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Observations on the Long Take (Osservazioni sul piano-sequenza: 1967.)

Observations on the Long Take (Osservazioni sul piano-sequenza: 1967.)

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Published by gabyrotten
essay by Pier Paolo Pasolini
essay by Pier Paolo Pasolini

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Published by: gabyrotten on Apr 22, 2013
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Observations on the Long TakeAuthor(s): Pier Paolo Pasolini, Norman MacAfee, Craig OwensSource:
October,
Vol. 13, (Summer, 1980), pp. 3-6Published by: The MIT Press
 
Observationson theLongTake
PIERPAOLOPASOLINItranslatedbyNORMAN MAcAFEEand CRAIGOWENSConsider the shortsixteen-millimeterfilmofKennedy'sdeath.Shotbyaspectatorin thecrowd,itis alongtake,themosttypicallongtakeimaginable.Thespectator-cameramandidnot,infact,choosehis cameraangle;hesimplyfilmedfromwhere hehappenedtobe,framingwhathe,not thelens,saw.1Thus thetypical longtake issubjective.Inthis,theonlypossiblefilm ofKennedy'sdeath,allotherpointsof viewaremissing:thatofKennedyandJacqueline,thatofthe assassin himself andhisaccomplices,that of thosewithabettervantagepoint,andthatof thepoliceescorts,etc.Supposewe hadfootageshot from all thosepointsofview;whatwould wehave?Aseriesoflongtakes that wouldreproducethat momentsimultaneouslyfrom variousviewpoints,asitappeared,thatis,to a series ofsubjectivities.Subjectivityisthus themaximumconceivablelimit ofanyaudiovisualtechnique.Itisimpossibletoperceiverealityasithappens ifnotfromasinglepointofview,andthispointofviewisalwaysthatofaperceivingsubject.Thissubjectisalwaysincarnate,because evenif,ina fictionfilm,we choosean ideal and thereforeabstractandnonnaturalisticpointofview,itbecomesrealisticandultimatelynaturalisticassoon asweplaceacamera andtaperecorderthere:the resultwill beseenandheardasifbyaflesh-and-bloodsubject(thatis,one witheyesandears).Realityseenandheard asithappensisalwaysin thepresenttense.Thelongtake,the schematic andprimordialelementofcinema,isthusinthepresenttense.Cinematherefore"reproducesthepresent."Livetelevisionis aparadigmaticreproductionofsomething happeninginthepresent.Suppose,then,that wehave notonlyoneshortfilmofKennedy'sdeath,butadozensuchfilms,asmany longtakes assubjectivelyreproducethe President'sdeath.When,forexample,forpurely documentaryreasons(duringascreeningforapolice investigation)wesee allthesesubjectivelongtakesinsequence,thatis,when wesplicethem,evenifnotmaterially,whatdo we have?Atypeofmontage,
1.The Italian word forlens, obiettivo,alsomeans"objective"andtherefore establishesat oncetheframework fortheplayuponrelations betweensubjectandobjectwhichcharacterizesthistext.-ed.
 
OCTOBERalbeitextremelyelementary.Andwhatdo wegetfrom thismontage?Amultipli-cationof"presents,"asifanaction,instead ofunwindingoncebeforeoureyes,weretounwindmanytimes. Thismultiplicationof"presents"abolishesthepresent, emptiesit,eachpresentpostulatingtherelativityof allothers,theirunreliability,imprecision,andambiguity.2Forthepolice-whoareleastconcernedwith aesthetics andstronglyinterestedinthedocumentaryvalue of theshortfilmprojectedaseye-witnesstesti-monytoan eventthat mustbepreciselyreconstructed-thefirstquestionto askis:whichofthese films bestrepresentsthefacts?Therearesomanyunreliableeyesandears(orcamerasandtape recorders)whichrecordanirreversibleevent,onewhichappearsdifferent to each of thesenaturalorgansortechnicalinstruments(shot,countershot,establishingshot,mediumshot,close-up,andallotherpossiblecamerapositions).Eachofthesepresentationsofrealityisextremelyimpoverished,aleatory,almostpitiful,ifone realizesthat itisonlyoneamongmany.It isclear thatreality,inallitsfacets,isexpressedineach:itspeakstothosepresent(tobepresentisto takepart,becauserealityspeaks onlythrough itself):itspeaksits ownlanguage,which is thelanguageof action:agunshot,moregunshots,abodyfalls,acarstops,awomanscreams,thecrowdshouts....All thesenonsymbolicsignsindicatethatsomething happened:the death of apresident,here andnow,in thepresent.And thatpresent,Irepeat,is thetenseof thevarioussubjectivelongtakes,shot from thevariouspointsof view where witnesseshappenedto be with theirorgansor instruments.Thelanguageofactionis thusthelanguageofnonsymbolic signsin thepresenttense;butinthepresentitmakes nosense,orifitdoes,it doessoonlysubjectively,inanincomplete,uncertain,mysteriousway.Kennedy,dying,expresseshimselfin hisfinalaction:fallinganddying,ontheseatof ablackpresidentialcar,in the weak embrace of his Americanpetit-bourgeoiswife.Butthis extremelanguageofaction with whichKennedyisexpressedto thespectatorsremains indecisive andmeaninglessin thepresentinwhichit wasperceivedbythe senses and/or filmed.Likeeverymoment of thelanguageofaction,itrequiressomethingmore.Itrequires systematizationwithregardto bothitself andtheobjectiveworld;it mustbe related tootherlanguagesofaction.Inthiscase,Kennedy'sfinal actions need tobe relatedto the actions ofthoseatthatmomentsurroundinghim,forexample,tothoseofhisassassin,or assassins.Aslongas such actions remainunrelated,beit thelanguageofKennedy'slast action orthatofhisassassins,theyarefragmentaryandincompletelanguages,allbutincomprehensible.What isneededto makethemcompleteandcomprehen-sible?Therelationshipwhich each ofthem,gropingandstammering,seekswith
2.BruceConner'sReport (1964)infactilluminates,throughits serialstructuringof suchfootage,Pasolini'sspeculations.-ed.
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