Editing Theory

Started by ono, January 07, 2004, 04:34:07 PM

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ono

Type in the word "editing" in the Xixax search engine and you get over 300 results.  Try "editing theory" or anything remotely related, and you don't even come close.  So apologies if this has been discussed before.  I haven't a clue where to look.  And this could go any number of places too, but it does have to do with "Everything Else Cinema," because cinema is nothing without editing, and all the best discussions tend to happen here.

If I'm not mistaken, it was Stanley Kubrick who noted that film is different from all other mediums because of one technique that sets it apart: editing.  I stand to be corrected.  No other medium has this, as a combination of manipulating both pictures and sound.  Another person (not sure who; I'm hoping someone will refresh my memory) theorized that it's best to start a scene after it's begun, and end it before the natural finish.

I guess what I'm getting at with this thread is I'm interested in hearing other people's theories and philosophies on editing.  What really bugs me about mainstream films is there are certain things you can sense about a film that indicate where they're going.  I'm trying to remember the last film I saw where the editing really struck me, and it's not Festen, though that's the one that comes to mind now.  More on that later.

Lots of films these days (and of days past, too), though, have crummy instrumental scores that try to manipulate your emotions and tell you how to feel, dialogue as exposition, dialogue that you would never hear in real life ("Can I ask you a question?" -- normally people just come right out and ask the fucking question, but that's beside the point), problems a character (protagonist) has in the first act that he will struggle with in the second act and triumphantly overcome in the third act.  Cookie cutter shit.  I hate watching a film and knowing -- or at least being able to hazard a guess at -- exactly where it's going.  I love when I'm surprised.  This has a lot to do with (bad) writing, yes, mass-production, what I call a "sitcom-as-film syndrome" or the "90-minute sitcom," and test audiences.  But an immense amount of this has to do with the editing.  If it's too smooth it feels polished and overly-processed.  If it's too ragged, it feels amateurish.  Where's the balance?

Think of a film like Festen (The Celebration).  I've only seen certain parts of it, but after that, I want to see the whole thing, and as many Dogme 95 films as I can.  I know it all seems gimmicky, and I see both sides of the arguments of the merits and validity of Dogme 95, but still, I'm drawn to it because of those films' style.  This has a lot to do with the use of DV, yes, but also with the editing.  There are many different styles of editing which one can almost think of as different dialects of film language.

So what I wanted to get at is, are there any little mental notes you'd like to share about editing that makes any work you have done, or will do, or have seen stand out?  Is there anything you do or can think of that's unique?  I'm not talking about films such as Requiem for a Dream and Memento with the fast MTV-style montage stuff.  Been there, done that.  I'm sure there are some of you who know what I'm trying to get at, though.  Anything at all about editing would be helpful to everyone, I'm sure.  And cut.  (I realize I deserve to be flogged for that one, but I couldn't resist.  :-D)

┬ębrad

i was talking w/ someone the other day about the surprising abundance of female editors. is it me or are they're a lot of them? and most of them are good!

for example, i took another look at Unfaithful the other day, and noticed it was edited by the very talented Anne V. Coates, whose credits include:

Unfaithful (2002)
Sweet November (2001)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Passion of Mind (2000)
Out of Sight (1998)
Out to Sea (1997)
Striptease (1996)
Congo (1995)
Pontiac Moon (1994)
In the Line of Fire (1993)
Chaplin (1992)
What About Bob? (1991)
I Love You to Death (1990)
Listen to Me (1989)
Farewell to the King (1989)
Masters of the Universe (1987)
Raw Deal (1986)  
Lady Jane (1986)
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
Pirates of Penzance, The (1983)  
Ragtime (1981)
Elephant Man, The (1980)
Bushido Blade, The (1979)  
Legacy, The (1978)
Eagle Has Landed, The (1976)
Aces High (1976)
Man Friday (1975)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
11 Harrowhouse (1974)
Adventurers, The (1970)
Great Catherine (1968)
Hotel Paradiso (1966)
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965)
Young Cassidy (1965)
Becket (1964)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Don't Bother to Knock (1961)
Tunes of Glory (1960)
Horse's Mouth, The (1958)
Truth About Women, The (1958)
Lost (1955)
To Paris with Love (1955)
Forbidden Cargo (1954)
Grand National Night (1954)
Pickwick Papers, The (1952)

well, they're not all winners, but i think lawrence of arabia takes the cake. so what i'm trying to get at here is that chicks make good editors, and if i ever get to make a movie i'm going to get a lady to edit it.

godardian

COuld it be? Is there someone else who shares my pet peeve about overbearing scores?

Eisenstein is one of the earliest to theorize about editing... if I have time someday soon, I'll try to post a bit about it here. First introduced to it by a little film called From the Journals of Jean Seberg.
""Money doesn't come into it. It never has. I do what I do because it's all that I am." - Morrissey

"Lacan stressed more and more in his work the power and organizing principle of the symbolic, understood as the networks, social, cultural, and linguistic, into which a child is born. These precede the birth of a child, which is why Lacan can say that language is there from before the actual moment of birth. It is there in the social structures which are at play in the family and, of course, in the ideals, goals, and histories of the parents. This world of language can hardly be grasped by the newborn and yet it will act on the whole of the child's existence."

Stay informed on protecting your freedom of speech and civil rights.

cron

great post, Ono.

i can't articulate very well how i feel torwards editing , but here are some of my recent favorites, in that aspect

Kill Bill
Dogville
City of God
Punch Drunk Love
JFK
context, context, context.

nix

Another great female editor is Dede Allen(sp?)
"Sex relieves stress, love causes it."
-Woddy Allen

SoNowThen

let's not forget Thelma Schoonmaker

and one of the best male editors, Walter Murch.

His "conversations" book is definitely a must read for intelligent and articulate discussions about editing theories, among other things.
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

pete

susan morse, who did most woody allen's movies before they turned bad.
"Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot."
- Buster Keaton

(kelvin)

Indeed, editing is perhaps the most important aspect of making a good film.
There are quite a few editing styles that can be distinguished.

My proposals for differenciation:

dialectical editing: editing that builds up a climax. It is dialectical: it carries the film and opposes antagonistic features that converge into a higher, purer, or let's say a more stable harmony. example: Battleship Potemkin

conservative editing: editing that forms harmony within the process of editing. There is no converging to a higher level. Harmony is given, harmony must be preserved. example: Triumph of the Will

expressive editing: there is no harmony that must be preserved or created. It often expresses the director's/editor's standpoint. example: A bout the souffle

narrative editing: The editing follows the film. This is the most "classical" approach. example: lots of them, so to say.

Feel free to criticize. :)

jasper_window

Verna Fields is another great female editor, of course Jaws was her last film, and Sarah Flack cut The Limey which is an amazing achievement.

Anyone seen the editing demo on Traffic Criterion Collection.  An Avid timeline plays down a scene with each revision as Stephen Mirrione talks you through.  Fucking excellent.

SoNowThen

Quote from: kelvinIndeed, editing is perhaps the most important aspect of making a good film.
There are quite a few editing styles that can be distinguished.

My proposals for differenciation:

dialectical editing: editing that builds up a climax. It is dialectical: it carries the film and opposes antagonistic features that converge into a higher, purer, or let's say a more stable harmony. example: Battleship Potemkin

conservative editing: editing that forms harmony within the process of editing. There is no converging to a higher level. Harmony is given, harmony must be preserved. example: Triumph of the Will

expressive editing: there is no harmony that must be preserved or created. It often expresses the director's/editor's standpoint. example: A bout the souffle

narrative editing: The editing follows the film. This is the most "classical" approach. example: lots of them, so to say.

Feel free to criticize. :)

awesome post, and I feel we could take this and run, to great tangental discussions.

I think I'm very much a conservative-narrative hybrid, and would like to drop that narrative bit, and be more expressive...


As a side note: how many of you who make films run into that "editing to fix mistakes" problem? I find most of my editing right now consists of firstly cutting through all my takes to pick the least bad bits of performance and camerawork (thus, editing to fix mistakes), and then mainly concentrating on rhythm. I find that I can never get into the level of really inter-relating images, to take myself to a new level, and when I try that, I of course start leaving the story behind, and dropping the sense factor, to which it just looks like pretentious beat-off stuff, and that never serves the story...
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

A(lethia)Ward

there's an early scene in the movie insomnia when i believe someone is getting off of a plane, and it's a very short scene, but theres a cut almost every second, and it annoyed the hell out of me.....

i'm surprised with how much we all love PTA that dylan tichenor hasn't been mentioned.......

its cool to think about certain directors and i think how much respect they have for the editing process.  people like scorsese, robert altman, pta, wes anderson, they all shoot with post-production in mind.  people like michael bay, for instance, seem to shoot a mass amount of shit and rely on the editor to make it presentable.  thus resulting in an average shot time of about 2 seconds for your ordinary bay movie.

Ravi

I don't notice editing much in films, except for obvious structurally innovative editing such as in Pulp Fiction or Memento or isolated moments of catchy editing.  It is easy for me to notice bad editing because good editing is invisible to me, but I can usually tell when a director has thought about the editing of a film like Hitchcock did.

I learned a few things by making mistakes that look like crap and from input by others, which was how I learned about L-cuts.

Quote from: godardian
COuld it be? Is there someone else who shares my pet peeve about overbearing scores?

I don't like overbearing scores either.  While watching a movie I often imagine what a scene would be like without music.  Scoring can enhance the mood of a scene or it can be redundant.  Sometimes emotions need to be underlined by the score rather than being presented in a matter-of-fact fashion without music.

picolas

Quote from: cbradis it me or are they're a lot of them?
i'm reading a book on editing right now that says editors were mostly women all the way back to the soundless days because it was considered a women's job since it had these aspects of organizing and knitting together film..

Weak2ndAct

Quote from: OnomatopoeiaAnother person (not sure who; I'm hoping someone will refresh my memory) theorized that it's best to start a scene after it's begun, and end it before the natural finish.
I believe it was David Mamet, not sure what book it was from.  The On Directing Film book I think...

nix

I've directed and edited two shorts, and edited one more.

My first film had to be MOS which was wonderful, because I learned all about visual storytelling. This process forces you to think about editing before you shoot, because all you have to tell the story is the juxtaposistion of images. That experiance made my second film (which was dialogue heavy) much easier to cut.

Sonowthen,

If you want to tinker with more expressive editing without compromising story, try to find places in the script that would benifit from a montage (transitional or to cover lots of exposistion quickly).

I ran into an exposistion problem with my second film, and found that a montage allowed me to explain lots of back story in a visually expressive way.

I think editing might be my favorite part of the process.
"Sex relieves stress, love causes it."
-Woddy Allen