EPISODE 12: MATCH CUTS

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TO THE READERS:

For the year of 2018, FATCAT will be collaborating with the 2001AT50 festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's epic film, "2001: A Space Odyssey".  Each episode throughout the year will feature "2001" in discussions of technique, theory, and history.  There is much to talk about with this film, which is why we are taking a whole year to explore, ponder, watch, hear, feel, and dive into the unknown.

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The beauty of the match cut can only be seen through the visual medium of film and television.  This technique done during the editing process is the joining of two images by a graphic or audio match.  It is often used to jump through time or to a separate story line.  

In addition to furthering the plot, match cuts cause us, as viewers, to naturally compare and contrast the sequential images which adds to the story as well.  The psychology of this effect was discovered by Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov who was active throughout the 1910s and 1920s.  He realized the mental phenomena of the viewer deriving more meaning from two shots than from a single shot.  Another indication of the usefulness of editing, this realization spawned the concept of how the audience is also a participant in the filmmaking process.  Viewers bring their own emotional reactions to movie watching and attribute those emotional reactions to the story.  The editing is what leads the viewer through the story and feeds them details without one word being said.

THE KULESHOV EFFECT

Kuleshov created an experiment to prove his discovery.  The experiment used a single shot of a Tsarist idol Ivan Mosjoukine, repeatedly in between other shots consisting of: a plate of soup, girl in a coffin, and a woman on a divan.  Viewers felt the expression on his face showed looks of hunger, sadness, and desire, respectively when paired with the images.  However, the same shot was used of Ivan each time, thus proving the effect to be correct.

The Kuleshov Effect speaks to the metaphors we create as viewers naturally and subconsciously.  Filmmakers rely on these metaphors to continue the story line and emphasize meaning without having to be explicit.  Keeping the Kuleshov Effect in mind, let's explore some historic examples of match cuts.  Even without seeing the entire movie, try to interpret what is being said in each match cut.

BLUE VELVET David Lynch (1986)

In this first example, the match cut is very subtle and early.  The slight breeze in the velvet curtain becomes a perfect blue sky to start the story.  Using a match cut this way, to move us from the opening credits into the story, harkens back to the old days of stage, or being in a movie theater.  The curtain rises, and we know something is about to begin.  David Lynch has always kept the old feeling of cinema and entertainment alive in his work, and this example is so smooth, you might almost miss it.

THE GRADUATE MIKE NICHOLS (1967)

In this clip, we see a match cut used with action.  Unlike Blue Velvet, who went from one still image to another, this match cut relies on the continuity of an action to bridge the two scenes together.  This match cut is actually part of a montage showing Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and how he spends his summer.  While a lot is learned just by watching, the pacing of this scene also relays the aimlessness of his mind and mood.  As a continuation of the match cut, the audio of Ben's father (William Daniels) crosses between the scene of Ben and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and Ben in the pool allowing you to associate the question "Ben, what are you doing?" with the image of him laying with Mrs. Robinson.

THE FIGHTER DAVID O. RUSSELL (2010)

This clip shows of a match cut made with audio than graphically.  We see Dicky Ward (Christian Bale) running to meet his brother Mickey (Mark Walhlberg) matching the sound of running to a punching bag.  While the audio is technically the sound of the punching bag across both scenes, before you see the visual of Mickey working out, you easily associate it with Dicky's running.  This maneuver effortlessly rolls us through time as well as gets us back into a boxing mindset.

A CANTERBURY TALE MICHAEL POWELL & EMERIC PRESSBURGER (1944)

Match cut at 3:09

This older example was chosen because of it's clear parental relationship to one of the most famous match cuts of all time, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  Both of these examples show an object in the air, which leaves the frame and turns into a resembling object.  That is a match cut all on it's own.  However, what is so notable about these examples, especially the impact of the match cut seen in 2001, is the metaphor created during this massive leap in time.  For example we see go from an australopithecus, one of the earliest versions of man, throwing a bone over 3 million years ago, to a satellite in space.  Both the bone and the satellite represent tools of man, and we recognize our evolution through this very significant match cut.

Isn't it incredible how a split second of time can say so much?

SO PURR ON THIS...

In daily life, pay attention to the visual dynamism around you.  Notice times where a match cut might make your day more interesting!  And don't forget to-

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REFERENCES:

Kuleshov Effect