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Watch It: This Video Examines Spielberg's Fondness For Scenes With One Long Take

It seems this Spielberg guy really knows what he's doing. A new video essay takes a close look at one of his lesser heralded techniques.

Early on in 2014, the HBO gothic noir True Detective took the world by storm. You remember, right? Everyone was saying "time is a flat circle" and geeking out on Southern-fried philosophizing? Anyway, perhaps the moment the show achieved critical mass was episode four, which concluded with a bravura six-minute scene shot in one unbroken take. This bold scene got a lot of attention, which is exactly what it was meant to do. Highly stylized directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Paul Thomas Anderson often include such moments as flashy flourishes, and newly minted Academy Award winner Steve McQueen employs sustained takes for a haunting effect. As a new video essay postulates, however, one of the most acclaimed directors ever is quietly the master of the long take too.

Created by film buff Tony Zhou of movie worship website Every Frame a Painting, "The Spielberg Oner" is a deep dive into the oeuvre of the man who directed Jaws. The "oner" is an industry term for long takes in movies, and it's yet another cinematic element that Spielberg reigns supreme in. Rather than showboating with his oners, Spielberg apparently uses them in more subtle ways that serve the scene while going virtually unnoticed. Zhou's video revels in sped-up versions of some key scenes from films like Saving Private Ryan and Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a clock in the corner counting down their duration.

By the end of the video, not only is the point made, but your weekend plans will also probably be updated to include a revisiting of some classic Spielberg fare.

See the main explainer video above and full examples below.

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2 Comments

  • davidbasilethomas

    Loved your video. Spielberg's "oners" are kept tight because he's an accomplished storyteller. He doesn't let his ego extend shots for the sake of it, or to participate in any empty contest. Every shot has its narrative purpose. He has (many) other flaws, that you mention, often sentimental, or his obsession with broken families, but these are narrative flaws. When it comes to filmmaking and mise en scene, he is really a director who did not destroy 70's filmmaking, but rather kept what was good technically since the 50's, and used it every time it was necessary for his story. Spielberg is such an heir of moviemaking history of all kinds and all eras... There's Ozu in E.T., there's Welles in Minority report, there's some Hitchcock in Indiana Jones... but he digested all that and managed to speak his own language. A lot of his films are annoying to me, but I can never deny that he's a fantastic director. Why would Kubrick chose HIM to direct A.I. ? Which I didn't really enjoy :-)

  • Really interesting content, but incredibly annoying delivery. Not sure if the narrator was trying to ape Ray Liotta, but this and the unnecessary cursing distracted from what was otherwise a well conceived entertaining piece.