Monday, March 2, 2009

The Long Take in Modern Cinema

In response to part of question 2, I think the long take is definitely not “dead”. Plenty of recent movies have taken advantage of the long take, like Children of Men, Cloverfield, and Atonement. But as you suggested, our approach as audiences to the long take seems to have changed. Perhaps this is a result of “MTV Syndrome”: we are used to cuts every two seconds in an action sequence, and we want to feel like we are tossed against the currents of the story. One of the most frequent complaints I heard about Millenium Mambo was that “nothing ever really happened”. However, I found this statement to be relatively untrue: there were plenty of plot points to follow, though the mixed-up linearity of the film and often lack of cues made it difficult at times. I think that the real problem was that people found it particularly difficult to get involved in the story because of the camera’s passivism. Usually, we are accustomed to having a camera bring us closer to action than we could normally come, and place us in the direct line of fire of the movement, action, plot, and dialogue. When the camera remains mostly static, as was the case in Millenium Mambo, we feel uncomfortable because we feel like we are restricted. We desire to know what is happening up close, particularly when the action in the scene is not happening within the confines of the frame. Bazin mentions how the long take increases the reality of the scene, which can certainly be said to be true. However, perhaps that is just the problem. As an audience today, we seem to want cinema to give us an escape from, rather than a re-admission to, reality. Thus I think that while the long take is definitely not dead, it has definitely evolved in the ways that it is effectively used in modern mainstream cinema.

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