All this talk of film editing made me think of Martin Scorcese and his long-time partnership with film editor Thelma Schoonmaker. I would venture to say that Scorcese is a master director and storyteller, so chances are Schoonmaker isn’t a bad film editor either. One of my favorite Scorcese films is Casino, so off I went to look for a Casino clip after not finding anything that really stood out to me in the suggested YouTube playlists.
Here’s the clip I chose: “In Vegas, Everybody Watches Everybody Else”
Video only: Knowing that what the clip was titled, but not having seen this clip for several years, I dug in. The shot opens with three men entering the frame, man 1 (stays left), man 2 (goes to the far right), and DeNiro (who fills center, which is just right of center in the frame).
The camera then zooms in closer to DeNiro’s face and then moves back left across until he is just left of center, framed in the foreground.
The camera then gets moving- from one person in the casino to the other. In general it follows a rhythm: camera moves, settles on object, object moves. Camera moves, object moves, repeat. Often, but not always, the person’s eyes or body language will point the viewer to where the camera goes next.
Audio only: Scene opens with blues-y, jazz-y, soul-y uptempo music. The sound mimics the camera/object/camera/object rhythm: music/narration/music/narration. The music also has background noise as well- casino noises. The sentences of dialogue are short and staccato so every bit of dialogue fits into the time the camera is on the object.
One Last time: It corresponds with the three men arriving on screen, pauses for a moment of narration, and then proceeds into the body of the song, just as the scene proceeds as well. The camera and music rhythms match up; the result is a dynamic piece of film that conveys movement and the many parties involved in “watching” the casino.
I didn’t notice any overt Ebert principles here. Yes DeNiro is just right of center in the opening frames, but then the clip moves on and the actors are in varying spots in the shots- left right, moving left, moving right. There isn’t too much up/down angles- the majority of shots are from shoulder height, so a neutral stance. What is striking about this clip is not the placement of actors–no shot actually features one actor actively interacting (not just standing next to) with the other–but the movement between them across the wide casino space.