Monday, September 1, 2014

One Take Wonders

Ever since I saw Touch of Evil, I've been interested in films with long takes. I'm not sure how many filmmakers choose to use long takes, but Orson Welles definitely wanted to. He wanted a nice seamless, edited-free scene. So Touch of Evil opens up with a three-minute, twenty-second tracking shot which is widely considered by critics as one of the greatest long takes in cinema history. But they hadn't seen the big daddy of them all yet. We'll talk about that one later.

Here's the whole opening scene to give you an idea. See if you see any cuts or edits:

Another unique film is the one below which is amazing because of when it was shot. It's the 1905 film going down Market Street in San Francisco. This was just before the big 1906 earthquake hit.

But here's the big daddy of them all. It's the film Russian Ark by filmmaker Alexander Sokurov.  

He and his crew broke boundaries with this dreamlike vision of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. It's the first feature-length narrative film shot in a single take (on digital video, using a specially designed disc instead of tape). 

Not only do you get a tour of the gorgeous Hermitage, but you also can brush up on your Russian history as each scene deals with a different period of time and includes such notables as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and the Romanovs. 

The cast rehearsed for months to time their movements just right. But the 90 minute film was shot in just one day. Tilman Buttner was the director of photography who was responsible for capturing the film in one single Steadicam shot.

Hope you enjoyed these one shot wonders. Are there any others that I don't know about? Let me know in the comment section.


  1. Joss Whedon's "Serenity" introduces viewers to the ship and its crew in one long action shot following the captain (Nathan Fillion) as he readies everyone for a rough landing. There is one hidden cut in the scene, necessary because the set wasn't entirely contiguous. Still, a great use of both the one-shot and the walk-and-talk to immediately place the viewers in the cinematic world.

    Then there's the criminally under-appreciated "JCVD", a drama starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and proving the man is actually an actor. It begins with a satire of the one-shot, as Van-Damme dispatches one opponent after another in a vigorous action sequence -- which ends when his very last victim flubs his "death". The director demands they immediately reshoot and VanDamme is just too exhausted to do it all over again.

    PS: I miss you guys!

    Love ya!