Montage and New Wave Film
The differences between soviet montage and French new wave cinema are interesting and many. Both genres of film seek to create contrast between adjacent shots via discontinuity editing, but subtle differences in their editing styles allow this contrast to produce very different results. In French new wave editing is used to both draw the audience in, and push them away, it draws the audience’s attention and inspires distaste.
Soviet montage on the other hand uses editing not as a method of controlling the audience’s focus, but as a way to create ideas. An analysis of the editing in the Godard’s “Breathless” and Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” will highlight these different effects. In “Breathless”, the first use of editing to keep the audience’s attention is in the scene where Micheal shoots the cop. In this scene Goddard makes use of editing to twist and distort time.
The audience hears the cop tell Micheal “Stop, or i’ll kill you” in a calm voice at nearly the same time that Micheal cocks the gun. Immediately thereafter we jump cut to Micheal firing the gun and jump cut again to the police office falling to the ground as he is shot. From a narrative point of view it is understood that these events do not take place so close to each other. The events happen in much too quick a succession to mimic reality. The jump cuts elapse time in an odd uncomfortable manner.
It can be argued that this is jarring, and distasteful, but it is exactly this jarring and distaste that makes this scene so fascinating. Rushing through the event which is clearly the inciting action of the film (flying in the face of CHC) yields a certain fascination with this scene that typical CHC could not hope to match. An effect similar to the one described above is present in the scene where Micheal and Patricia track down Micheal’s money in the taxi. This exemplifies the use of new wave editing to focus the audience’s attention on the visual.
In this scene, the visual difference between shots is minimal. If one were to imagine it without the jump cuts it would be long and monolithic but the prolific use of jump cuts counters this would-be-dullness. Once again the jump cuts elapse time and quickens the pace of the scene artificially. The audience hears Micheal barking orders at the drive in succession that is faster that he speaks in the story, and they understand that this artificial fast precisely because of the jump cuts and he obviousness in which they are presented. In this way Goddard is able to present a potentially long and dull car ride in the story much faster in the plot.
Unlike the previously discussed scene, this scene does not quicken the pace past the point of comfort, it is intentionally fast paced and helps to excite the audience. First lets take the Odessa Steps scene from “Battleship Potemkin”. This scene feels almost as if it is a CHC film. Shots are spliced together smoothly and invisibly. The audience is never jarred by