Creed

While there have been many modern examples of excellent long shots that have been aided in some way digitally (the beginnings of La La Land and Gravity, the entirety of Birdman), the greatest ACTUAL uninterrupted take in my opinion would have to be the first big boxing match in Creed. They took the choreography of the scene so seriously that the Steadicam operator took boxing lessons so he would have a better idea of where he needed to be in the ring throughout the fight. It is a brilliantly crafted shot, almost a dance in the way it flows, and it is just absolutely mesmerizing to behold. I went into the movie expecting this scene due to the extremely positive word of mouth surrounding it, and yet it still blew me away. It’s a great shot smack dab in the middle of a fantastic film. (Chase Dunnette)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Ana Lily Amirpour uses what seems to be a fairly simple shot to allow the viewer to be “in the moment” with these two characters.  The scene is made up of one wide shot that lasts about 80 seconds and then cuts into a medium closeup that lasts another 3 minutes.  The scene is absolutely stunning in its simplicity and says so much about the connection between these two strangers.  I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck the first time I watched it. The scene is beautifully shot in black and white, with a gorgeous lighting effect created by the spinning disco ball as well as a song that perfectly captures the mood, but what brings the shot to new heights is the tension that it builds.

It is, on the surface, a sweet tender moment where The Girl brings Arash into her bedroom (her safe space) and the two share an obvious emotional connection. But we know she is a vampire and have seen her tear into a victim before, so it’s hard not to wonder if Arash could simply be her next meal, especially when she slowly tilts his head back. Rather than bite, she chooses to gently rest her head on his chest as she has found someone with whom she can be herself.  This dichotomy of the tender and the terrifying is why the shot has stuck with me. Watching it now still gives me those same chills. (Todd Ruhnau)

La Vie en Rose

One of the most artful and emotionally resonate long takes in cinema can be found in Olivier Dahan’s 2007 film La Vie en Rose. In the sequence, famed singer Edith Piaf wakes up to find her lover, Marcel, in bed with her. Overjoyed by his surprise appearance, Edith leaves the bedroom to get breakfast and the camera dutifully follows behind her. With the single take, a very concrete sense of time and place is established as Edith’s mundane morning rituals initially feel like a deserved pause and moment of breath. However, as Edith continues to move throughout the apartment, she appears to be alone in her joy; the actions and palpable sorrow of her staff communicate that something is seriously wrong: Marcel has died in a plane crash. Doubting the painful truth, Edith returns to her room and discovers Marcel’s absence. Overcome with grief, she continues down the hall screaming in agony as the set opens and transforms into a theatrical stage on which she now stands alone.

Though the sequence begins as an intimate glimpse into the passion and routine of a star, it ultimately reveals an uneasy blurring between desire and reality. While the long take is traditionally used to create ultra-real, lived moments, the filmmakers in La Vie en Rose use it as a tool to capture a subjective perception of what is real. This clever subversion betrays audience expectations and also reveals a great deal about Edith’s fragmented emotions: the pleasure of her dreams, the heaviness of her grief and the earnestness with which she performs her music. (Sean Volk)

Harold and Maude

The scene opens on a pair of feet in shiny wingtip shoes. The feet descend a spiral set of stairs and end up at a turntable. The still unidentified man places a record on the spindle and Cat Stevens‘ “Don’t Be Shy” begins playing. He writes a note. He lights candles. All this while his face is out of the frame, or partially concealed by shadow. Then, he steps off a stool and we’re left with the image of his feet dangling, leaving little to the imagination regarding his fate.

If you’ve made it past the first 5 minutes of Harold and Maude, then you know that the aforementioned was an elaborate prank that Harold (Bud Cort) played on his mother, and only one of many ‘deaths’ the character endures. What makes this scene so great is how so much is said without a word of dialogue. The way he carelessly pats the record player as he walks away. The way he stares at the flickering flame of the lit match. Don’t even get me started on the music, which I consider to be one of the best soundtracks ever written for a film. So much is established in those 5 minutes, and rumor has it the opening sequence was influential in much of Wes Anderson’s style. It’s absolutely incredible. (Jacob Dixon)

Swing Time

It’s not the camera work that’s impressive in this long shot. In fact, the camera doesn’t move much at all. But rather it’s the hard work and dedication of the two actors that bring this shot to mind. For its time, a shot this long was incredibly rare, but Fred Astaire insisted that the audience should see that him and Ginger Rogers were able to dance this number in one take. Did it happen in one take? Nope. It took 47 and Rogers’ feet were bleeding by the end of it. However, it’s this dedication to their craft and the desire to let the audience see what they were able to do in one take that paved the way for so many other great long shots in history. After all, aren’t all great long shots just choreographed dances with cameras and actors? (Jessica Ross)

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