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In praise of the freeze frame


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#1 Douglas Wilkinson

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 10:53 PM

I'm a sucker for them:

Last scene in "Metropolitan"
Last scene in "Gallipoli"
Last scene in "The Breakfast Club"
Clooney tearing his tie off in "Out of Sight" (along with numerous others in that film)
Very brief stoppages in "The Good Thief"

I just saw "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" tonight, and - in addition to the incredibly moving and inventive photography - I was pleased to see a series of freeze frames in the final sequence. More of an editorial decision than one of image capture, but certainly made easier with so many beautiful frames to linger on.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 12:12 AM

Don't forget two of the most famous freeze-frame endings: in "400 Blows" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Oh, and "Animal House"...
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#3 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 12:29 AM

Don't forget two of the most famous freeze-frame endings: in "400 Blows" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Oh, and "Animal House"...



I've heard that the "400 Blows" is the first film to have used a freeze frame for an ending. Do you know?
Also, it's so perfectly used in that film. I won't say how in case anybody reading hasn't seen this film
(Go see it!) but it makes so much sense. I didn't know that was how the film would end when I saw it and
man that was a powerful ending. Packed a wallop!

The Sundance channel is running a pretty cool 1 hour film on the making of "Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid" and it actually goes into a good bit of detail about the technical challenges involved
in getting that final shot of Butch and the Sundance Kid.

(By the way, I watched "The Astronaut Farmer" again last night. It really looks terrific. I was freeze framing
all the way through it.)
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 02:01 AM

That freeze-frame at the end of "Butch Cassidy" was very hard because it freezes and then pulls back into a composited shot, so the frozen frame had to be pasted and blended into a larger still frame to continue the zoom back on an animation stand. Simply shooting a wider 35mm live-action shot and starting out by optically cropping way into it to create the tight telephoto 2-shot would have been too grainy & fuzzy.

I don't know if "400 Blows" was the first movie to end on a freeze frame or not, but you never know if Truffaut got the idea from some short film or documentary that did it first (ended on a freeze frame.)

Barry Salt's book says that James Cruz' "Hollywood" (1923) and Rene Clair's "Paris qui dort" (1924) used crude optical printing for things like freeze-frames. He also mentions some being in Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) but I don't recall them.
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#5 Nick Mulder

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 02:12 AM

Herzog's 'Rescue Dawn' ends with a freeze...

You could hear the collective cringe/what-the!? (was watching it with about 1000 others)
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#6 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 02:52 AM

This past week "My Name is Earl" did a brilliant freeze frame at the very end of the episode while actually playing the song "Freeze Frame". I laughed pretty hard at that one :)
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 03:31 AM

This past week "My Name is Earl" did a brilliant freeze frame at the very end of the episode while actually playing the song "Freeze Frame". I laughed pretty hard at that one :)


Don't forget the fake freeze frames at the end of the "Police Squad" episodes...
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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 04:34 AM

That freeze-frame at the end of "Butch Cassidy" was very hard because it freezes and then pulls back into a composited shot, so the frozen frame had to be pasted and blended into a larger still frame to continue the zoom back on an animation stand. Simply shooting a wider 35mm live-action shot and starting out by optically cropping way into it to create the tight telephoto 2-shot would have been too grainy & fuzzy.


They had a whole thing on that shot in the Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which has been playing on I think IFC all month. George Roy Hill's commentary was very cool, he talked about setting up the still camera on a direct line with the movie camera and all the details on how the shot was accomplished. It's a cool doc well worth watching if you get the chance. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 12 November 2007 - 04:35 AM.

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#9 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 11:54 AM

I just caught some of "Thank You For Smoking" again on cable and there are some clever freeze
frames within the movie that allow for some story points to be made e.g. "the yuppie Nuremberg
defense" that I think couldn't be done as well and as efficiently in another way.

Great movie too and it has a tobacco look, sort of a light brown, all the way through.
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#10 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 01:49 PM

Barry Salt's book says that James Cruz' "Hollywood" (1923) and Rene Clair's "Paris qui dort" (1924) used crude optical printing for things like freeze-frames. He also mentions some being in Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) but I don't recall them.


In It's a Wonderful Life, the freezframe is used in the first scene of a grown James Stewart - when he's buying a suitcase, i think it maybe one of the earliest examples in a Hollywood film.

I also seem to remember The Philidelphia Story having one too.


The 400 Blows is an amazing use of freeze frame, you can understand why so many films about children or adolecence heros have chosen to end that way.

The comedy Election makes great comic use of it too.
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#11 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 06:26 PM

In It's a Wonderful Life, the freezframe is used in the first scene of a grown James Stewart - when he's buying a suitcase, i think it maybe one of the earliest examples in a Hollywood film.

I also seem to remember The Philidelphia Story having one too.


The 400 Blows is an amazing use of freeze frame, you can understand why so many films about children or adolecence heros have chosen to end that way.

The comedy Election makes great comic use of it too.



The freeze frame at the end of "The 400 Blows" is to me so powerful because it represents a
metaphorical wall for Antoine Daniel. So many films use freeze frames because stopping the image
imposes a certain gravitas automtically but few use it as well and as fully as in "The 400 Blows".

I've also seen freeze frames used to great dramatic effect even though they were saving scenes
because the expressions on actors in those single frames was not further available because in many
cases one frame later the actors don't hold the expression.
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#12 Tom Lowe

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 06:45 PM

400 Blows is the classic!
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#13 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 02:24 AM

400 Blows is the classic!



Right on! It's one of the most stunning endings to a film that I've ever seen, greatly due to how the story is told
visually. I'm sure that a good fiction writer could have done something with the story also, albeit differently,
but to me this is a prime example of somebody making a film that's really a film!
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#14 Steve Phipps

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Posted 15 November 2007 - 12:48 AM

Also, Fat City. And I thought very jarring in that film, because my recollection of the film is that it?s been very character-, performance-driven, and shot with an unobtrusive visual style up to that point. Then you get the freeze-frame and an optical/pan.
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