Raiders
September 23, 2014 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Raiders of the Lost Ark as a black and white silent film.

Steven Soderbergh has shared a silent black and white version of the Raiders of the Lost Ark online to help you focus on the films staging, which he thinks is pretty great.
I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).
posted by chunking express (41 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
I skipped through various random scenes testing it in black and white. It really does look amazing.
posted by Atreides at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


(...) apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect

I can't think of a score less likely to aid in that regard. I am all on board with the black and white and silent, but that bizarre, grating, electronic, uptempo soundtrack is so distracting I wondered if it was coming from a different tab. Hit mute!
posted by dirtdirt at 8:57 AM on September 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Does he list the music anywhere? He's obviously starting out with a track from The Social Network (In Motion?), but a list would be nice.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:58 AM on September 23, 2014


I wonder what he did to build that gray? If it's just the luminosity or if it's a composite of all the color channels.
posted by Brainy at 9:01 AM on September 23, 2014


That looked great. I'm building a home theatre room right now in my basement and this will be one of the first movies we watch in it. After Star Wars (it's a shame they only made 3).
posted by blue_beetle at 9:08 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gosh, this is beautiful. And a young DocOc as well -- it's been a long time since I've seen this to have not made the connection until now.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2014


Want. (With isolated Williams score and also full audio, please.)
posted by entropicamericana at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Once again highlighting the sublime work of Michael Kahn.

After reading Walter Murch's book I am more and more persuaded that consistent excellence from directors has a lot more to do with their reliance upon a given editor than almost any other quality.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:20 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Previously.

Really cool to see this for real.
posted by schmod at 9:20 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The whole thing is fascinating. It looks gorgeous in black-and-white (as he states, the DP's predilection towards high contrast really helps!). But the two scenes that struck me as brilliantly staged were the one with Indy explaining the Ark to the government guys and the one where Karen Allen is confronted by the Nazis in her bar. That second one is especially gorgeous.

The whole thing feels like a 1940s film. Which, I guess, was the idea, right?
posted by grubi at 9:31 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh! Almost forgot: the scene in Egypt with Indy and Marion walking in the streets, where she has the little monkey on her shoulders. The way the camera tracks them is straight out of classic film. Striking.
posted by grubi at 9:33 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


"After reading Walter Murch's book I am more and more persuaded that consistent excellence from directors has a lot more to do with their reliance upon a given editor than almost any other quality."

I've often wondered why editors don't get more recognition, given that the editing really shapes the film.

Steven Spielberg had a great editor, Verna Fields, for Jaws.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:55 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


After Star Wars (it's a shame they only made 3.

It's a shame they only made one.

Fixed that for you.
posted by Billiken at 9:58 AM on September 23, 2014


THEY MADE TWO.
posted by grubi at 9:58 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


To show I am the purest of the purists:

THEY MADE NONE. Top that!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder how Sonderbergh de-colored this? It looks too contrasty to be a simple desaturate filter. It's no surprise that the film looks great in black and white, both because of the quality of the cinematography and the fact the movie is a deliberate throwback to old TV and cinema adventure films. I mean, could you imagine The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in color?

I think the soundtrack Sonderbergh added is a distraction, but it's easy enough just to turn the volume down.

The page loaded slowly for me. FWIW the embedded video URL is https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/490059828.webp?mw=640, a 720p source, but I can't figure out how to actually play that. It's not findable via Vimeo search.
posted by Nelson at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2014


What would be more appropriate music? Right now I'm going with Djivan Gasparyan, which might not be for everyone. Next I'm going to try the music from "Broadway Danny Rose".
posted by sneebler at 10:03 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The whole exercise of watching and thinking about the shot choices and editing choices becomes even more interesting if you then watch this video that lays Raiders side-by-side with classic B&W films from which Raiders directly took key shots.
posted by The World Famous at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Does Soderbergh ever sleep?
posted by octothorpe at 10:32 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've often wondered why editors don't get more recognition, given that the editing really shapes the film.

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Making [1h37m]
posted by hippybear at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Viewing guide:

1. Mute that dumb soundtrack.
2. Load up some ragtime.
3. Watch some of the action scenes (around 39:30 and 1:19:30 are two good ones.)
4.
posted by mod zero at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another good book on editing is "When the Shooting Stops . . . the Cutting Begins" by Ralph Rosenblum who edited for Lumet, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and William Friedkin. According to him, he basically created Annie Hall out of the mess of misshapen footage that Allen shot for over almost a year.
posted by octothorpe at 10:50 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


There are places where the soundtrack works beautifully and the whole thing really comes together. Watch the sequence from about 1:31:50 to about 1:34:30 -- the long shot of the ship, to onboard with Marion cleaning Indy's wounds, to the kiss, to Indy falling asleep instead of taking the obvious next step, through the dissolve to the (crated) Ark killing shipboard rats. It's fucking noir magic.
posted by The Bellman at 11:07 AM on September 23, 2014


A fun scene to watch is when Indy and Co. uncover the location of the arc and as a thunderstorm rumbles in the distance, the lightning flashes, highlighting Indy's face, in almost a maniacal way. He's a man overwhelmed with the awesomeness of his discovery, almost played with an moment of "what you're doing is wrong..." It reminds me of a line from Crusade, which goes something like, "Ask yourself, do you seek the Grail for his glory or yours?" The same could be said of the Ark at that moment in the film.
posted by Atreides at 11:15 AM on September 23, 2014


Am I the only one that prefers this soundtrack?

Also: Why Archeologists Hate Indiana Jones.
posted by mazola at 12:31 PM on September 23, 2014


this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day

"Young Spielberg is the first one of us who doesn't see the proscenium arch." — Alfred Hitchcock, after seeing Jaws
posted by ubiquity at 1:00 PM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


if only Soderbergh hadn't gone through all the public "film is dead and I'm leaving it" nonsense. but great link.
posted by TMezz at 1:13 PM on September 23, 2014


I've been saying for years that I'm one day going to do a black and white (with selected color sections) silent cut of The Black Hole with a revised version of the Barry score to redeem all that amazing art direction and music from all that fucking awful dialogue, bad acting, and Borgnine. Mind you, I'm going to need a faster computer.
posted by sonascope at 1:22 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


What does that Hitchcock quote mean, exactly?
posted by gottabefunky at 2:46 PM on September 23, 2014


gottabefunky, the proscenium arch is part of a stage. From where the audience sits it's basically a frame around the action happening on the stage.

Think about how you'd shoot a film if you had a frame like that around everything.
posted by yohko at 3:19 PM on September 23, 2014


Rope and Rear Window are two masterful Hitchcock films where the proscenium arch is practically another part of the set being filmed.
posted by Nelson at 3:30 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sonascope - I've been threatening to do this to THE BLACK HOLE for years!

I'd want to come up with a new script, bring in actors to loop the dialogue and use CG to fix the eyes on V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B. Also have been toying around with the resolution of the pic, (something that involves the actors leaving the Black Hole and arriving in previous films of theirs - so Robert Forster ends up in MEDIUM COOL, etc.). Possible Kickstarter project!
posted by jettloe at 7:55 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love love love the soundtrack. It's hypnotic and dreamy and perfect for lulling you into this sort of surreal dream state.

I didn't make any attempt to look at the staging (as recommended) and just let the images sort of wash over me until I was just watching and enjoying the movie in this new form... in this regard, for me, the soundtrack is just near perfect.

The b&w gives the (usually iconic) images a sort of surreal feel... it's familiar, but off. And this soundtrack is so out there, it makes the film into a totally new experience.

You start to notice completely new things... insert shots and cutaways and extras that seem like they could be from some totally other movie... strange men in bowler hats you don't remember... conversations turn into this sort of energy exchange as though the room fills with a kind of storm of mood and emotion..


The whole experience is like being so tired some Saturday afternoon that all you can do is find the best comfort movie playing on TV, but as soon as you find Raiders, exhaustion wins out and you mute the TV and drift in and out of sleep to the sound of some new ambient mix you left playing in the other room...

Or maybe it's like that stretch of road on the edge of the broadcast range where the hills mess with the radio waves enough to mix the stations and give you this totally unique static mix that jumps back and forth between two completely disparate stations like classic rock and talk radio or bebop and grungy alt rock...

Or maybe it's like watching a movie you saw once as a child but only remember as the memory of a memory, so when going back finally to watch it as an adult, it's so different than you expect that it carves these new pathways through your mind in ways you don't expect...


Some of my favorite moments:

Marion and Indy standing in the wind and smoke outside the burned-out bar.

Indy racing through the washed-out white alleyways for Marion like he's frantically searching the pathways of his own mind... discovering the crowd full of baskets like some kind of manifestation of a nightmare.

Marion in that white dress mending Indy's wounds on the ship...

...actually, there are so many great moments... I may have to watch it again.
posted by Flaffigan at 8:58 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


all the public "film is dead and I'm leaving it" nonsense

Not at all. He would love to keep making films. The problem as he sees it is that in order to be making films, he has to spend 80% of his time on things that are necessary to the process, but not actually making the films (the "bullshit" and money aspects). There is increasingly also the factor that what studios are willing to fund and the kinds of films he wants to make are basically on separate, crazified rail tracks through a mine as in Temple of Doom. Like many directors, he is making the transition to television, having directed the acclaimed cable movie Behind the Candelabra, and now two seasons (he's exec prod and the sole director) of The Knick. He's also exec producing a new drama for Amazon, Red Oaks (which is likely to be picked up for 2015 if reviews are any indicator), and will be DP and Editor on a sequel to Magic Mike, but handing off directing and producing duties to others including his longtime AD Gregory Jacobs. So "leaving it"? Hardly. He's just trying to do the parts of it that he likes the best.

"Young Spielberg is the first one of us who doesn't see the proscenium arch."

Wow. That ... gave me a shiver up my spine. Like Soderbergh, and Spielberg, Hitchcock is one of the great technical directors who implicitly understands so very much about the process. Somehow I'd never heard this quote before or wasn't prepared to get it when I did, but it's so illuminating of how a director like Spielberg thinks. (I just rewatched JP on Blu-Ray and was kicking myself for forgetting how masterfully constructed the whole shebang is, even if I find the characters still a bit thin and dry. To see it now that -- after 20+ years of pursuing it -- I'm just starting to feel like I do understand the basics of film grammar is to see it with some very appreciative eyes.)

Incidentally, Soderbergh does some of the best commentaries for someone trying to understand film better. My favorite recent example was Chinatown on Blu-Ray. He talks about the lighting the way only someone who lives inside a camera can -- he can size up the direction and type of lighting in a scene instantaneously with some concept of why it was lit the way it was. Also, The Good German is a film that he did very deliberately aping the type of equipment and culturally appropriate choices from the 1940s, the exact opposite approach that many directors today take to historically-set films (e.g. Michael Mann's Public Enemies).
posted by dhartung at 11:23 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Think about how you'd shoot a film if you had a frame like that around everything.

There's a reason why the double l thumb/index finger gesture is the director cliche.

And the baseball cap, of course. Which kinda replaced the tin megaphone.
posted by pseudocode at 4:06 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Weird to think about Hitchcock watching Spielberg. That's almost a hundred years of filmmaking between them and Spielberg is one of the few contemporary directors who you could argue is as much of a master of the form as Hitch.
posted by octothorpe at 4:56 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


In defense of the music, it does at least cue up certain scenes in the film.
I just watched the intro. It cues up great at the finding of the dart, 'If they knew we were here, we'd be dead already.' And of course, these two hooligans soon will be. And there's another at the end of that scene. 'I hate snakes Jacques.'
posted by xtian at 7:17 AM on September 24, 2014


Love him or hate him, but at least he's treating cinema as art.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:50 AM on September 24, 2014


Also have been toying around with the resolution of the pic, (something that involves the actors leaving the Black Hole and arriving in previous films of theirs - so Robert Forster ends up in MEDIUM COOL, etc.)

Or Jackie Brown. Please.
posted by The World Famous at 1:38 PM on September 24, 2014


I've often wondered why editors don't get more recognition, given that the editing really shapes the film.

The pernicious scourge of auteur theory.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:02 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although if we're talking Soderberg, he edits all him movies himself.
posted by octothorpe at 4:24 PM on September 24, 2014


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