Jan. 12th, 2016

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Walkabout is gorgeous and interesting and brought us David Gulpilil, so there are a lot of things to like about it.

One of those things is its very noticeable and visible editing and this post is gonna be mainly pictures, because half the point is to let the images speak for themselves.

But a few notes.

Manifestos have been written over whether editing is the true essence of film, and what the point of editing is, and what it actually does. Most editing is as unobtrusive as possible, because what it's doing linking the events of each shots and if it draws attention to itself it's overriding the narrative. The rules have been around since the birth of modern cinema: Don't break the 180. Preserve spatial relationships. Don't insert random shots. Cut from establishing shot to medium to close. When cutting dialogue keep faces at the same distance from the camera. Don't use still images. Don't use obvious fades or transitions. Essentially, use classic continuity technique to deliver easy familiar rhythms that help the viewers follow the action.

This clip from The Holy Grail, for instance, keeps the focus on the jokes and is mainly organised around where people are in relation to each other. The few abrupt edits are to highlight Arthur's magnificent contribution to the scientific method and to hit on the thump of the support being knocked out.

In contrast, a lot of the editing in Walkabout calls attention to itself, and in doing so, calls attention to shot choices and the relationships between shots. In linking two shots or images (let's put sound aside for now) editing is basically the conjunctive tissue of a movie, the ands, buts, sos, fors and so on, dictating what kind of relationship two statements have. Are these two shots in sequence because of movement, action, space, character, idea, theme, mood, or something else?

But images have different ambiguities to the written word, especially when they follow in sequence. The kind of relationship two shots have can often be up for grabs, especially when someone is cutting on theme, image, and mood, instead of narrative continuity. It is the gap between two shots that produces the meaning.

There's not a whole lot of action in Walkabout. There's barely any cause and effect -- the father's murderous decision is choppy and meaningless. It has a listless, dreamy feel. Cutting on image and theme and mood, as Nicholas Roeg (dir, DOP) and Antony Gibbs (editor) often do, subsumes standard narrative to the force of story, of myth. This kind of editing really exploits the mystery and power of images.

It has some very definite points to make about people's relationships to each other, and to the land, and frankly can be a little didactic. Some of its arguments may be obvious in the below, where I've picked some cuts that interest me and given the images immediately on either side. But there's also a hell of a lot of suggestion, of ambivalence, multiplicity, potential.

And of course, it's difficult to convey in still images. Much of the power of Walkabout is in the cumulative effect of rapidly-cut similar and dissimilar images, where spectres from other parts of the movie or other portions of the land or other ideas erupt into the action on screen. These are not always cuts to the character's mind's eye or point of view. These are cuts into imagination itself. Pictures and ideas colliding seemingly of their own volition. Walkabout is so compelling when it allows images to dream together.

like a million images don't look at this on your phone I warned you )


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