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Single-Take Films [TALKING IMAGES]

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St. Gloede
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Single-Take Films [TALKING IMAGES]

#1

Post by St. Gloede »

Image

Hi all,

We're back!

In this episode, Clem, Teproc, Filmbantha and I will dive into the ludicrous feat of shooting their entire film in one single take.

Why would filmmakers go through the excruciating trouble and pain of creating their films without a single cut - any mistake being detrimental - every shoot non-stop?

Why put yourself through all that pain? Why put your actors through all that pain? Why put the actual person carrying a camera for 90 minutes through all that pain? Why?

Can single-take films do things regular films can't?

Our answer is a resounding yes!

Listen in as we talk you through the ludicrously small selection of single-take films, including the "fakes", and look at just what each of them manages to achieve.


You can listen here:

Sounder: https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... take-films

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4hTs5uCCfBPu4mzv55sqpy

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/t ... 80739?uo=4 (not synched yet)

We' cover:

Rope: 8:33
Macbeth: 18:21
Russian Ark: 28:24
Birdman & Gaspar Noe: 38:49
Victoria: 44.40
Utøya: 49:41
1917: 58:41
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open: 1:09:54
-
The Future of Single-Take Films: 1:12:33


Join in the discussion:

What's the first single take film you remember watching?

Are you drawn to single-take films?

Do single-take films manage to create an effect regular films can't?

Do you think we'll be seeing more single-take films?

Did we leave any of your favourites out? Recommend away?

+++ TALK ABOUT THE FILMS AND WHAT WE SAID +++
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Onderhond
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#2

Post by Onderhond »

I'm honestly more interested in the "fakes". First films that came to mind were Irréversible and Hardcore Henry, exactly because they manage to break out of the somewhat mundane limitations the one-shot approach puts on a film, without taking away from the experience of seeing something play out in real time. The fact that you know on some level that there's some smart cutting & stitching to create that effect vs actually having it all shot in one take is negligible, at least for me.

One more interesting film to mention is Cannon Fodder (part of the Memories anthology and directed by Otomo), which is animated like a one-take film. That poses some very unique challenges of its own.
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#3

Post by beavis »

At the start of the "digital revolution" Russian Ark was a high profile one, but I have also fond memories of Timecode by Mike Figgis, who upped the ante by using multiple camera's.
I see you haven't covered that one, so could be a cool tip!
The one take thing is being done more often in recent years, but it is not as remarkable anymore. The most rigorous one I can think of is Nightfall by Benning.
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#4

Post by beavis »

That one take fight film was a fun one last year, thought you'd mention that one Onderhond ;)
one man against 400+ for a feature length run!

Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12015352/
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#5

Post by Onderhond »

beavis wrote: March 17th, 2021, 10:50 am That one take fight film was a fun one last year, thought you'd mention that one Onderhond ;)
one man against 400+ for a feature length run!

Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12015352/
Hah, how true. Pretty insane that one (intro and outro are the only parts where there are some cuts I believe).

Another film that deserves a special mention is Koki Mitani's Airport, not in the least because it's a TV film. Set at a local airport, this is one of those ensemble/situational comedies, but with a one-take setup (a 100-minute one at that). I didn't even notice it at first, but afterwards jumped around the film and couldn't spot a single cut. A crazy feat for what is otherwise a fun but somewhat simple TV film. Some extra info on Mitani's project.
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#6

Post by peeptoad »

Rope is the first I can recall seeing though it's not a true one-shot. Silent House is another from several years ago that got touted somewhat in this area, if memory serves.
There is also a great X-Files ep that had four 11-minute segments filmed and edited together (so also not a true one shot). I think Carter might have even gotten his inspiration form this from Rope.
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#7

Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: March 17th, 2021, 10:50 am That one take fight film was a fun one last year, thought you'd mention that one Onderhond ;)
one man against 400+ for a feature length run!

Crazy Samurai Musashi (2020)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12015352/
Now, this is one we should have seen!
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#8

Post by St. Gloede »

Onderhond wrote: March 17th, 2021, 10:32 am I'm honestly more interested in the "fakes". First films that came to mind were Irréversible and Hardcore Henry, exactly because they manage to break out of the somewhat mundane limitations the one-shot approach puts on a film, without taking away from the experience of seeing something play out in real time. The fact that you know on some level that there's some smart cutting & stitching to create that effect vs actually having it all shot in one take is negligible, at least for me.

One more interesting film to mention is Cannon Fodder (part of the Memories anthology and directed by Otomo), which is animated like a one-take film. That poses some very unique challenges of its own.
Haha, the second thread in a row where you manage to sneak in Memories - well played, sir!

I also agree on the real vs. fake question - the experiences are different - but that also means they can do very different things (rather than one being worse than the other). Not seen Hardcore Henry will add it to my watchlist. Love the effect(s) in Irréversible and Enter the Void - a really unique way to approach film - that truly paid off - though impressive in a slightly different way than the pure single take.
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#9

Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: March 17th, 2021, 10:45 am At the start of the "digital revolution" Russian Ark was a high profile one, but I have also fond memories of Timecode by Mike Figgis, who upped the ante by using multiple camera's.
I see you haven't covered that one, so could be a cool tip!
The one take thing is being done more often in recent years, but it is not as remarkable anymore. The most rigorous one I can think of is Nightfall by Benning.
We mention Timecode briefly and we did consider it in the planning stage - though none of us had seen it and we made different priorities. I'm still intruiged though. If you recommend it I'll be sure to push it up my watchlist.

Not seen Nightfall either - noted - though it strikes me as a little similar to Empire, so while I like Benning I am semi sceptical.
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#10

Post by beavis »

I did not have a change to see Nightfall in a theatre, and it didn't achieve a "magical" feeling like I had with Small Roads (in a cinema). The spot he had chosen for the movie felt not very "spectacular"... I think I spent a long time contemplating if that was on purpose or not... but on the whole it is not one "you should see". It didn't annoy me either. But then I also sat gladly through the three hour "one shot" of Michael Snows's Region Centrale :)
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#11

Post by blocho »

I've seen Rope, Birdman, Russian Ark, and Victoria. Of those, I only liked Rope and Birdman, but in both cases I liked them for reasons having little to do with the single-take technique. Whether ersatz (Rope/Birdman) or genuine (Russian Ark/Victoria), it feels like a gimmick. I'm much more sympathetic to the long take, used judiciously and sparingly (Children of Men, Hunger, Atonement).

In the case of Victoria, I think the single take clearly made the movie worse because the filming became an exercise in endurance and improvisation and execution of a very long series of steps. The effect is to take both performers and viewers out of the experience of the story itself and into the process of filmmaking. That may be appropriate for a certain type of movie that interrogates the process of filmmaking or is at least concerned with the concatenation of historical experiences within a single location (Russian Ark). It felt misguided in a crime thriller like Victoria.
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#12

Post by Onderhond »

blocho wrote: March 17th, 2021, 3:45 pm I've seen Rope, Birdman, Russian Ark, and Victoria. Of those, I only liked Rope and Birdman, but in both cases I liked them for reasons having little to do with the single-take technique. Whether ersatz (Rope/Birdman) or genuine (Russian Ark/Victoria), it feels like a gimmick. I'm much more sympathetic to the long take, used judiciously and sparingly (Children of Men, Hunger, Atonement).

In the case of Victoria, I think the single take clearly made the movie worse because the filming became an exercise in endurance and improvisation and execution of a very long series of steps. The effect is to take both performers and viewers out of the experience of the story itself and into the process of filmmaking. That may be appropriate for a certain type of movie that interrogates the process of filmmaking or is at least concerned with the concatenation of historical experiences within a single location (Russian Ark). It felt misguided in a crime thriller like Victoria.
You should give 1917 a chance I guess, it worked really well in that one and never felt like it held the film back.
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#13

Post by OldAle1 »

Haven't listened to the podcast yet, will try to do that before long.

I'm generally sympathetic to blocho's statements here - I tend to love long-take films in general, I'm certainly attracted to "slow cinema" but on the whole I can't say that the single-take idea has been exploited all that well, from what I've seen. Of the ones mentioned I've seen Rope, Russian Ark, Birdman, Victoria and 1917; I really didn't much like Victoria, had generally positive feelings about all the others though Birdman is the only one that stands out strongly.

I don't know how much you guys got into experimental filmmaking in the podcast but there have certainly been plenty of single take experiments there going back a long ways - beavis mentions Snow's La region centrale but the same director's Wavelength from 1967 is obviously also notable - is this the earliest feature-length (well, right on the cusp) single-take film with any kind of "plot"? Rivette's Out 1 has a 45-minute take that, unlike Snow's films, is handheld - I think 45m was the limit of a 16mm reel at the time, and it might well be the limit of how long a person could hold a camera on the action and get anything useful. Steadicams and digital have opened up the possibilities to just about anything not requiring lots of effects and editing now of course, so while I'm still iffy about what's been done I do think there is lots of potential. There are several other interesting-looking examples in the last few years, most exciting to me is the Iranian Fish and Cat from 2014; I've seen several of the director's shorts and they show a very inventive cinematic mind - this has been on my to-see list basically since it came out.

And I have a further film that I'd love to have everybody see, but I don't know where you'd find it - I saw this at our local film fest 2 years ago and apparently it's only had a couple of small fest screenings - only 3 checks so far:


Last Call (Gavin Michael Booth, 2019)

World premiere, apparently, woo hoo! Not that anybody is ever going to see this. Too bad because it's a pretty good film in which the gimmick - it's two separate single takes shot simultaneously with live sound - actually works to accentuate and heighten the suspense in the plot. Sarah Booth (wife of the director) and Daved Wilkins (who co-wrote this with the director) star as respectively a young student and mother going to her night job as a janitor, and a falling-down drunk who calls a suicide hotline, he thinks, which is answered by the young woman. For 75 minutes we see these two onscreen - side by side when they are connected by phone, top/bottom when not - as Booth tries to figure out what to do, whether she can help this guy in some way, and Wilkins sinks further and further. It's an obviously very low budget endeavor with some mistakes here and there - only so many times they could shoot this footage and director Booth and Wilkens, who were there for the screening, asserted that there was absolutely no editing - but it comes off remarkably well, thanks in no small part to the two performances, particularly Sarah Booth's. It's a Canadian production for the most part, shot in Windsor ON, and I hope it gets a little festival play at least in Canada - maybe with a little less competition than it would get in a bigger film industry it might have a shot at an award or something; in any case I certainly would recommend it to anyone interested in long-take films and the real-time sorts of experiments.
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#14

Post by Lakigigar »

Where can you find a list of all one long-take films?

That being said, i have yet to encounter the first one long take film I dislike.

All the ones that you mentioned are the ones I have seen. The only one left out is Son of Saul which is also a one take film. Haven't seen Rope, MacBeth or Russian Ark yet. And I don't have an idea why Noé is mentioned here, although he uses long takes, but none of the ones i know off are exactly one take.
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#15

Post by Teproc »

Son of Saul is not a one-take film at all. It's comprised of (checking Wikipedia) 85 shots, most of them long and over the shoulder, but they're not even going for a Birdman or 1917 simili-one take thing AFAIK.
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#16

Post by St. Gloede »

Lakigigar wrote: March 17th, 2021, 7:15 pm And I don't have an idea why Noé is mentioned here, although he uses long takes, but none of the ones i know off are exactly one take.
Irréversible and Enter the Void use transition effects that make it seems like a consecutive shot, even though it is, of course, very clear that they do not.
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#17

Post by Onderhond »

St. Gloede wrote: March 18th, 2021, 8:13 am Irréversible and Enter the Void use transition effects that make it seems like a consecutive shot, even though it is, of course, very clear that they do not.
Might be my memory, but I think Enter the Void had clear cuts and wasn't intended to appear like a single-take film? Contrary to Irréversible.
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#18

Post by St. Gloede »

blocho wrote: March 17th, 2021, 3:45 pm I've seen Rope, Birdman, Russian Ark, and Victoria. Of those, I only liked Rope and Birdman, but in both cases I liked them for reasons having little to do with the single-take technique. Whether ersatz (Rope/Birdman) or genuine (Russian Ark/Victoria), it feels like a gimmick. I'm much more sympathetic to the long take, used judiciously and sparingly (Children of Men, Hunger, Atonement).

In the case of Victoria, I think the single take clearly made the movie worse because the filming became an exercise in endurance and improvisation and execution of a very long series of steps. The effect is to take both performers and viewers out of the experience of the story itself and into the process of filmmaking. That may be appropriate for a certain type of movie that interrogates the process of filmmaking or is at least concerned with the concatenation of historical experiences within a single location (Russian Ark). It felt misguided in a crime thriller like Victoria.
Interesting, from the conversations in the podcast this is a big part of what really made the film work for us.
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#19

Post by St. Gloede »

Onderhond wrote: March 18th, 2021, 8:45 am
St. Gloede wrote: March 18th, 2021, 8:13 am Irréversible and Enter the Void use transition effects that make it seems like a consecutive shot, even though it is, of course, very clear that they do not.
Might be my memory, but I think Enter the Void had clear cuts and wasn't intended to appear like a single-take film? Contrary to Irréversible.
My memory is fuzzy too, but I seem to remember the camera always moving up into a blurred cloud, going through a wall, a head, a hallucinatory mist, etc.
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#20

Post by St. Gloede »

OldAle1 wrote: March 17th, 2021, 4:23 pm I don't know how much you guys got into experimental filmmaking in the podcast but there have certainly been plenty of single take experiments there going back a long ways - beavis mentions Snow's La region centrale but the same director's Wavelength from 1967 is obviously also notable - is this the earliest feature-length (well, right on the cusp) single-take film with any kind of "plot"?
Wavelength is technically in the Rope category, as it is not a consecutive shot and part of the experiment is specifically making it look like one. We talk briefly on Empire. Wavelength and I believe La region central (though I'm not quite sure) were part of our single location podcast, with other Snow films - we did a bit of a selection process there where we decided to keep Rope for this one for instance - but you are right - we should have brought them up. Maybe we can do a companion episode at some point. I know Sol loves Snow and would take any opportunity to speak about these films.


Rivette's Out 1 has a 45-minute take that, unlike Snow's films, is handheld - I think 45m was the limit of a 16mm reel at the time, and it might well be the limit of how long a person could hold a camera on the action and get anything useful. Steadicams and digital have opened up the possibilities to just about anything not requiring lots of effects and editing now of course, so while I'm still iffy about what's been done I do think there is lots of potential. There are several other interesting-looking examples in the last few years, most exciting to me is the Iranian Fish and Cat from 2014; I've seen several of the director's shorts and they show a very inventive cinematic mind - this has been on my to-see list basically since it came out.
Been so long since I saw Out 1. Remember some really impressive long takes but had forgotten there was a 45-minute shot.

Fish and Cat definitely look interesting.
Last Call (Gavin Michael Booth, 2019)

World premiere, apparently, woo hoo! Not that anybody is ever going to see this. Too bad because it's a pretty good film in which the gimmick - it's two separate single takes shot simultaneously with live sound - actually works to accentuate and heighten the suspense in the plot. Sarah Booth (wife of the director) and Daved Wilkins (who co-wrote this with the director) star as respectively a young student and mother going to her night job as a janitor, and a falling-down drunk who calls a suicide hotline, he thinks, which is answered by the young woman. For 75 minutes we see these two onscreen - side by side when they are connected by phone, top/bottom when not - as Booth tries to figure out what to do, whether she can help this guy in some way, and Wilkins sinks further and further. It's an obviously very low budget endeavor with some mistakes here and there - only so many times they could shoot this footage and director Booth and Wilkens, who were there for the screening, asserted that there was absolutely no editing - but it comes off remarkably well, thanks in no small part to the two performances, particularly Sarah Booth's. It's a Canadian production for the most part, shot in Windsor ON, and I hope it gets a little festival play at least in Canada - maybe with a little less competition than it would get in a bigger film industry it might have a shot at an award or something; in any case I certainly would recommend it to anyone interested in long-take films and the real-time sorts of experiments.
This sounds really interesting - and knowing Sol I know he will likely jump on this (if he hasn't already).
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#21

Post by Onderhond »

St. Gloede wrote: March 18th, 2021, 8:50 am My memory is fuzzy too, but I seem to remember the camera always moving up into a blurred cloud, going through a wall, a head, a hallucinatory mist, etc.
Many of the through-the-wall shots in Enter the Void were in fact real. I remember seeing pics of the setup for those. I just remember there were clearer cuts (maybe even chapters ... it's been too long though). As for Irréversible, that one was made to look like a single cut, with the transitions being twirling camera shots that were stitched together. Even so, there were less obvious cuts too, like the camera that goes through the taxi window.

Benoît Debie (l)
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