5 Memorable Jump Cuts in Cinema

When Jean-Luc Godard popularized the jump cut in 1959 when he made his breakthrough movie Breathless, it has since become a useful and intriguing editing tool. For those of you who don’t know what a jump cut is: (per Wikipedia): “A jump cut is a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. This type of edit causes the subject of the shots to appear to “jump” position in a discontinuous way.”

Here are five memorable jump cuts from movies:

Breathless

The obvious one; the one that made jump cuts famous. It wasn’t Godard’s intention to include so many jump cuts; it was something that occured to him in the process of editing the film. It enhances the jumpy feel of the movie, a couple-on-the-run thriller and its ingenious defiance of the 30-degree rule is admirable.
2001: A Space Odyssey

This film features quite possibly the best jump cut in any movie. If you know about jump cuts, you’ll know of this one. A crazed ape throws a bone in the air. It goes high, and then as it is coming down again Kubrick makes a leap forward of about a million years where the bone seems to turn into a spaceship. An unforgettable moment in an even more unforgettable movie.
Snatch.

Guy Ritchie employs a shitload of jump cuts to make his point in this hilarious British heist movie. As if the dialogue wasn’t difficult enough to understand, he makes it a visual mess too, but in some strange way it works, and feels appropriate, and that’s what counts.
Run Lola Run

Tom Tykwer, in an attempt to enhance the velocity of his main character, employed dozens of jump cuts to make an 80 minute movie just fly by. He also employs several other visual techniques, including animation, but the jump cuts are nonetheless noticeably startling.
The Battleship Potemkin

Sergei Eisenstein’s incredibly influential classic, as well as popularising the “montage,” also used a fair few jump cuts, which thanks to Georges Melies, were common enough at the time for silent movies, and makes the film look like even more of a mad experiment of beautiful art, especially in a sequence of shots in which a lion statue seems to come to life.

Those are five of my favourite jump cuts. Can you think of any more? Leave a comment below.

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Posted on September 6, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Interesting post this one Tyler. As you know I am reading a lot about different processes. And cuts and edits is something I looked at slightly the other day. I haven’t read much about the ‘jump’ cut, but I am sure it will come more when i read about the French New Wave.

    Spielberg was quoted saying, Cuts are for action and Long takes are for emotion….what do you think of this quote?

    • Nice quote. I myself prefer long takes, thus my love for Michael Haneke.

    • spielberg’s a hack!

      in all seriousness though, whilst beautiful long takes can really make you feel the emotion of the moment the right edits can achieve the same thing.

      mostly darker emotions such as anger and frustration are highlighted by the cutting process – see the breathless clip for example. although the one that sticks in my head for edits demonstrating a characters state of mind is always Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66.

  2. Looking at the jump cuts I really don’t like the effect, it just feels like something is missing.

    I saw Breathless a couple of weeks ago, but don’t understand why it is loved so much. I thought nothing really interesting happened in it.

    Scott, that is a very nice quote and I completely agree, lots of cuts speed up something and make it feel more dynamic.

  3. Hi, Tyler and company:

    Goddard kicked it all off with ‘Breathless’. Creating a cinematic tool very few American film directors have mastered. Surprisingly, it seems that Jump Cuts are becoming more and more popular in television. Used extensively, it can be stretched to its limits to pack a 60 minute tale into 48 minutes or less.

    Spielberg has a good quote. It would be great if directors followed it instead of relying on quickly cut action sequences over story.

    • I agree. I think so much more can be established in long takes, or tracking shots, or even still shots such as those employed by Michael Haneke, whose film CODE UNKNOWN was made up almost entirely of a series of long shots. I love that long shots give the audience the feel of seeing something in real time, where anything can happen, and quite unexpectedly.

      Jump cuts are for an entirely different purpose: to jolt the viewer, keep them on edge, and noticing what’s going on. Sometimes they work, and other times they don’t. It just depends on what the filmmaker is trying to establish by using them.

  4. This is an editing style that have become quite overexposed in more modern cinema. The example from Breathless is a very good one showing how it can be used discretly as a plot device. The problem is often that the jump cuts themselves attract the audience’s attention.

  5. I personally found the jump cuts in Breathless distracting

  6. i love that potemkin example! although as with our film quiz chat earlier i’m drawing blanks for other fun examples.

    it’s interesting the different uses of the jumpcut. TV directors like Michael Bay and Paul Greengrass use it to highlight action whereas it is used to much better effect in more subte ways by other directors to highlight story and character development.

  7. I really admire posts like this which not only educate but look at aspects of cinema that many people, including me, forget to appreciate. Great stuff!!

  8. The cut from 2001 (the Dawn of Man section), which goes from the bone in the air to the space ship is NOT a jump cut.

    I admire your site, but you really are propagating a serious error in terminology here.

    Even the wikipedia site does a pretty good job of explaining what a jump cut REALLY is.

    Maybe you should check it out.

    Thanks.

    • Fuck. I was doubtful that it was a jump cut, but everywhere I looked that’s what people were calling it. I should’ve known not to trust public knowledge, it can often be full of misnomers that put people off. Thanks for informing me of that.

  9. Interesting, I googled “jump cut 2001” after seeing what I though was a jarring cut used in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Anyways, these are not jump cuts. I’m not sure what the technical term for them would be, but a jump cut would be two shots of the same angle back to back without moving the camera ( or image or frame) forward or backwards enough.

  10. That is one of the reasons, IMHO, that Kubrick was considered a genius.. he was able to take two completely different shots, from billions of years apart (so to speak), and make them FEEL like a jump cut, make it feel like it was only seconds apart… connecting the two images as perfectly as a jump cut would. Implying that everything in between (all the things that worry us and make us stay awake at night) are basically meaningless. I am not a Kubrick fan… in fact I don’t care for him much at all… but THAT single edit is pure genius… IMHO.

  11. brittany milligan

    i do believe its called graphic match or a match cut… they both mean the same thing.

    https://sites.google.com/a/colgate.edu/fmst-terminology/graphic-match

  12. The 2001 match cut is actually more meaningful than the simple visual pairing. The first object is not just a bone, it’s “humankind’s first tool”, and the matched object, a satellite, is “humankind’s latest tool”.

    However, if you read the novel of 2001, you learn something that gives the match cut an even darker, deeper tone. The bone, is not just a tool, it’s a weapon. Mankind’s first tool is a weapon. And the satellite isn’t just any satellite: It’s an orbiting nuke – mankind’s latest weapon.

  13. I always spent my half an hour to read this web site’s posts every day
    along with a cup of coffee.

  1. Pingback: The Visual Anatomy of a Masterpiece | No Little Plans

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