The five best long takes in movies
These shots certainly have stamina.
Tue Feb 7 2012
This week's The Turin Horse comes from Hungary's Bla Tarr, master of the uninterrupted take. (Here's a near-ten-minute example of Tarr's gift for going long, pulled from 2000's Werckmeister Harmonies.) In the history of movies, a handful of long takes emerge as the best—pardon us if we don't include the feature-length Russian Ark or Alfred Hitchcock's seamless Rope.
Touch of Evil (1948)
Orson Welles's technical genius—much celebrated on Citizen Kane—was never in finer flourish than on this B picture, opening with a breathtaking Mexican-American border cross that knocked out viewers. (The shot even got parodied in The Player.)
I Am Cuba (1964)
You're not going to find a more dizzying evocation of Havana high life than this film's swirling rooftop sequence, complete with sunbathers, waiters lofting daiquiris and—at the climax—a delicious plunge into a pool (cribbed for Boogie Nights).
The Passenger (1975)
Never mind if you haven't seen Michelangelo Antonioni's ennui-laced drama, starring Jack Nicholson as a wayward journalist. The seven-and-a-half minute tracking shot is beyond exquisite, the camera unbound by gates or walls.
A massively influential piece of horror grammar, John Carpenter's intro to his slasher classic puts us in the head of Michael Myers, who climbs a staircase, dons a mask, stabs a victim and then flees the scene of his crime. (The shot starts at 2:20.)
Martin Scorsese's legendary bit of choreography captures the magic of a date at the Copacabana—but also the unusual access afforded to rising gangster Henry Hill. (This clip, the only one we can embed, is in Italian; somehow, that adds to it.)