Jul 13, 2008

Tracking shots be damned

Why is is that every director who wants to put their artistic signature on a movie — the indelible stamp that bears his creative DNA and no other fool's — always chooses exactly the same thing? It's always a bloody tracking shot. Andrew Sullivan's recent gallery of famous tracking shots has been great: maybe the best way to enjoy these things. Everybody holds them up as God's gift to cinema, undeniable proof that an auteur is in the house, and so on, but all I think when I'm watching one is, "I'm watching a tracking shot." Yes, I feel admiration, but my admiration jolts me out of the movie. That's a pretty big drawback, in my book — artistry be damned. Which is why the best ones are to be found in the first five minutes, or during the credits (Boogie Nights, A Touch Of Evil, The Player), where they can happily draw attention to themselves, advertise their creator's genius, etc, without ruining the film. (The world's worst offender, by several ions: the Dunkirk tracking shot in Atonement).

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