Edge Codes.com: The Art of Motion Picture Editing (2004)

(On Cable TV, August 2017) It seems odd that, for all that editing is essential to movies, I still hadn’t watched anything on the subject. But here’s Edge Codes to satisfy this sudden thirst. A Canadian documentary largely produced and shown to satisfy Canadian Content requirements for national cable channels, Edge Codes nonetheless remains a fast-paced, lively and informative overview of the history and practice of movie editing, featuring a number of critics, filmmakers (George Lucas) and editors (Thelma Schoonmaker!) intercut in-between illustrations of the practice. Much of writer/director Alex Shuper’s documentary is presented as a history of editing, opposing early on the American goal of seamless editing contrasted to the conscious emotion-begging editing style of Soviet cinema. Years later, the French New Wave brings its own innovations, followed later on by the impact of music videos on the editing grammar. Technological progress is also examined, as manual cutting is replaced by digital tools. The last quarter of the film gets more abstract as broader considerations of editing practices are examined. Many examples illustrate the film’s theses, including some of the most famous editing moments of film history from Eisenstein’s carriage-on-the-steps to Soderbergh’s The Limey. The documentary being already thirteen years old, it’s no surprise to realize that much of the examples given date from the late nineties … but who’s complaining when Run Lola Run, Memento and Out of Sight remain such striking movies even today? Wrapped within a speedy 75 minutes, Edge Codes is a great documentary that probably slipped underneath every cinephile’s radar. While I wasn’t too happy to see that the version shown on MEncore was a 16:9 blow-up of the 4:3 original (cutting information at the top and bottom, and muddying the picture quality to near-standard resolution), the film itself is compelling enough to overcome those issues.

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