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FILM BOOK Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form

Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form

Jacques Aumont, Timothy Barnard, Frank Kessler with a foreword by Christian Keathley

This book is to be published by caboose in a series called Kino-Agora [Series editor: Christian Keathley, Middlebury College]

January 15, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene, montage | 1 Comment

FILM montage / découpage / mise-en-scène V

After reading the Christian Keathley paper Catherine put up on FSFF about découpage [Bonjour Tristesse and the expressive potential of découpage ] can see that the title of my original post on découpage should really be montage, découpage and mise-en-scène. But then I didn’t really understand the connections before. This is a learning experience!

Looking around for découpage vs. mise-en-scéne has brought a few more explanations.


mise en scène analysis needs a reunion with theories of montage (long left fallow in Anglo-American cinema studies, though not elsewhere) — or, at the very least, découpage (‘shot breakdown’, shot-patterning), an intermediate term between mise en scène and montage that was once strongly alive in the writings of Noël Burch and Brian Henderson, and informs the regular reviewing of Jonathan Rosenbaum. And découpage, pushed a little further back to its origin, returns us to an often censored element in *mise en scène* criticism: namely, the script!


Placing Mise en scène: An Argument with John Gibbs’s Mise-en-scène

by Adrian Martin in Film-Philosophy Journal, vol. 8 no. 20, June 2004

Buried in the middle of Romance of the Ordinary [on Chantal Akerman], Jonathan Rosenbaum’s post on Belgian film-maker Chantal Ackerman, is a section on découpage and mise-en-scéne. And in the middle of that:

….découpage. In terms of its popular French usage, it has three separate but interlocking meanings: the final form of a script, the breakdown of a film into separate shots and sequences prior to filming, and the basic structure of a finished film. (The verb découper means “to cut out” or “to cut up.”) The term découpage implies that there is a continuity between script and editing — a continuity imposed not by a writer, director, or editor, but by a filmmaker who carries the project through from beginning to end — and that mise en scène becomes a means toward an end in this continuity rather than an end in itself.

Right after that, this paragraph:

If the term mise en scène implies an industrial model of cinema, the term découpage implies an artistic or artisanal model. The latter term makes sense in France, where a filmmaker’s right to final cut is a part of actual law; it makes very little sense in a country like ours, where even the writer-directors who have an unusual amount of creative freedom — Woody Allen, for instance — do not produce a découpage in the sense that Robert Bresson does. (As we know from Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen’s book When the Shooting Stops . . . the Cutting Begins, practically all of Allen’s features are restructured and re-created in the cutting room, and the original scripts are quite different from the finished products.)

It’s all over the place. This from a Criterion Forum, What does a cinematographer do? :

Mise en scène began life as a generic term in French cinema in the 20s and 30s to generally indicate the director – “mise en scène de…” The term gained greater force of meaning with the post war critics, and of course the famous Politique des Auteurs. In fact, a distinction grew up between directors whose mise en scene (to cut it short “means of expression”) were clearly expressive of a distinct directorial personality, or directors who were merely “metteurs en scene” – to cut it short, second rung directors whose felicity of expression did not however manifest a distinctive directorial personality – thus endless feuds and arguments between cinephiles of various stripes over many years. I still have a seriously cineliterate friend who regards Powell and Pressberger as metteurs en scène. I think he’s nuts.

It ought to be pointed out also, the French term decoupage which, during the thirties had a substantially conjunctive meaning to mise en scene, was originally used in essence to express the general filmic rhythms vis a vis cutting, camera movement montage – in short the grammatical “layout’ of the film’s visual style.

But like mise en scène, decoupage got into the hands of English language critics and by the 90s or earlier was becoming so overused that the original meanings have simply become debased.

Section 4 of part 1 of How Movies Work, by Bruce F Kawin [1992], titled Montage and Mise-en-scene in the Narrative Film [starting at page 87], does a very good og job of explaining Mise-en-scene and Montage in separate sections, only once briefly mentioning decoupage:

The French term for simple continuity editing is decoupage: it denotes “ordinary” sequential cutting, where one shot follows another in a linear, easy-to-follow manner

This section is followed by by detailed examples of how mise-en-scene and montage work.

Then there is paper in Continuum:The Australian Journal of Media & Culture, vol. 5 no 2 (1990)

‘The mystique of mise en scene revisited’ by Barrett Hodsdon

January 14, 2012 Posted by | decoupage, mise en scene, montage | Leave a comment

FILM ESSAY LONG TAKE Metaphysics of the “long take”: some post-Bazinian reflections by Mark Le Fanu

Metaphysics of the “long take”: some post-Bazinian reflections


Mark Le Fanu

(author of The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovski [1987]; Mizoguchi and Japan [2005])


P.O.V no. 4

March 12, 2010 Posted by | André Bazin, Bazin, Classical American cinema, Eisenstein, European art cinema, Greg Toland, Griffith, Italian Neo-Realism, montage, Murnau, Renoir, shot length, Stroheim, the long take, Welles, Wyler | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment