The other day I had the pleasure of watching François Truffaut’s 1959 film The 400 Blows. The film itself is extraordinary and without a doubt one of the finest I’ve ever seen and this can be illustrated through it’s many flawless scenes. The thing that makes a great film is when every scene is just flawless. You can try and find some type of flaw, whether is be in the cinematography, the acting, the writing, etc but you never can find something to complain about. For me, this was the case with The 400 Blows.
François Truffaut is a filmmaker that I have yet to explore in detail but just from his work in this film it is clear that he has great talent behind the camera. One of the best examples of his is this films final scene. When taken out of the context of the film this scene may just appear to be a series of shots showing a young boy running, but if you have just spent the last hour a half witnessing this boys troubled adolescence then it means so much more. As I said before, every element of this scene is perfection. The only difference is that rather than focusing on writing and acting this is more about aesthetics . The cinematography is excellent, the music is wonderful, and when it all comes together it creates one of the finest ending shots I’ve ever seen.
It took me far too long to discover the wonderful world of Mr. Wes Anderson but once I did I was astonished. Each of his films has emits this radiance that draws you in and allows you to explore this miraculous world that you had never seen before. I’ve seen three of his films: The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Darjeeling Limited. All three of which were wonderful experiences. So when I decided to sit down and find my favorite scene of his I was faced with a challenge. After about a half-hour searching through clips on youtube I found two specific scenes that were examples of perfection, and both of them were from The Royal Tenenbaums.
The first scene that I found was the six minute introduction segment of the film set to the song “Hey Jude”. I love the use of music in films which is one of the many reasons why I love Wes Anderson’s style. The songs that he selects always complement his scenes and almost seem to take them to a new level. This is exactly what occurs at the beginning of The Royal Tenenbaums. Not only do you have Alec Baldwin’s narration, Gene Hackman being Gene Hackman, and Anderson’s signature camerawork but also the melody of “Hey Jude” playing in the background. It all just fits together and results in one of my favorite introductions of all time.
The next scene contains spoilers.
The second scene that I found from The Royal Tenenbaums occurs later in the film and is focused on the performance given by Luke Wilson. Again a lot of my praise for this scene revolves around its expert use of music, but rather than repeating myself I am going to focus on the two other aspects of this scene that make it great: Cinematography and Luke Wilson. Luke Wilson is not an actor that gets a lot, or really any praise, but here as Richie he is immaculate. In this scene Richie is deeply depressed about his love of his sister, Margot, and is preparing to commit suicide. Most of the scene is Richie staring into the mirror (the camera) and shaving off all of his facial hair along with his head. This transformation is shown by a series of cuts in time as he is shaving. During this transformation the entire room he is in is dark and the walls are blue as is to represent his depression. There are two master shots in this sequence. First is when Richie finished shaving and the camera changes angles to see him in the mirror as he turns a flickering light on. The other is images of his memories with Margot that quickly changes to a shot of his hands over the sink where all his hair is and blood just pouring from his arms. It is a very dark turn in the film but it is a brilliant scene none-the-less.
One of my overall favorite technical pieces of film is the use of the tracking shot, and the first scene I think of when it comes to the tracking shot is the 3 minute opening shot of Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant Boogie Nights. The thing about this scene is that it is great for reasons besides just the use of the tracking shot. The purpose of this scene is to introduce you to all of the characters in this large ensemble cast. When you take the idea of this mass introduction and apply it to the period of time that this film takes place in, then the end result is this scene.
Everything about it is just perfect. You start with the odd sad clown music and transition from that right into the music of the 70’s as the camera makes its way into the nightclub, introducing you to all of the characters along the way.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is excellence: