Monday, September 20, 2010

Découpage in Vivre Sa Vie

More than his other films, there are several striking examples in Vivre sa vie of découpage or shot breakdown. (We might recall, in this context, Godard's defense of shot/reverse shots and point of view shots in several of his early pieces of film criticism. These articles could be productively studied in relation to this work.) His use of découpage is probably closer in the end to Bresson than to Hitchcock, which is to say it is more modern than classical, but perhaps we are splitting hairs here. In the end, it's still découpage – it's still breaking a scene down into a series of fragments – and it's still richly evocative. Below is a ten shot sequence from Vivre sa vie, with shot one broken into two parts. It is a segment of the fifth tableaux. (It lasts 2 minutes and 39 seconds. The ASL is 15.9 seconds per shot.) The last shot – when Nana attempts to keep her client from kissing her on the mouth – is emotionally devastating (it is also the shot that, at 37 seconds, is held the longest), but there is something about shot six (the folded towel and bar of soap; 3 seconds) and shot nine (the astray, the hand emerging from a pocket; 8 seconds) that are compelling and memorable in their own way (shot six is particularly interesting because these objects appear at no other moment during the scene; they have a distilled presence and communicate their force in isolation). This is equally true when looking at the still images and when watching the scene in the film. They have an intrinsic power that might otherwise be overlooked if they were not given to us as individualized and autonomous images. 
Shot 1a
Shot 1b
Shot 2
Shot 3
Shot 4
Shot 5
Shot 6
Shot 7
Shot 8
Shot 9
Shot 10

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