Welcome to Akira Kurosawa info!  Log in or Register?

Wipes

Tagged: ,

  •   link

    Lewis Saul

    Eventually, I’d like to write a little monograph on AK’s use of the wipe.

    As I detail each wipe in my transcriptions (www.lewissaul.blogspot.com), I become more and more aware of how AK appropriated this technique from 30’s serials, to become a personal trademark which he imprinted into nearly all 30 films.

    Any wipe, dissolve, cut, dolly, pan, push-in — it’s all Director’s Commentary on the story. The average movie-goer will not usually notice a simple cut or quick dissolve.

    But a wipe is a different story. The filmmaker is PUSHING his image away in favor of a new one. You can’t miss it. And — if he or she is as great as Kurosawa Akira — you won’t be “permitted” to miss it! It will become an organic component of the way an audience perceives the film as a whole — the auteur’s imprint…

    James Goodwin: Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema has been a valuable source for information on AK and the wipe. He devotes a good five pages (143-147) to it.

    As in the early Hollywood model, he usually uses it to show the passage of time — usually a short period of time.

    However, Kurosawa — from the very start — was never complacent about its use in his brilliant editing.

    Think about the famous “geta” montage from Sugata I! All dissolves, no wipes at all.

    A wipe here would have shown us a simple transition from Sugata as “rickshaw boy” to bully misusing his skill.

    The dissolves, however, give us a real flavor of the whole “geta o azukeru” thing (Richie, p. 21).

    **

    The second most prominent use of the wipe is as an accentuating tool on cinematic motion. He used this beautifully — also from the very start.

    The horizontal wipes in Sugata I with Sayo on the temple steps.

    Vertical wipes on the Amour posters on moving streetcars in Scandal. Brilliant!

    Many instances in Rashomon, esp. the initial woodcutter scene.

    And to name just one more, the vertical wipes in Seven Samurai when they are under the waterfall, riding to kick some bandit ass…

    In Ikiru, he uses it to glue together various scenes, in a way that sort of shocks us into what we just saw. Sort of like a loud sforzando after a long stretch of quiet music…

    Think of Star Wars without wipes and you have an entirely different type of movie!

      link

    BMWRider

    I agree with you analysis. The first time I saw an AK film back in the 80s it was the wipes that startled me, it was as if he saw wipes as a way to express his art.

      link

    Jeremy

    My friends tell me I often come off as bullish and as though my comments are the final word. If you feel that way-dont. I only pretend to know what I’m talking about 🙂

    While I agree wipe, dissolve, and cuts are more or less a directors commentary.

    I would disagree with the dolly, pan, push-in. I wouldnt go so far to call them a commentary, they are needed in order to maintain composition, continuity, but importantly blocking. These moves shouldn’t be taken lightly, although Kurosawa’s skill and passion as with any great director play a role on the use of these techniques. It in the end will likely always be a methodical move and not one of commentary like origins.

    There are many directors that toy around with these moves creating a complex and confusing film. A director like Kurosawa, who states over and over, how movies should be simple, I dont feel would be so careless in camera movements.

    I suppose my strongest belief in this, is that not a single Kurosawa film where the camera movements are directly obvious, they are subtle and flow with the actors movements. At times you dont even realize the camera is doing anything at all–and I believe that the point of director-to make the camera disappear, thus giving a direct view of the action-allowing a connection and ability to approve or disapprove of what we see.

    As for dissolves, they are simply dangerous, amateur and normally there to hide poor camera planning. The famous saying among editors is “If you cant solve it-dissolve it”.

    Of course in the hands of a master the rules of cinema dont really apply.

    However the comment

    the famous “geta” montage from Sugata I! All dissolves, no wipes at all.

    I fail to see the spectacular nature of this, the dissolve was really created to connect montage scenes together. And Kurosawa used it as such

    At times I feel some of the great directors, when doing simple things, get the credit as it being a masterful idea. Can they not just do what is normal and regular from time to time?

    There are so many directors, in which I would like to ask if what they did, is anything more then what it is. I get the feeling more often then not-it simply is what it is, and the grand thinking assumed by many is wrong.

    The wipe is indeed very, very interesting. I find it hard to comment on such a technique as its belong really only to the masters. It too dangerous in the hands of any other.

    ( I like star wars, but I discredit any “brilliance” in the movie, the wipes for example are placed with direct copy of Kurosawa. Lucas simply learned when Kurosawa would use them and simply did the same.

    Lucas has not proven to me to be a director-but merely a master at coping.)

    Back to the wipe–I do agree it is a forcing event in which the director makes us see something. At times it can be like someone forcing your eyes open, when you want to close them. At other its gives relaxation and as the old is replaced with the new.

    In the end its a dangerous move, something few are smart enough and brave enough to do. Many attempt simply to attempt and fail completely.

    I do look forward to what you have to say.

    -oh if your reading this, and thinking- whats the point of this post-well I’m asking myself the same thing 🙂

    I have no idea where I going with this.

      link

    Lewis Saul

    >>>>While I agree wipe, dissolve, and cuts are more or less a directors commentary.

    I would disagree with the dolly, pan, push-in. I wouldnt go so far to call them a commentary, they are needed in order to maintain composition, continuity, but importantly blocking.

    >Oy! If I implied that those were “commentary” I need to go back and fix that. I only meant to say that any filmmaker who uses anything other than normal camera movements (and of course, the dolly, pan and push-in are part of the everyday filmic vocabulary) is making a “comment.”

    >>>I suppose my strongest belief in this, is that not a single Kurosawa film where the camera movements are directly obvious, they are subtle and flow with the actors movements. At times you dont even realize the camera is doing anything at all–and I believe that the point of director-to make the camera disappear, thus giving a direct view of the action-allowing a connection and ability to approve or disapprove of what we see.

    I try to point that out frequently. The whole point of drawing attention to it — as a student — is to see how AK manages to integrate the manipulation into the story. I think he is particularly effective at this when he uses the wipe to accentuate motion in any of four directions. [This is one of the reasons I’m keeping track of all the wipes — eventually I want to see just how often he actually does that. The majority of wipes are used as traditionally, to indicate passage of time.

    >>>>However the comment

    the famous “geta” montage from Sugata I! All dissolves, no wipes at all.

    I fail to see the spectacular nature of this, the dissolve was really created to connect montage scenes together. And Kurosawa used it as such<<<<

    Well, Jeremy — my Nowhere Man — [sorry, couldn’t resist! :)- ] — I will strongly disagree with you here.

    First of all, although the scene after the geta montage is another montage, the one before it is not! (The scene ends with Sugata kicking of the getas.)

    The montage does something a wipe couldn’t possibly do — shows the passage of time, as well as showing how Sugata might be doing in his training with Yano, by showing the travels of the geta. The montage gives us time to think about what Sugata is doing while we watch his old shoe go through changes

    And when we suddenly see he’s being a bully — he obviously hasn’t progressed very far in his training, other than brute physicality — and that’s the whole point! Judo is a spiritual discipline, etc.

    This is obviously nit-picking in the extreme — but I find the short montage breathtaking, especially when one considers this is a directorial debut…

    >>>>The wipe is indeed very, very interesting. I find it hard to comment on such a technique as its belong really only to the masters. It too dangerous in the hands of any other.

    ( I like star wars, but I discredit any “brilliance” in the movie, the wipes for example are placed with direct copy of Kurosawa. Lucas simply learned when Kurosawa would use them and simply did the same.

    Lucas has not proven to me to be a director-but merely a master at coping.)

    Or copying! :)-

    Now, we completely agree. Although I like most of the SW films, it is perfectly obvious he uses wipes a la Hidden Fortress mode, and very rarely are they sublime. They just move you from one image to another — with none of the

    organic effect that AK achieves.

    >>>>In the end its a dangerous move, something few are smart enough and brave enough to do. Many attempt simply to attempt and fail completely.

    Which is what makes me so fascinated about the way AK uses it!

    >>>>whats the point of this post-well I’m asking myself the same thing 🙂

    Hey, I’m in Seventh Heaven here talking with people who even understand why I’m so psyched! Let’s dig into all the juicy details, no matter how minor! AK deserves no less.

    Lewis Saul

    http://www.lewissaul.blogspot.com

      link

    Vili Maunula

    A highly fascinating topic, indeed.

    Was it Richie who put forward the theory that, when used to mark the passage of time, the direction of wipe that Kurosawa uses at any given point has (often) to do with the length of time that he intends to communicate has passed.

    I don’t remember if this suggestion was actually from Richie (somehow I seem to associate it with him, though), nor whether the direction was a simple question of being either towards left or right, or relative to the motion of the characters.

    I am personally also somewhat sceptical about the whole theory. But do any of you remember reading about this, and if so, where? And what do you think about it?

      link

    Lewis Saul

    http://lewissaul.blogspot.com/2008/02/73-akira-kurosawa-sugata-sanshiro-judo.html

    quotes after the very first wipe — this is pretty much the “meat” of my wipe research — I don’t recall what you’re speaking of, Vili (that doesn’t mean it’s not there!)…

    I like the quote about it being a hypothetical Japanese character and the whole trucage thing.

    My wife and I watched Ran last night. I had forgotten that it is wipeless, like many of the late films. He definitely seemed to prefer the cut here. He so masterfully edits the action (I’m thinking of the big burning castle scene) that you never realize you’ve seen 19 different cuts in 30 seconds!

    And Takemitsu’s score!

      link

    Jeremy

    I enjoyed your Sugata Sanshiro post Isaul, the comments about the wipe are very interesting. I do agree with them in many ways, but I still find it a over crediting of them, a attempt to find deeper meaning thats not necessarily intended.

    Certainly Kurosawa used them for a reason,I for one simply consider it a means to draw attention to the edit, to re-awaking the audience, to give force to what coming up next.

    The concepts however have been seen in silent movies for the very reasons I listed above, and Kurosawa has spoken about his enjoyment of silent movies.

    Every director carries something from somewhere else along with them, its a means of comfort and familiarity to which they can rely on and later build upon. Can they not be of such simplicity, or must everything a great director does be so complex?

    Had Kurosawa not become a master, I do wonder if these wipes would be anything more then a interesting move.

    What happens to many masters of cinema, everyone wants to dissect the work, and try to find meaning in everything in hopes to find the key to their mastery.

    Certainly not to discredit Kurosawa’s editing skills, I personally find them of great importance and admire his brilliance at times.

    What is important to take in, is where and when cuts are made, and not such much how. To study how without understand when and where, all attention is wrongly focused.

    Its important to remember the audience are not film theorists, Kurosawa certainly knew this, and is part to why I believe he mentions time after time the importance of simplicity.

    This is in apart what gave Kurosawa such wide appeal outside Japan.

    For example Ozu whos films can be rather deep in the complexity of Japanese culture and film theory, in which many aspects are missed to people outside Japan, and some even to the Japanese.

      link

    Lewis Saul

    Your points are all well-taken, Jeremy — but I do hope you realize that in no way shape or form does my analysis preclude the reality (and my understanding) that AK made movies for people to enjoy. “A movie should be enjoyable.”

    My (or anyone’s) analyses — like any sort of criticism — is simply an attempt to pick apart HOW he does it!

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to “dissect” the work of any great artist. Sometimes, we even find little shards of diamonds which the creator might have completely forgot about (or –as you say — never even been aware of — all subconscious)…

    Lewis Saul

    http://www.lewissaul.blogspot.com

      link

    Jeremy

    I’m not trying to disregard your comments or work at all, its well done, and I will continue to read though it all, I do find it interesting and helpful.

    I do agree a directors films should be study, I suppose everyone will have different degree in which they thing is the best way. I’m just giving my take on it, and not aiming for it to be considered right or wrong.

    At any rate, continue the great work.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)



Leave a comment

Log in or Register to post a comment!