Very few of the films or TV shows I write about are as fascinating and full of unruly life as the encounters I have every day in the city.
A video of Billy Baxter's 1980 documentary of the Cannes Film Festival, hosted by Rex Reed.
Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and fantasy, but it also collects the history of film editing in one story.
We tend to remember long takes that call attention to themselves as such: the opening shots of "Touch of Evil" or "The Player"; the entrance to the Copacabana in "GoodFellas"; all those shots in Romanian movies, and pictures directed by Bela Tarr and Jia Zhangke... And then there are the ones you barely notice because your eyes have been guided so effortlessly around the frame, or you've been given the freedom to explore it on your own, or you've simply gotten so involved in the rhythms of the scene, the interplay between the characters, that you didn't notice how long the shot had been going on.
For this compilation, "Deep Focus," I've chosen eight shots I treasure (the last two I regard as among the finest in all of cinema). They're not all strictly "deep focus" shots, but they do emphasize three-dimensionality in their compositions. I've presented them with only minimal identifications so you can simply watch them and see what happens without distraction or interruption. Instead, I've decided to write about them below. Feel free to watch the clips and then re-watch (freeze-frame, rewind, replay) the clips to see what you can see. To say they repay re-viewing is an understatement.
View image Roy Scheider in "If I Didn't Care" (2007).
From the Associated Press: Scheider was nominated for a best-supporting actor Oscar in 1971’s “The French Connection” in which he played the police partner of Oscar winner Gene Hackman and for best-actor for 1979’s “All That Jazz,” the autobiographical Bob Fosse film. [...]
“He was a wonderful guy. He was what I call ’a knockaround actor,”’ [Scheider's "Jaws" co-star Richard] Dreyfuss told The Associated Press on Sunday.
“A ’knockaround actor’ to me is a compliment that means a professional that lives the life of a professional actor and doesn't yell and scream at the fates and does his job and does it as well as he can,” he said. [...]
View image A few moments before Scheider utters the now-famous line that he must have known would be quoted in his obituaries.
Dreyfuss recalled Sunday a time during the filming of "Jaws" when Scheider disappeared from the set. As the filming was on hold because of the weather, Scheider “called me up and said, ’You don’t know where I am if they call.’
“He’d gone to get a tan. He was really very tan-addicted. That was due to a childhood affliction where he was in bed for a long time. For him being tan was being healthy,” Dreyfuss said.
"I am your host! Und sagen..."
Here they are, eleven of the most famous opening shots in movie history, plus a bonus that I threw in just because I like it. Prepare to smack your head and say, "D'oh! I knew that!" But don't give up -- keep sending in your nominations for great opening shots, along with your explanations for why they set up the movie so well, to: jim AT scannersblog dot com.
Congrats to Daniel Dietzel, who got all ten right, but did not hazard a guess about the two bonus shots -- and to Jeremy Matthews, who got nine out of the top 10, but also correctly identified both the bonus/tiebreakers!
And come back Sunday for the answers to the original Opening Shots Pop Quiz.
Now, the answers to the Opening Shots Quiz 2: 10 Easy Pieces (+2):