Hollywood Montage


Classical Hollywood montage

For a lot of folks, the concept of montage refers to the Classical Hollywood variety, a convention of cinematic narrative. This type of Intellectual Montage shows a variety of different shots that indicate that time has passed. 

I'll start with one of the most creative uses of Classical Hollywood Montage. In this sequence from Citizen Kane, there is what seems to be a continuous conversation, but one that takes place over many years. Between each separate scene (making up the sequence) there is a swish pan--a transition that is created by a camera swiftly panning and causing motion blur. Like most transitions, the swish pan indicates the passage of time. Look at how the mise en scène changes throughout the sequence and how it is communicating the fact that these characters are stuck in what seems to be the same conversation for years. 

In Raging Bull, the following sequence is the only part of the film that is in color and it is shot with super-8 film stock (a smaller gauge film that was used for home movies before video cameras). Passage of time is indicated through the use of titles and the images from the boxing matches show a series of triumphant fights. The personal super 8 footage shows marriages, family get togethers and what seems to be the central characters' accumulation of wealth. There are other more subtle gender dynamics that come in to play as well.  

The following scene from Valley Girl is the type of montage that many people are familiar with. They are a convention of romantic comedies, because they can show characters falling in love in a condensed fashion. They kiss, walk around downtown, kiss some more, go to the beach--you get the idea. The formula is that once the audience sees the couple in love, conflict is introduced that tears them apart. In most cases, the couples get back together by the end.

Below find a Hollywood Montage that incorporates both music and dialogue:

...and one that is self referential, because it draws attention to itself by becoming more and more absurd... (start clip at about 1:30)





a sequence is a series of scenes that form a distinct narrative unit, which is usually connected either by unity of location or unity of time. 

a scene is generally thought of as the action in a single location and continuous time

mise en scène the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play. The setting or surroundings of an event or action.