Visual Narrative

Rewind to Italy Circa 1952

1) Summary

In Kogonada’s What is neorealism?, he rewinds time to Italy circa 1952 in which he imagines the same film shot by  different producers to compare a clash in sensibility. He compares two cuts of the same film, one by Vittorio De Sica and the other by David O. Selznick. He runs the two films side by side and examines each cut. In the differences, he finds something to say about the essence of neorealism. Both films start with a shot of a city, but Selznick tells you which city and connects the theme to love. Selznick’s second shot is of a letter being written which spells out the central tension of the film. While, De Sica’s scene takes twice as long and reveals far less of the central tension. Selznick consistently prefers a shorter take than De Sica. Selznick implies the act of walking by jumping through the scene, but De Sica endures the act of walking. Sleznick seeks to cut out the in between moments to not lose the viewer’s attention on the main character. Whereas, De Sica values these moments and lingers on the extras in the film. Usually, the camera follows the lead character once he/she leaves the frame. Selznick uses this tactic in his films as he does not want any excessiveness or distractions to derail the plot. However, De Sica keeps rolling which is a favorite move by him because he sees these extra moments as vital parts of the film’s entirety, as the essence of a different kind of cinema, and as more critical than plot or story. Kogonada ends by stating, “To ask, what is neorealism is to ask what is cinema.”

2) Response

I think Kogonada’s approach to different production styles of cinema was brilliant and a fresh take on film. In this 5 min video, he keeps the viewer intrigued throughout it by constantly comparing the two different styles of Vittorio De Sica and David O. Selznick. It is interesting how he examines each cut to show the different take on cinema that each of the producers would have. It was quite through-provoking and made me realize the impact that seemingly subtle edits can have on the overall narrative of the film. One who is not a cinephile may not have realized the difference in approach that a film can have through illustrating the plot or story, but this video brings to the light that very difference  by comparing two unique styles of Hollywood storytelling. Personally, I like a mixture of both shorter and longer takes. I feel that some scenes, depending on the story, can benefit from being shorter or longer, which in part influences the overall meaning or mood of the film. Jean-Luc Godard once said, “The only great problem of cinema seems to be more and more, with each film, when and why to start a shot and when and why to end it.”

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