The Art of Using Dissolves in Films
The Dissolve, a new website owned by Pitchfork Media that launched this past July, has kicked its first month with a video essay on Dissolves in Films [The Dissolve on Dissolves]. In this video, that will hopefully have follow-ups, a series of dissolves used throughout movies are shown and their impact explained. Like Anne V. Coates mentioned with the Lawrence of Arabia’s dissolve anecdote, the dissolve can help you convey a meaning or create a mood that hard cut won’t be able to give.
The dissolve is a transition that was used very early on, on an almost systematic basis, until becoming an optional narrative tool. Here is what The Dissolve’s team says about its evolution:
“The dissolve is the oldest type of transition between shots, according to three film scholars from Cornell University, who assembled a useful, accessible 2011 study on the technique. The earliest dissolves were done in-camera, by rewinding the last seconds of the negative after shooting one scene, and using them to film the start of the next. The first director to do this was Georges Méliès, with his 1899 film of “Cinderella.” The straight cuts between shots that we now take for granted didn’t become prevalent until the 1910s.”
The six-minute video essay is composed of 7 sections, each one dedicated to a particular film (or series of films) showing a distinctive way to use dissolves: Indiana Jones and the opening dissolve, Citizen Kane, Spaceballs, Psycho, The Red Shoes, The Man Who Fell to Earth and The GodFather Part II.
Watch The Dissolve on Dissolves below: (sorry for the odd format, couldn’t change it somehow. Watch it in full screen and everything will be fine!)
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