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Jimmy's Hall

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Stray Dog

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Bye, Sally -- Sally Menke, 1953 - 2010

Sally Menke, editor of all Quentin Tarantino's features, from "Reservoir Dogs" to "Inglourious Basterds," was found dead in Bronson Canyon early this morning, where she had gone hiking with her Labrador retriever in yesterday's record-setting 113-degree heat.

"Hi Sally" reels -- little messages sent from the set to the editing room -- appear as extras on some Tarantino DVD releases, including the above from "Death Proof," and the one below from "Inglourious Basterds."

P.S. I've read at least one (mis-)appreciation that, unsurprisingly, doesn't quite seem to understand what an editor like Menke does -- attributing structures that were in the script to the "editing." But it's not that simple. As Tarantino says in the clip above, he considers the final draft of the script the first cut of the movie, and the final cut of the movie the last draft of the script. Wesley Morris has a much smarter (and beautifully written) appreciation of their collaboration:

Menke was the secret weapon and special sauce in every Tarantino production. She never did more to a scene than what was necessary, which is true of most editors (or should be), but with Tarantino, more was often was required.

Nearly every sequence in both volumes of "Kill Bill" required both a comedian's timing and an athlete's nimbleness. Ditto for "Death Proof." For "Jackie Brown," one of the more memorable characteristics of that very nearly great film is the how long the shots seem to last -- many, many seconds, minutes in several cases. That, by the standards of today's filmmaking is an eternity. The movie is probing these lowlife and finding their humanity. Come the big heist sequence at Torrence's Del Amo Mall, danger appears simple in the changing of the tempo of the cutting. The characters' antsiness informs the movies'. And what about that superb farmhouse sequence that opens "Inglourious Basterds"? Editing gives the scene its power and dread, knowing when, for instance, to cut to the sheltered family shivering beneath the floorboards. [...]

[Menke told The Observer] "Watching Scorsese and Schoonmaker's work, I learned how to collapse time in action but still push characters through a scene. It's a trick to give the illusion it's all real; that's become crucial to us because the Tarantino thing is to make the mundane feel very spicy. It's the illusion that time is ticking away. It's all about tension, so you follow the emotional arc of a character through a scene, even if, as in the opening of 'Inglourious Basterds,' they're just pouring a glass of milk or stuffing their pipe. We're very proud of that scene -- it might be the best thing we've ever done."

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