Why the Long Take?

I’m an unabashed supporter of the long take in cinema (i.e. excruciatingly unending shots), and I recently wrote about it for the new website Into the Hill:

The long take is, in my opinion, the most cinematic of all cinematic devices. It gets to the heart of what cinema is: a series of moving images that captures time as it happens. It has recently been used in gimmicky and show-offy ways (Children of Men, Atonement, etc), albeit to spectacular effect. But the long take is far more than just a tactic for the skillful filmmaker to use and exploit to wow his or her audience. No, the long take is the heart of cinema. Or, at least, it is the heart of cinema’s potential for the transcendent.

Read the rest of the essay here.

6 responses to “Why the Long Take?

  1. cool essay…i’m actually thinking of writing on the long take as my diss. thanks for the insights.

  2. Thanks Cliff. It’d be a great dissertation topic. Hope the PhD is going well for you!

  3. Some of my favorite recent long takes have come from the genius of PT Anderson. Boogie Nights opens with a great one, TWBB has a few truly memorable long takes (not to mention an opening that comes across like a long take!) and PDL and Magnolia each have a few.

  4. I second the PT Anderson praise.

    Another master of the long take, a filmmaker whose every shot is almost always an extended one is the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Many of his scenes are played out in one take and it has a profound impact on the narrative pacing – such that most American viewers describe his movies as “boring” or “nothing happens.”

    And Brett – Citing George Steiner and Tillich in a short essay on the long take? C’mon! Someone needs to call you out on that…

  5. Brett, if you haven’t seen Lars Andersson’s Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living, both are highly recommended— Andersson constructs each scene such that it plays entirely in a single master shot (the camera only moves once in Songs).

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