In my American Film Industry class, we voted on what film we would screen for our discussion of New Hollywood, or what I call “The American New Wave.” The class voted, among a list of six films, for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorcese, 1974).
Aside from talking about the cinematography in the film, I mentioned that the use of sound in the film is quite innovative, especially how the film blurred the boundary between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. You can see the mixing of the two in the clip below.
Alice’s cry functions as a sound bridge between her on the telephone and the scene of the accident. This is not something you saw in Classical Hollywood films, certainly not the back and forth between two spaces, but it was an innovative stylistic device in this film.
As I mentioned in class, the varied use of focal lengths is another technique that Scorcese manipulates, even in the same scenes. This is in addition to the heavy use of handheld camerawork, which itself was not widely used except in news and documentary filmmaking.
I mentioned that the scene with Alice and Tommy in the motel room in Phoenix contains shots with two very different focal lengths. One is a wide angle lens, which distorts the image to expand the distance between objects on the left and right of the frame. The other shot uses a telephoto lens, which distorts the image to compress the space between foreground and background objects.
The image above is the wide-angle shot, where Tommy on the left appears very distant from Alice on the right. This might have been used to visually represent the distance between the two of them as they fight.
In the very same scene, there’s the telephoto shot. Here, they have (somewhat) reconciled as Alice reassures Tommy that she will find a job and that things will (somehow) be okay. The telephoto lens compresses the space between Tommy, Tommy’s reflection, and Alice’s reflection. The framing is of course also interesting as it uses a mirror to put Tommy and her in the same plane and within a common frame.
It’s a rough but touching moment between mother and son.
As we transition from the classical model of Hollywood filmmaking, we should start to notice how filmmaking in the 1960s begins to change from the stylistic conventions of the Classical Hollywood Cinema.
One of the great influences was the European New Waves, especially the French New Wave. One technique that we begin to see in films from the late 1960s, especially Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) is the jump cut.
In the first minute of the clip below, you can see the jump cut in action.
A jump cut is any edit that takes place where the angle of framing is not changed by at least 30 °. I’ve identified several jump cuts in the clip, occurring at the following timecode.
Do you see any other jump cuts? What effect do they have in this short clip?