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What's your favorite single shot?


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#1 Brian Rose

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 11:19 PM

I was rewatching McCabe & Mrs. Miller for the umpteenth time, and I felt compelled to write.

There are so many things I love about this movie; I think it's Robert Altman's best work (among many equals), and that in hindsight, it was criminal that Vilmos Zsigmond didn't win the Oscar for his work (nor was even nominated, due to a technicality, I believe).

It also contains what, for me, is my all time favorite single shot in movies. It occurs at roughly the 18:30 mark, as McCabe is riding into town with three prostitutes he has bought to start his own brothel. The sun is rising, and Leonard Cohen's "The Sisters of Mercy" plays on the soundtrack. As we see them near town, Altman cuts away to the shot:

We see the steeple of the town's church in silhouette, framed by two evergreens with mountains the background, and the sun just beginning to rise behind them. And up this steeple climbs a little man, a large wooden cross over his shoulder. He cuts away briefly to another shot of McCabe, before returning to the panorama, just as the little man is nearing the top. We hold, watching, as he drops the cross into place atop the high steeple. And all is in glorious 2.39 Panavision.

I don't want to get in trouble for posting copyrighted material, but you may find a still of the scene I described at the following link (scroll midway down to find it)

McCabe & Mrs. Miller Shot

I can't begin to explain what I love so much about this one shot. The color, the composition, the exposure is for me...perfect. But not only are its technical qualities beyond reproach, as are the composition and the timing, the scene itself just seems to sum up not only the themes of the picture, of but life itself and the human experience. Because don't we all in some way or another bear some kind of cross upon our backs as we struggle to the top of whatever it is we climb, so that when we finally arrive, we may be relieved of its burden?

Now I turn it over to you all. What SINGLE, STATIC shot gets to you the most? No scenes or sequences please. No movement of the camera, be it panning, tracking, dollying, jibbing or what have you. I want to know what single unbroken piece of celluloid reaches you more than all others, on a technical, artistic, compositional, emotional, spiritual level (or all of the above).

BR
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 11:47 PM

"You're an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill."

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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 11:59 PM

One of my favorites at the moment:

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Which I love for the camera motion in it. It primes you for the rest of the film, I think and really grabs your attention!


Also there is a shot in the opening of Days of Heaven which I can't find an image of. It's in the beginning, right before the sequence with the train, where Richard Gere is by a bedside, just barely perceptible... and I believe it's his "sister" in the bed with a slash of light coming in.

Also most of the shots in Barry Lyndon
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I mean how can I have just one?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 12:08 AM

We had that thread of "greatest shots" awhile ago, these are what I posted then:

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#5 John Sprung

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 12:13 AM

For me, it's the last shot in "The Third Man".




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#6 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 12:28 AM

Hi Brian,

If you can check out the PBS "Independent Lens" program about Laszlo and Vilmos "No Subtitles Needed" you might
enjoy the discussion about the shooting of "McCabe and Mrs. Miller."

A shot that had great dramatic effect for me is the freeze frame at the end of "The Four Hundred Blows". Yes, I know
it wasn't shot that way ("Freeze the camera!") but the effect is so powerful that I wish other films that end with a freeze
frame would have found another way to end. I know that it's a technique and that saying that is like saying nobody else
use a zoom or something but in Truffaut's film freezing that shot is such a profound cinematic expression of how Antoine
Daniel is trapped and seemingly out of options. The technique has been used a million times since, and it is inherently
powerful but I've never seen a film or tv show (and tv shows love ending with freeze frames) that has used it so well.

When I first saw the film, I gasped when Antoine is running and turns to face the camera and the shot froze.
How often does that reaction happen when watching a movie? I'm so glad that I saw it in a theater. What a movie going experience.
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#7 Vincent Sweeney

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 02:51 AM

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#8 anthony le grand

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 06:15 AM

lso there is a shot in the opening of Days of Heaven which I can't find an image of. It's in the beginning, right before the sequence with the train, where Richard Gere is by a bedside, just barely perceptible... and I believe it's his "sister" in the bed with a slash of light coming in.


I can't find this picture either! But this shot is absolutely gorgeous and may be my favorite too. This single shot is almost more beautiful than looking at Rembrandt's philosopher.
But it's almost impossible to choose only one. Also this one of Days of Heaven:

days_of_heavenpdvd_01401.jpg

and my favorite shot of Barry Lyndon:
BarryLyndon1_9cc98.jpg


Also, and I can't find the picture, one of the last shot of Death in Venice when he looks at the young boy on the beach, during the sunset.
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