At the Exposition Universelle in Paris, in 1900, millions of visitors cheered the arrival of a new century, stopping by numerous attractions and shows that were taking place. However, the most impressive attraction of all would be one that would revolutionize the way we communicate forever: the cinematograph by brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière. Since then, the art of cinema has become increasingly complex, subdividing itself into various subjects, such as screenplay writing, directing, lighting, camera opperation, sound recording, among other, that, individually, are a form of art.
When all these subjects come together, the role of the director in decisive, because it's his knowledge, ability and genious that inject life and emotion into disconnected images. To do so, he can use various techniques. Yet, the most striking one is probably the long take, with a single, uninterrupted shot. Some say this technique is a narcissistic experiment that, when taken to the limit, has the goal of show off the director's own talent.
This extremely complicated technique engages very extensive camera movements that require a great deal of planning and mastery, demanding an amazing articulation between every subject from the director. One of this technique's pioneers was Alfred Hitchcock, who, in 1948, dared to shoot Rope in a continuous timeline. Later, he edited the scenes in order to make them look like a single shot. The movie worked out well partly due to the fact that it was set, for the most part, in a living room, a controlled environment, in terms of lighting and movement.
However, when a scene involves complicated movements, different focussing and lighting conditions, for example, the difficulty of this technique emerges. Thus, the first universally acclaimed scene to be hailed as one of the longest, without any cuts, and in extremely complex conditions was the opening sequence in Orson Welles's masterful "Touch of Evil", in 1958.
The scene starts with a bomb being placed in the trunk of a car. From this point on, the camera follows the car, thorugh various movements that try to accompany the action that is unfolding in a street increasingly crowded by extras and objects. The suspense starts building up in the mind of the audience, who fears that, at any moment, the bomb might go off, which is underlined by the uninterruption of the action. Orson Welles' skill and talent are impressive. Judge it for yourself.
On a final note, in the first edition of the movie, Universal placed the credits over the scene, taking away from the impact Welles intended to convey. However, in later editions, Orson Welles' intentions were respected and the credits were removed from the scene.
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