A jump cut is a device in film editing where a portion of a shot is removed, and the beginning and end of that shot are then joined together, with the hope that it will have dramatic effect. We’ve all seen them, in film, TV and music videos, and at one point, decades ago, jump cuts were considered revolutionary and scandalous within the film world.
As a life long fan of cinema, I sometimes wonder what my favorite jump cut is. Could it be the ones in Godard’s Breathless (1960), the über-cool edits that introduced jump cuts as a viable film style? Or maybe it’s Clyde Barrow’s truncated formal introduction in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, the first jump cut to keep me awake at night. Or perhaps it’s Martin Sheen’s drunken and silent self-destruction in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. (All of these can be seen in this minute-long clip.1)
No doubt about it, all of these jump cuts have teeth. They’re visceral and intellectually exciting, and they challenge the most basic logic of time and space: one thing moves from here to there, continuously.
But when it’s all said and done, when it comes to my favorite Jump Cut in All of Cinema, I’m gonna give it to the Stooges. All Three of them. Here it is, from their 1943 Columbia short, They Stooge to Conga, directed by Del Lord.
So why do I think going from this…
…is so effective? Why does that get the honor over the other edits—or any other similar jump cuts in the films of Scorsese, Soderbergh, Lee, the Brothers Coen, Kubrick, et al?
Because it hurts. It hits me in the belly and makes me grimace in pain. It’s visceral to nth degree. It takes the regular elements of Stooge abuse–part physical, part sound effect, and all of it right in front of our eyes—and takes it up a notch.
And who knows? Godard was thirteen when this film came out, and the Stooges were big stuff overseas, their films shown regularly in France after the war, so who’s to say…Maybe if Jean-Paul Belmondo weren’t so busy smoking cigarettes, he would have been poking Jean Seberg in the eyes.
(By the way, if you’re interested in seeing the entire scene from “They Stooge to Conga” [generally regarded as the most violent Three Stooges scene], you can see it here.)
BACK TO POST 1 Many have commented that internet technology has let me down some here, that the jump cut from Bonnie and Clyde doesn’t read so clearly. I’ve made an isolated version of it, which slows it down some; it’s towards the bottom of my post on editor Dede Allen.