Single takes are always great exercises in choreography, precision, and skill. Also, management on a micro as well as macro level.
Just saw “Atonement” recently and was really impressed with the long take at the beach. Clive Owen running through the chaos in “Children of Men” and the opening scene of “Boogie Nights” of course come to mind. Your favorites that most impressed you?
The Traffic Jam in Week End
The scene in Magnolia where it starts from a birdseye view of the audience and slowly makes its way around the game show to down the kids leg. By the way there are a couple of cuts masked in the Children of Men shot (which I find overrated). I know it’s a cliched answer, but I also love the bar scene in Goodfellas where everyone is being introduced.
Opening of “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Say what you will about the film…. there is no denying that shot and what it seems up with the narration is awesome.
@USER DE FAUX-FUYANTS yeah, i was considering that. TECHNICALLY, it’s not a single take. But the effect is still potent though, imo.
the opening shot in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil when the car explodes
What about Altman’s “The Player”? That whole opening shot is incredible.
Well of course there is the opening of Touch of Evil, and it needs to be mentioned despite being obvious, because it is so damn impressive. On a much smaller scale and much less famous and impressive is a certain shot from The Dreamers. It shows in the making of special that they start with the camera on a crane and as the crane lowers someone gets off of the crane with a steady cam and continues to film as they walk. Its a pretty cool shot, if anyone else knows what I’m talking about.
sorry I meant “sets up” instead of seems.
@DREW I know the one! Wow, had no idea they filmed it that way. Gives it a bird-landing kind of feel.
Atonement and Children of Men. The fight in Oldboy (if that counts) and following Antoine’s run in The 400 Blows.
Just check out the balls it took to shoot this
And, yeah, it’s not a tracking shot, but still…
The climatic shot of The Sacrifice. Utterly brilliant.
Paths of Glory.
@JOSH RYAN dude, that totally counts. i forgot about that one!
Ill second the Player.
Touch of Evil and the scene in Malcolm X where the camera begins on a crane and steps out into the street as a steadicam.
The scene in THE PROTECTOR, where Tony Jaa—just watch – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXIGP6_fNZk
EDIT: Just noticed that someone put up the scene from the Protector. But at least I’m sayin The Protector
Satantango. People are easy to direct in tracking shots, but cows? Come on…
Oh, and this one from Damnation (this clip isn’t actually complete, it actually ends with a guy dancing in a puddle outside the dance hall)
Bela Tarr is the fucking master.
Nearly any of the one take tracking shots in Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies are superior and longer than any of these cited above with the possible exception of Carlo’s examples above—we were writing posts at roughly the same time—pick any 1 long take tracking shot in any of these 2 movies and you’ll immediately see what I talking about. Here’s the best and most obvious one 1: in Satantango the villagers leave their bleak, no longer functioning industrial compound where they’ve lived for far too long to reach a way station, a dilapidated mansion as pre-arranged earlier in movie. I believe I’m correct when I say there’s no break in long take until they reach this destination several miles away. In Tarr’s execution and finally perfection of this long take I don’t believe it has been bettered so far in cinema and I’m not the only recent critic to say so—there’s probably a growing consensus of opinion on this one long take tracking shot—look at it when you get the chance—nobody is ever disappointed with it.
now there is a difference between one take, and an extended shot without cuts. There is a certain elegance to the tracking shot, and few directors knew how to use it to its fullest effect. I think that most agree that Orson Welles is the master of it.
The greatest one take shot, and perhaps the greatest unedited or extended shot without a cut is probably the burning of the third castle in Ran
Bobby, I have not seen either movie but am hoping to, are they really superior than the climatic shot of Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice?
Good question— probably not, just longer in duration than the one in The Sacrifice.
Russian Ark, nothing can really compare to the 90 minute long tracking shot.
Alex, I love that movie so much and have so much respect for its singular achievement that I’ll have to defer to your answer here.
There are several in Elephant but the one that stands out to me, the one with the most resonance, is the shot following the girls in and out of the cafeteria. Not only is it technically brilliant but applies to the content of the scene and what the scene is about. Too often tracking shots and uninterrupted shots are done to fulfill the director’s ego and rarely have anything to do with the actual movie or what is going on in the scene (a good example is the shot in Atonement mentioned above – a truly disgusting display of a director’s lack of restraint). But I think in Elephant, Van Sant and Savides do a masterful job of combining technique with artistry.
Josh Ryan, have you SEEN the special features of The Protector where they go over the making of that shot? They nailed it on the fifth take (as explained in the youtube video info) but the fourth take is easily the best, until the parts around 2:35 where the frames of the wood POP out like they were poorly glued instead of breaking. A damn shame.
That stuntman at :34 takes so many hard falls that it should be criminal if they under valued him at all.
I am shocked that it took Russian Ark so long to be mentioned here. It may be a one trick show, but that one trick is one of the most impressive cinematic feats ever shown on screen.
As for Children of Men, I’ve heard that the shot in question wasn’t actually done in one take but was edited with the help of CGI to make it look like one seamless shot. Maybe someone else knows better though.
Colombian film “P.V.C.-1” also consists of one single, long take. Not as impressive as Russian Ark, but worth mentioning.