? Movie scenes with quick cuts and dynamic editorial?
April 17, 2012 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Hi - film and editorial buffs - I'm looking for examples of movie scenes that capture a feeling through a barrage of edits - lots of quick cuts strung together to add up to tell an exciting story. Like a great dinner scene, for example, that could capture the feeling of being there... This is to show as an example of how film and editing can convey mood and energy viscerally. I don't have a great knowledge of films, so I'm coming up blank. Any help would be massively appreciated.
posted by gbeenyc to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Guy Ritchie does this a lot.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:07 AM on April 17, 2012

One of my go-to scenes is Buffalo Bill kidnapping a woman in Silence of the Lambs. It doesn't really qualify as "lots of quick cuts" but choosing to keep one shot going for a little while is an editing decision as much as cutting away is.

Is the "barrage" necessary for your example, or are you falling for the assumption that the best editing is always the fastest editing?

For barrage, the shower scene in Psycho, but maybe that's too obvious. You mentioned "dinner scene" so how about the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs?
posted by RobotHero at 7:10 AM on April 17, 2012

Requiem for a Dream is full of these. The rapid-fire editing, especially during the drug scenes, capture a pretty distinct feeling.
posted by ORthey at 7:11 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whenever they get high in Requiem for a Dream [link]
The regatta rowing scene in The Social Network [link]
posted by hellomina at 7:12 AM on April 17, 2012

I always think of the scene in Snatch "I'm coming to London" where you get the idea of a transoceanic flight in about ten seconds of film. This one from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels gives you a whole poker game drama in about a minute. (lots of swearing in both of those)
posted by jessamyn at 7:12 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nicolas Roeg does this quite a bit, especially in the famous love scene from Don't Look Now, as well as in the opening and the closing scenes. The opening of Roeg's Eureka is also very interesting in this regard.

Scorsese is not always a quick cutter, but he is a big fan of hard cuts. The Departed has some of the most clear examples of this technique.

A Clockwork Orange has some interesting work in the "more wine?" scene between Alex and the Author.

The finale of 2001 is also an interesting case study for editing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:12 AM on April 17, 2012

The "trip to Europe" sequence from The Rules of Attraction.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:13 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Goodfella's "last day as a wiseguy" scene.
posted by glibhamdreck at 7:39 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Bourne trilogy has some unusual editing (well, I hadn't seen anything like it before) that makes the fight scenes very choppy and confusing; presumably intending to invoke the feelings of being in a fight.
posted by emilyw at 7:40 AM on April 17, 2012

Thank you all!

Robot Hero - very good point. Fastest editing is not always the best. Barrage/montage not required, just scenes that evoke a feeling of being in the moment.
posted by gbeenyc at 7:43 AM on April 17, 2012

The car-crash scene in Fight Club is the closest I've ever seen a movie come to what it felt like when my car was t-boned by another car traveling nearly seventy miles an hour: like a horrible game of musical chairs in zero gravity, and you hope, when the ride stops, the chairs don't fall on you.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:00 AM on April 17, 2012

Timothy Hutton directs in the style that you are describing. He puts the camera in the scene in a manner that makes you feel like you are there, as the camera. There is a scene in 'Digging to China' where we are looking through the window of the school bus as it is driving away, from inside the school bus. It is a wonderful moment, that brings us back to our own childhood of watching the scenery pass by as we are passengers going into our future and it is done at a time in the story where the main character is heading into a new part of her life. I saw it years ago and it has always stuck with me.

He also directed a few episodes of Nero Wolfe which used the same style. The first one he directed used it too much and left you a bit dizzy, but the following ones where excellent, bringing you into the scene and creating energy that would not have been there had it been filmed any other way.
posted by myselfasme at 8:00 AM on April 17, 2012

TV, but there is an episode of Spaced where they decide what to do for a night out and it cut scenes rapidly through two options, and I think it would be a good fit for what you want.
posted by biffa at 8:02 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooh. The showdown at the end of The Good the Bad and the Ugly.
posted by RobotHero at 8:06 AM on April 17, 2012

For a slower scene, I love the part in The Birds, near the beginning where Tippi Hedren's character is driving through the countryside with the lovebirds. The shot of the birds swaying was so perfect.
posted by hellomina at 8:27 AM on April 17, 2012

In Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho there are dozens of these types of scenes, but the one I like best is just after the killing, Anthony Perkins is trying to dispose of the body and the car in the local pond. He pushes the car into the water, and for a moment it looks as if the car won't sink. Through editing Hitch has just turned us into rooting for the killer, hoping the car will sink so that he won't get caught. Hitch was the best at manipulating the audience.
posted by Gungho at 8:40 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

For action movies, the Bourne series is fairly famous for lots of quick cuts and shakycam that put you in the moment, especially during car chases.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:50 AM on April 17, 2012

The love scene in Out of Sight is just so gorgeous and right, and it's all in the editing.
posted by Mchelly at 9:10 AM on April 17, 2012

There are plenty of subtler (and smarter!) answers than this one but here it goes: Run Lola Run by German director Tom Tykwer.

It's a ticking-time-bomb sort of movie where Lola must find some way of getting 10,000 dollars to her boyfriend before the baddies get to him. The twist is that we get to see three different choices with three different outcomes of the same basic setup.

The entire movie is the "barrage of edits" your looking for, it's pure adrenaline!
posted by dr handsome at 9:13 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The steps scene from the Battleship Potemkin is often used as a classic example of montage.

One thing to look for in quick cuts is the relation of the audio edits to the picture edits, often it is the determining factor of how a scene feels. A continuous audio bed can smooth out a series of picture edits while cutting audio on•the•same•frame• can create a jarring contrast.

You can see an example of the play between dialogue, background audio and picture editing in the breakup scene from "the Social Network." The dialogue is rapidly cut, the picture cuts are offset with the dialogue, but the background audio is continuous keeping the whole thing feel like it's happening at one time.

The example of the love scene in "Out of Sight" also shows how audio continuity can sew together a scene even if the linearity of time is messed with.
posted by jade east at 9:34 AM on April 17, 2012

Let's talk about Star Wars. The final assault on the Death Star relies on editing to tell the story.

The sequence is about the rebel X-Wings attempting to destroy the Death Star from the outside. We have exterior shots of the X-Wings flying across the surface, fending off the defending TIE fighters as they attempt to complete their mission. However, these exterior shots leave out a lot of information: who is flying these jets, and what are they going through? Unlike a normal action sequence it would be almost impossible to tell what's happening by stepping back and observing. Because of this the exterior shots are intercut with the Rebel fighters inside their cockpits. We then get sequences like this (I'm at work now so this is off the top of my head):

SHOT A: Exterior -- Lasers clash against the back of an X-Wing
SHOT B: Interior -- Red 2 screams, sparks shoot out from inside his cockpit
SHOT C: Exterior -- Smoke trails off the back of an X-Wing as it descends to the surface, then crashes and explodes
SHOT D: Interior -- Luke gazes downward, then forward

We can tell what has happened: An X-Wing has been struck by enemy fire, causing it to lose control and crash, killing its pilot; Luke is solemn, but pushes forward. We know this because our brain has taken these four separate images and processed them into a narrative; it hasn't been explained in words, and we didn't see it all happen in one shot. The fast pace is also expressive: we see that in the blink of an eye a man's life can be ripped apart, and that any feelings his comrades have must be pushed aside for the sake of the mission.

The entire scene then consists of images being laid on top of one another, each building off the last in order to develop the scene and push it to its conclusion. The audience is pulled into a rhythm of Interior and Exterior shots, bringing us deeper and deeper into the story. Many more Rebels are killed, the tension increases, Luke's situation becomes more dire. Here is the climax, again off the top of my head:

SHOT A: Interior -- Darth Vader in his cockpit, looking downward
SHOT B: Insert -- A control panel shows a target focusing on an X-Wing
SHOT C: Interior -- Darth Vader in his cockpit, his finger moving toward a button
SHOT D: Exterior -- A laser bounces off the edge of a TIE Fighter, knocking it out of its path
SHOT E: Interior -- Darth Vader in his cockpit, spinning around in circles
SHOT F: Interior -- Luke in his cockpit, looking out his window
SHOT G: Interior -- Darth Vader in his cockpit, looking out his window
SHOT H: Interior -- Han Solo in his cockpit, cheering

What has happened? Darth Vader had Luke in his sights and was about to kill him, but was stopped by a Rebel ship that turned out to be the Millennium Falcon. The revelation of Han Solo is a release valve, as we breathe easily knowing that Luke is safe. We also immediately know than Han has had a change of heart and decided to join the Alliance, and the huge grin on his face is in sharp contrast with the stoicism of the Rebel pilots. The emotion of the film thus turns from despair to hope, simply by cutting from one face to another. This is film editing.
posted by Smallpox at 12:22 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

There is a restaurant scene in Sideways where Miles, Jack, Maya and Stephanie are talking and eating and drinking lots of wine that I think is beautiful. There are snippets of conversations, jokes, meaningful glances... They aren't really quick cuts per se, but the scene is made up of edited scenes strung together.

(spoiler, maybe)
This is also done in the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, in the scene where Oskar is telling his story to the Renter. He tells his story in a fast, rambling, and desperate cadence. Scenes of him talking to the Renter are interspersed with scenes of his past with his father. There is also a scene on a subway in which Oskar and the Renter are discussing oxymorons, where Oskar is again having flashbacks of life with his father before he died.

This kind of scene is actually done quite a few times in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
posted by batonthefueltank at 1:17 AM on April 18, 2012

I would say François Truffaut's Jules and Jim. I dont remember much of the film now but there is a scene with Catherine (Jeanne Moreau, probably her introduction scene), which has lots of quick cuts and dynamic editing... Do check it...
posted by angeldog at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2012

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