Paul Hirsch & Me: An Editing Genealogy

So, I made – wait for it – another Hannibal video. What a surprise.

But it confirmed something I had suspected for awhile about where my style – if you can call it that – in video editing comes from. So, I’m a kid… I don’t know exactly how old, but I think it might have been high school. Or college. But I think high school IDK. Anyway, I see Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise on TV… it’s a decade old by this point, give or take a few years, and certainly not his best-known film. But I am besotted, partly because I really like Paul Williams, who is cute and has straight hair IDEK.*

And of all of it – well, honestly, I love the whole thing. But what stuck in my mind and stayed there for actual decades was Paul Hirsch’s montage for the end credits. Specifically, what I’ve always remembered is how he cut so that music and movement – both blocking and camera – often aligned in such a way that the one kind of lifts and carries the other. It’s like… a good ice skating routine, in a way, because there as well movement and music are often in sync.

So, I know that cutting on the beat is kind of looked down on outside of music videos (and even then). It tends to lead the viewer to a specific reaction, sweeps them up in the music and makes the scene an almost visceral experience. And in some cases, that can be a dangerous thing insofar as (you might argue) it replaces intellectual engagement with almost physical engagement.

But, whatever, I really loved it in the end credit montage. Which I would show if I could get the video to play through WordPress, but no. Especially music/pan combinations, but really all of them. How the Kiss-lite group lunges forward on the guitar, how the pan gets Jessica Harper both in the mirror and outside it (I think with the same guitar?)… it just really stuck. Apparently.

With a side of his Darth Vader cut between Luke (on the Millennium Falcon) and DV (on Bespin), because he also edited that.

So, while just about all my videos to date (a year and a half’s worth, and all but one using Hannibal… I’ll move on one of these days) reflect the former aesthetic to greater or lesser degrees, only Danse Macabre: Murder in Motion has the Darth Vader cut. And a LOT of trying to map movement onto music; one shot in particular is unreasonably satisfying, because tracking, changing focal length, and music kind of just… merge.

*I cannot lie; my first adolescent ‘sex’ dream was of Paul Williams in this movie. No actual sex was involved… it was just… a vague idea. Memorably so.

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