In Bernard Dick’s Film, Space, and Mise-en-Scene, he defines a long take as “a shot that lasts more than a minute” (p. 95). Any time the camera doesn’t cut from one shot to another for an unusually long time counts as a long cut. Long cuts are used when the director wants scenes that focus on unbroken action or tension. However, there are other uses for the long cut, such as in the introduction sequence of Serenity:
Director Joss Whedon starts the long cut when an alarm sounds in the cockpit of the eponymous star ship. The captain, played by Nathan Fillion, searches the ship for the cause of the alarm. In doing so, he allows the viewer to get a sense of the scale of Serenity, as well as meeting the different characters who make up the crew. This is an unusual use of the long cut, but it’s important; Serenity was made for the fans, but had to also cater to new viewers, so the impromptu tour allowed character relationships to be quickly established. In addition, the informal style of the rest of the movie was instituted in the opening credits.
Match cuts, as defined by Dick, are shots “in which one
shot complements or ‘matches’ the other, following it so smoothly that
there seems to be no break in continuity as far as time and space are concerned” (pg. 70). They’re often used as stylistic transitions between starkly different scenes, or to make connections between otherwise unrelated shots.
In this clip of Pulp Fiction, Christopher Walken is talking to a young boy about his heirloom, a gold watch. At this point, the audience knows nothing of the young boy character, so when Walken finishes his monologue and the shot switches to a fully-grown Bruce Willis in boxing regalia, some confusion is expected. The match cut is evident in this transition; the boy grabs the gold watch from Walken, a boxing bell dings, and Bruce Willis bolts upright. The effect is that the entire watch sequence seems like a dream that Boxer Willis was having.
Dick defines American montage as one in which “time is collapsed as shots blend together, wipe each other away, or are superimposed on each other” (p. 68). It’s so-named for the American movies in the ’40s that used them often. It’s used as a temporal montage to speed up the story until the action begins.
In White Christmas, army buddies Wallace and Davis form an entertainer team, and this montage chronicles their rise to fame. The superimposed newspapers and clips of their performances exemplify American Montage –after all, it’s really just similar shots showing the passage of time.