Orson Welles, Hollywood’s boy genius, brought his innovative approach which has, as Andre Bazin states in Orson Welles: A Critical View: “shaken the edifices of cinematic traditions”. One of the formal characteristics that he is most well known for is the use of long takes. Although the use of long takes was already established in film, as many of the first films had no edits, Welles incorporated long takes effectively in his films to overload scenes with activity adding more dramatic tension. The films that his formal characteristic stands out the strongest are two of his more popular films Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil. Orson Welles’ theatrical background and his love for painting are probably the greatest contributions to his
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For instance, during the scene of Citizen Kane in which young Charlie Kane’s future is being laid out for him, the audience watch his mother going over financial papers with the banker and Charlie’s future guardian in the foreground, Charlie’s father complains about his lack of control in the situation in the middle ground and deep in the background Charlie is seen through the far window playing in the snow unaware of the tragic twist that will affect his life. Seeing the different story elements all in one shot adds more dramatic tension, and even dramatic irony to the story.
In the film Touch of Evil, Welles returns to his use of long take and deep focus after returning to Hollywood’s machinery, crewmembers and big budget capable of supporting his innovative formal characteristic. Before then, Welles made movies in Europe and had to resort to using short takes due to lack of money and very few European crews being capable of performing the long takes. Welles opens the film with a 3 minute 30 second single shot that starts with a close-up of a bomb being placed in the trunk of the car before it drives off. Then the camera elevates and follows the occupants of the car, then follows the Vargas couple with the car returning to cross the US-Mexico border. Finally it ends with the Vargas couple kissing before the car explodes off screen. The use of the single long shot in this scene was effective in creating dramatic tension with the audience, showing Welles’ brilliance