Steven Soderbergh re-edits Raiders of the Lost Ark as a silent B&W classic

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Sep 23, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT (Updated)

Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh is a pretty prolific guy, heading up his hit show on Showtime, The Knick, juggling numerous producing and writing gigs and even finding spare time to construct this intriguing recut of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Here Soderbergh delves deep into the essence of the iconic 1981 film and distills it down to a simple, silent black-and-white masterpiece, asking viewers to focus on the staging, movement and critical cutting sequences.  

Devoid of all color and sound, one can truly appreciate the striking Douglas Slocombe cinematography and cinematic choices decided by the superteam of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when conjuring the old-fashioned adventure flick reminiscent of Saturday matinees. 

Here's what Soderbergh had to say on this "education-purposes" Raiders edition on his website:

I'm assuming the phrase "staging" came out of the theatre world, but it's equally at home (and useful) in the movie world, since the term (roughly defined) refers to how all the various elements of a given scene or piece are aligned, arranged, and coordinated. In movies the role of editing adds something unique: the opportunity to extend and/or expand a visual (or narrative) idea to the limits of one's imagination—a crazy idea that works today is tomorrow's normal.

I value the ability to stage something well because when it's done well its pleasures are huge, and most people don't do it well, which indicates it must not be easy to master (it's frightening how many opportunities there are to do something wrong in a sequence or a group of scenes. Minefields EVERYWHERE. Fincher said it: there's potentially a hundred different ways to shoot something but at the end of the day there's really only two, and one of them is wrong). Of course understanding story, character, and performance are crucial to directing well, but I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount (the adjective, not the studio. although their logo DOES appear on the front of this...).

So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I've removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I'm not saying I'm like, ALLOWED to do this, I'm just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that's high level visual math shit).

Crack the whip and have a discriminating look at his revamped version and tell us if you like this stripped-down cut better than the original.

(Via Geek Tyrant)

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