up with Custom's agent

Scene of line up and crowd

Long shot of Detectives leaving station and traveling to another scene

Close up of apartment, of heroin paraphenaliascene e

This editing is continuous throughout the film clip; the back and forth of close up to faces, close up to interiors, longer shots of city or movement. This gives the audience a sense of continual movement -- almost television like small scenes, one after the other very rapidly. In fact, each scene ending, to a modern audience used to television commercials, can almost view this as a crime series made for television: rather simple scenes, framed for effect, back and forth from close to medium to far back to close shots. There is a certain sense of realism that also comes through with this style. It is also easy to follow the action and the protagonists vs. antagonists.

Sound-based editing, however, as exemplified in the 1968 drama Bullitt, uses the editor to allow the camera to follow the sound through the picture as part of the action- whether that be dialog, something as innocuous as a Hotel valet opening the door, a passing San Francisco streetcar, or the award winning car chase scene in which the editing is so masterful that the eye and ear seem to take in more than possible if one were an eye-witness. Since both films are set in San Francisco, it is interesting to compare the way each used the city to tell part of the story: in one case, more as a travelogue with prominent sights crisply attired; in the other, seamier sides of town as well as a more film noir approach to darkness and deceit (lighting, make up, camera angles). It is actually this form of editing that takes Bullitt out of the genre of action flick and more of a character study in police procedure, how individuals react in stressful situations, and ways of imitating the scenery while acting. For example, in the opening scene the titles imitate the elevator that the killers ride, often the movement of traffic immitates the way characters are walking (direction, pace, etc.), and the overall plodding nature of law enforcement is echoed in the shots of the environment (office, street, landscape, etc.) (Fairbanks 137).

Both films are chronologically based, and the editing technique follows the story line to piece scenes together. There are some commonalities -- sometimes when the decectives are talking in both films, the camera briefly frames their faces, then moves out into a larger pan of the environment -- almost as if the editro wants us to continually place the characters inside a specific dramatic "scape." However, instead of using a regular, geometric-based set of scenes as in The Lineup, Bullit uses music, sound, and dialog to trace character action. One superb example of this is the lack of dialog during the scene in which Steve McQueen dines out -- the "action" if you will, is played out with the musicians, and the editor follows the flute, string base and drums and juxtaposes what type of action is expected in the characters, even though the camera does not always show that action. The editing in The Lineup seems fitting for the plot and genre, but heavy handed -- almost contrived -- do x, then y, then z. In contrast the scenes in Bullit are rather subtle; an angled teleophone shot intersperced with jazz music and impending doom at a safe house and finding that McQueen was not alone during the conversation, all done subtly without anything other than the tension mouting as the door opens and a shotgun blasts through.

In all four cases, though, the art of editing is apparent in that it "occurs when the combination of two or more shots takes meaning to the next level -- excitement, insight, shock, or the epuphany of discovery" (Dancyger xix).


Ballinger and Graydon. The Rough Guide to Film Noir. New York: Routledge, 2007.

Christopher, N. Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City. New York: Hentry Holt, 1997.

Dancyger, K. The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2007.

Dmytryk, E. On Film Editing. Boston: Focal Press, 1984.

Fairbanks, B. The Late Show - Writings on Film. Lulu.com, 2005.

Homes, G. Build My Gallows High. London: Prion, 2001.

Murch, W. In the Blink of An Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 2001.

Palmer, R. Barton. Hollywood's Dark Cinema: The American Film Noir. New York: Thompson Gale, 1994.

Quandt and Ontario. Robert Bresso. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Reisz and Millar. Technique of Film Editing. 2nd. New York: Focal Press, 2009.

Sobachack, V. Lounge Time: Postwar Crises and the Chronotope of Film Noir. New York: Abe Books, 1998.

Walker, A. Stanley Jubrick Directs. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1972.

There are a number of film studies focusing on Film Noir. Among the best are: Dickos, A. (2002). Street With No Name: A History of the Classic American Film Noir. University Press…[continue]

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