The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004) Poster

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first rate documentary
mgoodwin8814 January 2005
This is a first-rate job of work, one of the best documentaries on film-making that I've ever seen, opening up the fascinating world of film editing by letting great editors and directors speak to us directly about the mysteries of film cutting--supported by illuminating examples drawn from real films. I can't praise too highly the thoughtful choice of speakers, from Thelma to Dede to Walter Murch and on down the line. Nice to see director Joe Dante too. I was particularly pleased at the inclusion of early film editing examples, such as Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera and, of course, the down-the-stairs sequence from Potemkin. (The film includes a few sequences from later films that echo the Potemkin sequence, but I bet there's at least five examples they missed!) Bravo! Michael Goodwin
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A MUST SEE FILM for everybody starting out in the business
lolique22 March 2005
I'm a film director/editor from Colombia with more than 45 years in the business and this film is absolutely the best essay on film editing that I've had the good luck of seeing. The examples are great, the explanations on the "unseen" or "hidden art" of editing are perfect, the pacing is just right, etc., etc. The only thing I felt was that it was too short, but then I'm biased on the subject. This should be a MUST SEE FILM for everybody starting out in the business (and not just those who want to be editors).This is a solid "10" for me and I can't understand how anybody would consider it less, except for those mediocre joes who just can't cut it...
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THE PRIMER on the importance of the Film Editor
tadeo3824 December 2004
Do you know of the importance of the Film Editor to making a great film or to leave the best on the cutting room floor? Did you know that Spielberg & Scorcese will not let any Actor into the Cutting Room (but that Sean Penn will do so)....that earlier there were "Basic Rules" to editing but that the rules went asunder under the French "New Wave"! PLEASE: Ignore the low score and note that almost all viewers gave this documentary either a TEN or a one....and we all know that there is a small percentage of IMDb'ers that truly HATE films and will do anything in their zeal to burn their path of ignorance behind them in an effort to bring everyone to their level of ignorance. How sad to disdain our basic need to learn about life and specifically to learn about what make a Great Film what it will become.
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The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004)
jazza92328 February 2010
This is a must see documentary for any serious film buff. For all you folks out there that dismiss older films, you may be surprised by your favorite directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron praising the magnificence of silent films and many classics. Without these classics and the skill involved in making them, today's movies wouldn't be what they are. A brilliant and informative documentary. It very thoroughly explores a movie art form that is often not understood and certainly unappreciated. The editing of a film is very instrumental in its success. However, not many people appreciate it.
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Fairly Grotesque Comparisons
onepotato211 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This documentary is seriously odd (More on that below). It's a study of the power of film-editing. None of the information these subjects share is offensive, in fact it's all pretty interesting. Some terrific examples include the dumping of two entire reels from the climax of Lenny with one edit. Snipping five short vignettes from a longer Martin Sheen improvisation in Apocalypse Now. And a love scene assembled very cleverly in Out of Sight (Never heard of it myself) via moving the audio track around, short frame delays and non-linear time sequencing.

A personal problem I have with this, is that director Wendy Apple shows you the inventor of a basic editing technique; and then (nine times out of ten) cuts to some loud, superficial action/effects movie that uses it. More than a few times, a technique that would be much better highlighted in a well-chosen clip where the edit can be studied almost in isolation, is instead buried under explosions, green screen razzle-dazzle, car-chases and gratuitous knife.gun.martial arts battles, where a fraction of the impact can be credited to the edit.

The larger problem is that this approach continually results in Eisentein, Reifenstahl, Griffith clips sitting in close proximity to, and introducing things like Terminator 2, Scream, Gladiator, Titanic, Top Gun, The Matrix, Star Wars. !??! Equating originators who believed in what they were doing to the depths of their soul (and devised these techniques themselves), with modern filmmakers who frequently just want to increase viewer stimulation to increase their payday with a tried and true technique, is obtuse if not completely grotesque. Jumping from the ingenuity of a filmmaker devising an editing trick to rally people to a political viewpoint, to popcorn movies about surface stimulation and box office receipts is so reductivist as to be offensive. Which is I suppose a back-handed tribute to the meaning that editing can cause. This may be appropriate in one case; as when WW2 propaganda films are used to introduce Starship Troopers, because it's director (Verhoeven) is knowingly riffing on propaganda. But I was not watching this thinking "Thank God Eisenstein invented X so that it could be used in Basic Instinct." Instead, I frequently had a pained expression on my face.

One can imagine this dilemma arose out of the need to cut to living, breathing editors who pick up the story, but it imposes some real arrogance on those involved. It almost never chooses to cut to calm, modern art films by thoughtful directors where the spare use of gimmickry allows you to appreciate what the editing tool actually does. In doing so it jumps almost completely over the middle years (60s-70s) where an astonishing burst of rebellion and experimentation occurred, from a second wave of originators. Tarkovsky, Antonioni, Kubrick, Resnais, Truffaut, Polanski..? All missing, to make room for people like Joe Dante and James Cameron.
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There's power in juxtaposition
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews17 May 2010
This is one of the two feature-length documentaries on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of Bullitt. With a running time of 95 minutes, it is the longer one, by about 12 minutes. It consists of interviews and film clips(old, new, fiction, documentary(including propaganda works), famous and unknown, and a little real life footage; note that there are spoilers for many of the movies) used as examples or such, and narrated well by Kathy Bates. It is ironic that the invisibility and underrating of the role of the editor is somewhat shown by the fact that a couple of the directors here are actors first(big names, of the kind that draw attention), but other than that, I can say nothing negative about this. Everyone here has something to say(no, I know, I didn't expect much from Rob Cohen, the man behind xXx, either), and those who have the most to offer genuinely *are* the ones we see for the majority of this. Speaking as someone who *loves* the art of cutting, I can't say if this will be as compelling to those who aren't into the craft, however, this is clearly made for said group, and if you find yourself in it, you will not regret watching this. Before seeing this, I would not have dared suggest that one could successfully tell the history of its development and cover this amount of ground on the "theory" of it(like the line I quote in the summary, to give just one example) in a mere hour and a half. The whole thing is extremely interesting and informational. It has a great sense of humor without trying too hard. The numerous analogies and the like are excellent. As is fitting for the subject, this is put together rather well. There is a little strong language in this. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more. 8/10
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Great Documentary - shame about the historical inaccuracies
donf9 September 2005
This is a remarkable documentary, informative, interesting and successful in clarifying what is, for many, something of a mysterious process. The contributions to film making of directors, actors, designers, cinematographers and sound recordists is self evident, but the film editor's role has seldom been understood nor its importance fully recognised. This documentary is the first to give directors and editors an opportunity to explain exactly what goes on in the editing room and they have done it superbly. What a pity then, that references to the history of film editing woven into this story are cursory, inadequate and in some instances completely wrong. Martin Scorsese refers to Edwin Porters' 1902 film, Life of an American Fireman, as the very first film to be edited using crosscutting as a structuring device, and the commentary supports this view, despite convincing evidence to the contrary that was discovered in 1978. In fact the earliest discovered examples of this practise date from 1906. Equally mistaken is the assertion, made several times in this prize-winning documentary, that D.W.Griffith originated the important editing practise of action matching. In fact there is clear evidence of action matching in a British film made as early as 1903 and Griffith's first film was not made until 1908. There is considerable evidence that Griffith considered action matching to be of very little importance, and when used in his films it is often ill judged and clumsy. All this is curious in a documentary that seeks to explain the history and practise of film editing. One might have expected research on the topic to be as well informed as the comments made by most of the contributors, particularly given that the scriptwriter is Professor Mark Jonathan Harris of the School of Cinema and Television, University of Southern California.
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The Most Kindest Cuts.
rmax30482315 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is fascinating stuff. There's room enough in editing for both the technician and the poet.

The documentary is narrated by Kathy Bates and, as the list of participants reveals, has a couple of dozen commentators. Not all of them are household names, of course, because who knows the names of any editors? Interesting that the craft started with women seated at their desks and cutting and gluing the old-fashioned way. It was thought proper to put a film through an assembly line of women because, well, that's a woman's job, isn't it? Cutting, snipping, crocheting, macramé, sewing -- weaving away forever like Penelope.

And it STILL seems to be at least one of the occupations where the men haven't moved in and taken over entirely. (Another is superstar modeling, where the beautiful woman is paid about ten times what the beautiful man is paid.) One might think of the editor as some pale ectomorph buried in his cellar, gawking into a moviola, but they're actually pretty human and proud of what they do. The closest any of the editors come to that covert stereotype is probably Walter Murch. Here he is, a thin figure in a black Beatnik pullover, neatly trimmed beard, and proper eyeglasses, with never a wry comment or an expansive movement. He knows it too. He compares editors to precision jewelers. Yet he knows exactly what he's doing and shows us, point by point, how it's done. PS: It no longer involves being bent over a table and examining frames of movie film.

A nice informative job by director Wendy Apple -- and editors Daniel Loeventhal and Tim Tobin.
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An amazing and informative documentary on the invisible art
Woodyanders21 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This excellent, engrossing and extremely illuminating documentary covers the evolution of the crucial craft of film editing from the silent era to the modern age. Editors initially started out as key, but anonymous contributors to motion pictures who in the 40's and 50's had to staunchly adhere to certain strict guidelines. D.W. Griffith played a substantial part in developing editing as a significant component of movies. The Russian filmmakers of the 20's and the French New Wave directors of the 50's further revolutionized editing by willfully breaking certain established rules. Many different aspects of film editing are extensively covered in fascinating detail: montage, juxtaposition, jump cuts, creating a rhythm, the challenge of cutting chase sequences, the importance of sound, the powerful fusion of sound and image, fragmenting time and space, the difficulty of cutting sex scenes, and the contemporary style of rapid-fire fast cutting. Moreover, we learn that the editor is the most objective person to work on a movie, plays a major role in telling the story, and often works very closely with the director in the post-production process. Such famous directors as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and James Cameron discus the necessity of editors in the whole film-making process. Editors Sally Menke (who was specifically hired by Tarantino to cut "Reservoir Dogs" because he thought a female editor would be more nurturing), Dede Allen, Mark Goldblatt, Zach Staenberg, Craig McKay, Michael Tronick, Donn Cambenn, Alan Heim, and especially Walter Murch all relate great stories about editing various pictures. Kevin Tent in particular has a choice anecdote about how he paid director Alexander Payne 75 dollars to cut a specific sequence in "Election" a certain way that wound up being used in the finished feature. George Lucas hits the nail right on the head when he describes editing as "visual poetry." Kathy Bates provides the perfectly sober and respectful narration. Essential viewing.
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