Space bloopers from Harold Lloyd

September 10, 2007 § Leave a comment

From Just Neighbors (1919). Anything wrong in this sequence ?

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In shot # 3, Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard exit left, but on shot #4 they re-enter the frame left (instead of right as classical editing would have it). What’s more, if you look at the background, they’re just going back to where they were (same house in the distance, same stairs) ! Only the frame has moved to the left slightly so it is not too obvious — a sign that space continuity is a requirement that Lloyd is aware of, even if he thinks he can get away with a cheap solution.And that bucolic, beautiful suburbian Eden, lightly populated, filled with unfenced grass plots ? How does it get transformed into this small, closed-in backyard surrounded by neighbors nearby ?

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Even worse, how come the neighbor’s youngest gets to play at this crossroad unattended, and that this crossroad is supposed to be next to the house (still in that peaceful, unsettled suburbia that was shown first) ??

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And how come when her older brother comes along whistling, he’s walking along such an urban sidewalk ? picture-15.png

The answer is that the first environment fits a narrative idea and a social ideal: tired husbands get back home after a hard day’s work (narrative idea: peace and break from work; social ideal: peaceful suburbia under the California sun). The second, very settled environment fits the story line (neighbors fighting, too close to each other) and the gags (kid among cars). The requirements of a uniform space go only that far. There are many other requirements on the film and the story that need to be taken into account to allow for the best solution.And speaking of bloopers, here’s one last one. Notice that in California, cars going in opposite directions drive in the same lane:

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(the car coming from the right is going to drive between the child and the camera)

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(but then, so does the car coming from the left!) Why do cars, in California, always drive between a child seated in the middle of the road and the camera ? Because it makes more visual sense: there’s a fraction of suspense, as the car passes the child, that would not be there otherwise (did she get run over or not?). At least that’s the only sense I see: it’s visual, aesthetic sense — a value not enough recognized, I believe, in classical Hollywood, and often buried under considerations about realism and such.

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