Week 4: Reading/Viewing






Setting the Pace with Editing in “City of God”

“City of God” is a Brazilian crime film released in 2002 which tells the story of the emergence of organized crime in Rio de Janeiro. It has received worldwide critical acclaim and has been nominated for several awards for best cinematography and editing. The scene I found fit this week’s subject was the opening one that sets the stage and setting of the film. A link has been posted at the bottom of this blog.
In the opening scene we get a very special set of edits in the form of fast paced, and fast-moving cuts. The first 1 minute of the scene simply shows a chicken being slaughtered for food but in this minute, we get several, short and fast cuts (nearly 7 cuts in the span of 4 seconds). In these cuts the camera moves back and forth between a live chicken, a butcher’s knife, a dead chicken being plucked or filleted, a knife being sharpened, a couple of customers and preparers, weapons on the table etc. The fast pace of this one-minute sequence tells the reader that the story takes place in a large bustling city, where everything is moving fast, work needs to be done quickly, and everything occurs in a neighborhood that is poor. The sequence is supposed to build the “hype” for the setting, getting the heart rate elevated to match the pace of the setting.
The next one minute of this scene goes into a chase for one chicken that seems to have escaped. The are lots of cuts and camera movements as the views switch from preparing food in a poor neighborhood to chase of escaped poultry. There are several camera shots showing again, the fast pace of the city setting, the suspense of the escaping chicken, one of the towns folk giving orders and finally the children of the neighborhood in pursuit. Close-shots, long-shots, crane-shots, tracking and chasing shots along with several instances of match-on-action editing when rounding corners or jumping from builds, make for a very artful and ridiculous chase scene.
Lastly there is the final 30 seconds of the scene where the main character has the chicken corned and the kids who where chasing it tell him the catch it for them. Suddenly a police squadron shows up on the opposite end of the road and both sides draw weapons. It is in this scene where a very peculiar camera trick shows. I would usually call this a 180 degree cut, with the main character at it center, but instead of using cameras to cut between the view of the children and the police the main character acts like a pivot and the camera revolved around him and we see the two sides ready to fire. This edit sets up one of the most important themes of he movie: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If he stands still, he’ll be killed in the shoot out. If he stays still, he might be targeted as a suspect to gang violence and might be killed by the police. If anyone knows what this is really called, I’d really like to know what you think. At the very end this camera rotation is used to jump back to his past as a child and I’m very interested to know what the edit is.