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The Idiot: The double wipe

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    Sorry I don’t have a screen time for this, but in the first half of the movie, in the key party scene at Tohata’s house (Hara’s lover), there is moment when Hara walks quickly to a table and there is a peculiar double wipe. It is quite a jarring moment – unique as far as I know.

    Alex Cox, in his introduction to the BFI version, attributes this to a clumsy editor, trying to copy AK’s style.

    One blogger, Noel Vera, attributes it to an attempt to show the turbulence in Hara’s mind.

    Neither seem particularly convincing to me. I doubt if any professional editor would be so clumsy as Cox implies, while using the wipe multiple times to indicate mental turbulance seems a bit of a crude device, and inconsistent with his use of it elsewhere in the film (and in his other films).

    Any thoughts on which theory is more likely, or is there another possible reason?



    Jarring to say the least; I would call it more nauseating.

    I see an attempt to prevent a jump cut. While the wipes are clumsy at best, they are better then having Hara, “jump” from one position to another. Giving she doesn’t display enough forward movement within the busy scene, to allow a clean cut to another room, her change in enviroment and action would come off confusing. And it still sort of does.

    Another issue appears to be continuity. When Hara is displayed between the two dancers, she only moves slightly to her right(nearing the camera). After the wipe, her position after the move right, is largely unchanged, but the dancers are no longer present.

    This too creates a jump cut of the dancers. Since the wipe creates no elapse in time, as Hara is more or less in the same spot before and after the wipe. It’s hard to see this for anything more then an attempt of hiding a continuity fault.

    The pillar that runs across the screen to me has a lot of importance as well. To elaborate a bit more, Hara’s dress, the busy scene, and the short amount of time within the scene, dont reall give off enough forward moment for a cut to be had, and it appear natural.

    If however as Hara walks, the camera dollys with her, and there is a object that interferes with our view. The audience can now pick up a sense of direction, and so a cut can flow in more naturally.

    Ideally I would think, after the pillar scrolls across, we could cut to her drinking, or use the pillar as a wipe, and fade in the scene of her drinking.

    Instead we do get another wipe. This I can really explain, other then giving the first wipe throws off the set up of the scene, the editor thought it important to establish more sense of time passage and movement(although I think the pillar still enough), that, and it’s simply bad editing.

    The scene should go more as follows:

    Hara displayed between the dancers.

    Hara moves to her right (for what reason, who knows, perhaps for what’s next)

    The dancers dance toward off screen right, as Hara moves to her right.

    Hara walks across the dance hall as camera follows.

    Pillar runs across camera, helping establish direction, and time, while creating a natural wipe.

    A wipe, or fade in, or dissolve in to Hara drinking.

    I disagree completely with attempts to show turbulence. It is indeed crude, and inconsistent. So crude it’s only slightly better then shaking the camera to show her turbulence. 😀

    While the 2nd wipe I can easily be pointed to a bad bit of editing and not taking advantage of what’s on scene.

    The 1st wipe, assuming there is a reason why the scene couldn’t continue after Hara is shown through the dancers. It more likely a the editors inability to do much. I too doubt a professional editor would be so clumsy, but a professional editor would too pick a lame wipe, over a unexplainable, unforgivable jump cut.

    So, I’ll go with clumsy editing, but not because it’s a attempt at being Kurosawa, but more a result trying to flow a scene, that can’t not be flowed.

    Nowadays, we could just CGI a Bantha to hide mistakes. 🙄



    Hmmm. Jeremy, in discussing the double wipe you said:

    ” I disagree completely with attempts to show turbulence. It is indeed crude, and inconsistent. So crude it’s only slightly better then shaking the camera to show her turbulence”

    I can think of another set of really strange cuts involving Setsuko Hara-in Kurosawa’s No Regrets for our Youth– Hara does some kind of overwrought pouting/wailing/worrying behind a closed door with strange transitions and hilariously overwrought poses that seem to evoke a sense of passing time, yet are contradicted by the door. It’s quite oddly melodramatic and intended to show the “turbulence” of the character, but also feels wrong. And, that’s all Kurosawa.

    Do we know if the above-mentioned scene in Hakuchi is Kurosawa’s work or the work of the Shochiku “editor”?



    Great post, Jeremy, very illuminating (although I had to google Bantha! 😳 )

    coco, Alex Cox says that it was the work of the Shochiku editor, although I suspect that this is more of a guess on his part rather than being based on any scholarship.



    Thanks for the info, Ugetsu. Too bad we can’t definitively know more about the technical issues, isn’t it?

    And, Jeremy, as usual, your deep understanding of process always makes the discussion more visceral and more interesting.

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