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Old April 14th, 2008, 10:04 AM   #1
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The editor is overlooked! Again!

In a review of Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, Roger Ebert gets something wrong. While I agree with Ebert’s reviews nearly all of the time, in this one instance he misplaces his praise. He writes...

“The closing scenes of the movie involve Szpilman's confrontation with a German captain named Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann), who finds his hiding place by accident. I will not describe what happens, but will observe that Polanski's direction of this scene, his use of pause and nuance, is masterful.”

I’m sorry, Mr. Ebert, but the responsibility for the placement and length of the subtle pauses belong to the film's editor, one of the most often overlooked craftsmen in the film industry.

The image of the director as “God”, with control of every aspect of the production, is an old myth. Yes, Roman Polanski may have been responsible for coming up with the concept for the scene (along with the screenwriter) and for shooting it a certain way to achieve the desired effect. But as we here all know he may have shot it many different ways with many different kinds of performances and pacing and then he dumped the whole mess into the lap of film editor Hervé de Luze to sort out.

It was Hervé de Luze who was finally responsible for choosing which takes to use and how long to let a silence or a look hang before making a cut. In a delicate scene like this one a few fractions of a second too short or too long can make all the difference.

Just wanted to get that off my chest!
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Old April 15th, 2008, 12:26 PM   #2
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I just recently got bit by this as well. I edited a trailer for a feature indy film. The praise was wonderful. My only problem was that some of the praise was how good the footage looked, colors, contrast etc. I had to quickly say, without seeming too proud, that I had to spend SOME time adjusting contrast and color. The original footage was a bit off...

Things people don't think about regarding editing:

1. The film does not come off the roll pre-edited, someone actually sits for hours cutting footage.

2. The time it takes to edit a feature is usually 10X longer than most people think. (like we just whip out fully edited features daily) I've had some people think that editing is the quickest process in production...

3. How footage looks in final product is often a result of the editor doing magic with color correction, tone, contrast etc...

4. Directors don't always sit with the editor.

IMHO a director should be involved heavily in the edit process.
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Old April 15th, 2008, 01:15 PM   #3
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Directors don't always sit with the editors.

But sometimes they do.

There's a reason there are 'editors cuts' 'directors cuts' and 'studios cuts'. The cut that makes it to the screen can be a result of lots of political maneuvering behind the scenes.

Not to take any credit away from Herve' de Luze, but do you know for a fact that he was the sole arbiter on the selection and pacing of those cuts? That Polanski wasn't sitting there saying "No, lets try this... yes you're right on that one, hey lets hold it a little longer"? It sounds as if you know this for a fact, and I'm not saying its not true, just wondering how you know.
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Old April 15th, 2008, 09:40 PM   #4
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The director is the one responsible for not saying no to a good idea.

Plenty of director's get this wrong - so in my mind it's fair praise.

Everyone on a crew knows this - obviously directors also come up with lots of good ideas themselves, but really, a good director is one who can take all the ideas of everyone in a creative position on the crew and make them all work together.

The auteur movement may be a load of bollocks, and certain crew positions get more or less credit than they deserve but ultimately if a reviewer credits the director in this fashion they aren't necessarily wrong, for the simple fact that the director could have chosen another direction and over ridden the editor.
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Old May 8th, 2008, 05:43 AM   #5
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Not to denigrate the editor in this case (who's worked on almost all Polanski's features in the last 25 years, so Polanski obviously values him), but Polanski does a lot of careful in camera coverage. He's not a Michael Bay style shoot for the edit director who shoots from every conceivable angle and then reconstructs in post, or a Master scene/Close up TV style director. Generally in Polanski's work you find a lot of deep focus and carefully staged sequence shots, and any "cutting" will have to fit with that approach.

Such pauses and moments are also contained WITHIN the shots (having seen the film, there's a lot of very minimally "edited" scenes) and that would be down to the direction of the actors, the pacing of their performances.
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Old May 19th, 2008, 08:15 AM   #6
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its a collaborative effort completed only through the talents of many hard working men and women, both big and small. however, there is no doubt, Polanski is a GREAT director and his vision for that particular film was beautiful. (he's a good actor too if you go back to Chinatown!)
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