During my first year at Penn State I took a course on the cinema. I don’t know if we planned it or if it just turned out that way, but Tony, a Philadelphia boy of Italian descent whose last name I no longer recall (sorry, Tony) and I took the course at the same time. Tony lived just down the hall from me on the 10th floor of Pinchot Hall.
Anyway it’s one of my college courses that I remember pretty well, and I know I did well in it. I think it was scheduled to run in two adjoining periods, so the instructor could screen full films if he wanted—which he did from time to time. I remember seeing D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, which was the first time I realized that a silent film could tell a very complex story. Another time he showed us The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which was entirely sung through.
During one of the sessions he showed us a video of a scene from the TV show Gunsmoke that had been edited in three different ways by three different editors; so using the same footage, the three editors had created very different scenes.
Anyway for our final project we had to write an analysis of a film of our choosing. Tony chose one of those spaghetti westerns and paid for me to see it with him so I could offer suggestions on his report. For my project I chose Albert Finney’s directorial debut, Charlie Bubbles, which starred Finney and a very young Liza Minnelli (no, it was not a musical).
As I recall (haven’t seen it since then) it’s about an incredibly wealthy guy who is pretty much alienated from the real world. In my report I singled out a scene which was played out entirely on a wall of security monitors which offered views of every room in his mansion. I pointed out how that scene was used to highlight his alienation, and while praising it, I remember mentioning that it was unlikely that that technique would be used by other directors. I think I got an A on that paper.
Since then, of course, I’ve seen walls of security camera monitors being used in quite a few places.
But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done as well as in last night’s episode of Better Call Saul.
Since I don’t believe in spoilers, I’m going to leave it at that.
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