Tuesday, December 06, 2022

A Beautiful Shot from "The Road to Singapore" (1931)

This is a wonderful shot from "The Road to Singapore" (1931) that does a brilliant job establishing geography and spatial relationships between two characters who are thinking about each other but who are physically apart. The audience understands their separation.

view on YouTube

It starts with a full scale shot of Doris Kenyon - the camera pans left behind an unlit tree, then we CUT to a miniature (1/8 scale?) which also has camera move that has an unlit tree in the foreground. At normal exposure you can't see the cut. Here's the first cut, brightened.

The miniature portion of the shot continues, pulls back behind more silhouetted foreground trees, and the second CUT appears, tying in another full scale shot of William Powell that has unlit trees in the foreground, as well. Here's the second cut, brightened.

On Powell's side, there's a scene painting (or a miniature?) of Kenyon's building in the background. Oh, there's also another hidden cut after the camera settles on the Powell side, most likely to shorten the shot before the camera swings around for Powell's closeup.

The long shot actually has 3 hidden cuts, clever tricks to establish the full geography on the B-side, and required lots of planning and careful execution. Most importantly, it supports the narrative and emphasizes what the characters are going through.

At the time of this writing, "The Road to Singapore" (1931) is now playing on HBO Max in the U.S.

Original tweet thread: https://twitter.com/tvaziri/status/1600154259961839616

Based on this tweet from Jack Kennedy: https://twitter.com/JackKennedy/status/1599924728755544064