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Exploring the Artefacts #4: Slavko Vorkapich's Golden Lessons Part 2

Slavoljub "Slavko" Vorkapić (March 17, 1894 – October 20, 1976)


Slavko Vorkapich arrived in Hollywood in 1921. He was an actor, painter, film artist, editor and director but most importantly to movie lovers and students who knew him, a Film Educator.

He was appointed chair of the Film Department at the University of Southern California from 1949-1951. Toward the end of his life, Vorkapich gave a series of lectures there and at U.C.L.A. where he demonstrated the art of "pure cinema." He also addressed what not to do when putting a film together, often by showing scenes from motion picture classics.

(For more of an introduction to Slavko Vorkapich please see: Exploring the Artefacts #1



I'd like to begin this second part of the series about Vorkapich by showing a couple of scenes that represent a visually innovative storytelling technique he found most stimulating. It's what he called "The Phi Beat" and consists of a rhythmic pattern of editing designed to draw the viewer in, to make that part of the story more engaging and increase one's anticipation of what's about to occur.    


This first clip is from the classic western High Noon (1952): 


Another example of "The Phi Beat" is from the motion picture Point Blank (1967): 


Next is an example of what this teacher considered a "visual mistake", likening it to a writer's disregard for punctuation. We return to the film High Noon for:

Golden Rule #2

Never photograph movement against a homogeneous background.

During parts of the buggy ride, the occupants might as well be standing still. Not all of the scene allows for this error, only shots of the two against the sky.   


Last but not least is a very short but sweet moment from Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963). As with the previous example from Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) (see Exploring The Artifacts #1), one can sense a subliminal new dimension to visual storytelling because of the flowing camera perfectly choreographed with its moving subject and precise clarity of the editing. Since both films have maintained such a sophisticated display of the visual dynamic throughout, Vorkapich felt that 8 1/2 and Rashomon were the only feature length, purely cinematic masterpieces ever made... (remembering of course at the time of his death he hadn't lived to see Transformers)


Next Time: In Part 3, I'll present another of Vorkapich's Golden Rules and a short film he found visually magnificent.