PRINT September 2010

David Bordwell

PEOPLE ARE TALKING more about film technique than ever before. Producers hire directors who have established a distinctive look in a music video or an online clip. Critics of earlier decades scarcely mentioned camera work or cutting, but reviewers today happily point out Steadicam shots and choppy chase scenes. In website comment threads, audiences complain about shaky images and roaring surround sound. Have people become more sensitive to cinematic expression? Mostly not. They are responding to a cluster of in-your-face techniques, from handheld camera work to rapidfire editing to blatant digital manipulation of the film frame.

Some have argued that today’s overbearing presentation is radically new. It’s more accurate, I think, to see it as the most recent recasting of long-standing principles of “continuity” filmmaking—the guidelines for staging, shooting, and editing that have ruled

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