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Sam Rohdie

The great achievement of D. W. Griffith was not this or that narrative technique of editing or shooting but his realisation that the image had first to be detached from what it represented enabling it to attain autonomy and independence as an image. Autonomy allows images to be related one to another, to become 'writing', and to return to reality indirectly by images of it, the writing of a story with images of absent realities. This realisation gives Griffith's films an uncertainty and fragility as if representation is made relative by the realities it can never fully grasp and that threaten its disappearance. His fictions had realistic aims achieved by unrealistic means. Griffith was an inventor, creator and champion of cinematic forms, largely attentive, seldom negligent. Alternating montage is ruled by temporal and causal rules, for example, in a chase scene or a shot counter-shot in a scene of dialogue.

in Montage
Sam Rohdie

Intolerance consists of four stories separated historically in time and space. Each story was shot and organised differently and each refers to established and successful film genres: the Babylon story to Italian spectacle films, the Christ story to films of the Passion, the story of the seventeenth century St Bartholomew's massacre to French Films d'Art, the modern story to the melodramas that David Wark Griffith had perfected. If the narrative elements of which Intolerance is composed were already familiar, Griffith's ordering of these was unique. In Intolerance, the counter-shot comes from a different universe. Clearly, it was Griffith's intention to employ the system of parallel montage for Intolerance but on a grander, more ambitious, and, as it turned out, abstract scale.

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

In a Eric Rohmer film, characters project their desires upon what they see. In Rohmer's Die Marquise von O, the Marquise is saved from rape by the Russian Count, her hero, the embodiment of all virtue, before whom she swoons away. In his Le Beau mariage, the young woman, whose lovemaking is interrupted by a phone call from her lover's wife, rejects him in a rage and determines to marry. There is always a reality in Rohmer's films other than the one that the main characters have invented for themselves and that they live. Rohmer works in long takes most of which consist not of action but of dialogue. His characters speak incessantly and it is their dialogue that he films. In the fictions that they construct with their words they become their own heroes and heroines.

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

Lev Kuleshov (and Hitchcock) recognised what for them was the essence of cinema: the presence of desire and its evocation in the image. Kuleshov's montage experiments demonstrated the fictive nature not of the image but, in any succession of them, the joins. Kuleshov particularly designed film experiments that divorced the fragment from a real continuous space beyond it (off -screen). He insisted instead on the artifice (the fiction) of the join between shot-fragments. In American films, which inspired Kuleshov, things were different. In these films, an actor and a bowl of soup or a revolver were in the same real space and time as they would be in the theatre. In American film practices, the joins between shots were motivated by the narrative, that is, the succession of shots was dictated by a logic of events and of character which the film at once constructed and followed.

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

It is typical of Jacques Rivette's films that his characters choose to place themselves in situations whose outcome is unknown and for motives that are mixed and confused. Since Rivette's films are literally composed as they are being filmed, the situation of the actors mirrors the situation of the characters while the situation of the film mirrors the situation of the action that takes place within it. The actors are complicit in composing the roles that they play as are the characters in the fiction. Similarly, the film seems to be seeking itself as it is being made and goes along. Once Marianne becomes Frenhofer's model and he begins to sketch and then paint La Belle noiseuse, both are set on a course to discover things about themselves and about each other by means of their situation, similar to the situation of the film.

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

Most often films are thought of as representing something. In Jean Renoir's films this is neither issue nor intention. What artifice and masquerade display is the reality they deny and what the reality of the film reveals is the theatre and artifice of the rules. He places his characters in a dramatic or comic situation and then follows and observes them (with his camera) rather than constructing them (with his editing). Renoir approaches reality through the openness of his theatricality. The fictionality and theatricality in Renoir's films belong to the changes initiated by the coming of sound. All of Renoir's films concern escape, fleeing, not exactly from society, though that typifies them often (Boudu sauvé de l'eau, La Carosse d'or) , but from unnatural constraints (La Grande illusion, French Cancan) . It is the spontaneity of the one and the rigidity of the other that keeps things going in his films.

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

Cinemascope, like depth of field, sequence shots, lengthy tracks, pans and the use of the zoom reduces the need for editing. Between 1926 and 1970, Howard Hawks made 22 films, one of which was in Cinemascope: The Land of the Pharaohs. In Hawks's 1956 interview in Cahiers du cinéma, just after the appearance of his Land of the Pharaohs, Hawks had said about Cinemascope. Rather than fragmenting space, space can be left relatively whole and time can be given its due, the time of an event being simply the time of the shot, hence the length of takes with these new techniques. André Bazin would argue that such techniques rendered the real more fully than did montage and that rather than breaking the real up for analytic and dramatic purposes as he claimed montage did, the real was left in its integrity .

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

In the films of Griffith, each shot belongs to the unity of the narrative and relates primarily to principles of imitation (mimetic). In the discursive montage characteristic of Eisenstein's films, the linkages between shots are not primarily determined by an internal unity or an interior logic. Dziga Vertov's material is more heterogeneous and more actual than the material of an Eisenstein film. The 'realities' from which the images of Vertov's film come are distinct and different in time and place and in their relation to each other. It is the film that creates relations and in such a manner as to emphasise these differences and construct associations between them like waking, movement, silence, calm, work, leisure. In the slaughter sequence in Strike, despite the differences between what is paralleled the narrative of the workers' strike central to the film is sustained despite ruptures to that narrative.

in Montage
Sam Rohdie

In the early 1980s, Michelangelo Antonioni had major exhibitions of a series of photographs entitled Le montagne incantate in Venice, in Rome and in Paris at the Louvre. Antonioni enlarged the photographs and at a certain point arrested the enlargement process, printing the resulting images. These images are le montagne incantate. In Le montagne incantate exhibition, each image that is shown is a moment along a path of images not shown, a pause in infinitude, rescued as an instant from the oblivion and void of virtuality. In the enlargements in Blow-up and in Le montagne incantate, the choice of stopping an enlargement is a choice within a series that can be made at any moment and at any point, any one of which will result in a different image, endlessly. In Antonioni's film, Blow-up, a photographer, by chance, takes some photographs of a woman and her lover in a park.

in Montage
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Sam Rohdie

The films of Howard Hawks do two things best. One, they can capture moments and instances that no other means but the cinema can do as well, and in the cinema, few can do that as well as Hawks: a movement, a glance, an action, the immediacy of a gesture and their direct honesty. Two, is to tell a story well: directly, simply, coherently, legibly, to take an audience with you, making perceptions and understandings clear and secure. Montage for Hawks has two distinct but not contradictory functions. The first is to highlight and the second is to move forward. For Hawks, montage was not a time for improvisation, play, unlike shooting or working with actors and preparing the script. The best moments of the film had to be found in these pursuits before montage. Besides, mise en scène, for Hawks was already an understanding of ordering of shots.

in Montage