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Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.

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Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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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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In the Cut, Part III: Bullitt, The Lineup, French Connectionaka I Left My Heart in My Throat in San Francisco

In the Cut: Piecing together the action sequence Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight) Part II: A Dash of Salt

The third part of my series of video essays about action sequences is called "I Left My Heart in My Throat in San Francisco," because it delves into two great car chases shot on the twisted streets and roller-coaster hills of the City by the Bay -- one famous (Peter Yates' 1968 "Bullitt") and one not-so-famous (Don Siegel's 1958 "The Lineup"). There's also a taste of the celebrated chase from William Friedkin's 1971 "The French Connection" -- and a very brief recap of the techniques examined in Part I ("The Dark Knight") and Part II ("Salt").

As I say in my intro over at Press Play:

In response to the first two parts, some have complained that "nobody looks at movies this way" -- which is demonstrably untrue, since the evidence is right here in front of you. What they are really saying is that they don't want to look at how action sequences are put together this way, and that's fine. Nobody is forcing them to. (In addition to pressing PLAY, you can press PAUSE or go to another page.) Far worse are the movie-nannies who are saying: "I don't want to look at filmmaking this way and neither should you," an attitude that's as insufferably arrogant as it is absurd.

To reverse the old "forest-for-the-trees" metaphor, if you always looked at the forest from a distance, you'd never discover all the different kinds of trees it's composed of. You don't examine the individual trees exclusively, or every single time you behold the forest, but you can learn from examining the elements up close. As I've said before, studying film is like studying literature or music or painting: it's helpful to look at words, sentences, paragraphs; notes, bars, passages, movements; brush strokes, colors, compositions... and how the pieces relate to one another.

Can a bad movie have some good filmmaking in it -- or vice-versa? If you have to ask that question, you haven't seen very many movies. In the Cut focuses on one thing and one thing only: the construction of action sequences. Those sequences were chosen not because these are the greatest (or worst) movies ever made, but because these specific sequences offer opportunities for illustration and discussion.

Fasten your seatbelts. It's gonna be a bumpy and exhilarating ride....

"In the Cut" is presented by Press Play, Scanners and RogerEbert.com. Part I (on "The Dark Knight") is here. Part II (on "Salt") is here.

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