Shot-By-Shot Breakdowns of Spielberg’s Filmmaking in Jaws, Scorsese’s in Cape Fear, and De Palma’s in The Untouchables

This past sum­mer, we fea­tured a shot-by-shot break­down of sev­er­al sequences in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris by film­mak­er and video essay­ist Anto­nios Papan­to­niou. Solaris, as well as the rest of Tarkovsky’s oeu­vre, has giv­en and will con­tin­ue to give detail-ori­ent­ed cinephiles a seem­ing­ly infi­nite amount of mate­r­i­al to break down, scru­ti­nize, and explain the genius of.

But what of big Hol­ly­wood films? Do they have noth­ing of inter­est to offer? Papan­to­niou clear­ly does­n’t think so: his oth­er Shot by Shot video essays include looks, and very close looks indeed, at Bri­an De Pal­ma’s The Untouch­ables, Mar­tin Scors­ese’s remake of Cape Fear, and even the moth­er of all block­busters, Steven Spiel­berg’s Jaws.

These three auteurs, all of the same gen­er­a­tion, came up in the 1970s cohort of film­mak­ers who brought about the “New Hol­ly­wood,” a move­ment where­in young direc­tors like Spiel­berg, De Pal­ma, and Scors­ese (as well as Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, George Lucas, Paul Schrad­er, and many oth­ers) changed the rules of clas­si­cal cin­e­ma, intro­duc­ing a host of sub­jects and tech­niques pre­vi­ous­ly unheard of in main­stream Amer­i­can films. Yet they still did make main­stream Amer­i­can films, which required a kind of hybridiza­tion of cut­ting-edge sen­si­bil­i­ties with sil­ver-screen expec­ta­tions. Papan­to­niou specif­i­cal­ly exam­ines how these direc­tors accom­plish it through the kind of shots they cap­ture and how they cut them togeth­er.

Papan­to­niou’s analy­ses iden­ti­fy the visu­al evi­dence of Spiel­berg’s “appetite for non­stop dynam­ic film­mak­ing,” De Pal­ma’s “own unique post-mod­ern style” expressed through tech­niques like point-of-view-shots, and of how “Scors­ese dis­tincts [sic] him­self by adopt­ing more rebel­lious tech­niques.” You might get the sense of a slight awk­ward­ness in the lan­guage here, but the images select­ed speak for them­selves — and besides, if you took film stud­ies class­es in col­lege, you no doubt had at least one or two pro­fes­sors who com­pen­sat­ed for their odd turns of phrase with their rig­or­ous love of cin­e­ma, and from whom you ulti­mate­ly learned a great deal. Video essays like these have increas­ing­ly made it pos­si­ble for any­one, with­out going back to col­lege or even going in the first place, to do that kind of learn­ing — and, whether watch­ing Tarkovsky or Spiel­berg, to nev­er watch them inat­ten­tive­ly again.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Shot by Shot: A 22-Minute Break­down of the Director’s Film­mak­ing

Spiel­berg Reacts to the 1975 Oscar Nom­i­na­tions: ‘Com­mer­cial Back­lash!’

Watch Steven Spielberg’s Rarely Seen 1968 Film, Amblin’

Mar­tin Scors­ese Makes a List of 85 Films Every Aspir­ing Film­mak­er Needs to See

Revis­it Mar­tin Scorsese’s Hand-Drawn Sto­ry­boards for Taxi Dri­ver

The 10 Hid­den Cuts in Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock’s Famous “One-Shot” Fea­ture Film

Chaos Cin­e­ma: A Break­down of How 21st-Cen­tu­ry Action Films Became Inco­her­ent

Learn the Ele­ments of Cin­e­ma: Spielberg’s Long Takes, Scorsese’s Silence & Michael Bay’s Shots

Sig­na­ture Shots from the Films of Stan­ley Kubrick: One-Point Per­spec­tive

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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