Dede Allen, Film Editor

Sadly, Dede Allen passed away Saturday. (Here’s her New York Times obituary.) Her impact is enormous, however, as she edited many wonderful and important films, such as Serpico, The Hustler, Dog Day Afternoon, and others. I’d like to show scenes from three of them.


Bonnie and Clyde (1968)
This is the big mack daddy of her credits. The obvious go-to scene for Arthur Penn’s film is the brutal finale (which Allen actually credited to her assistant editor Jerry Greenberg), a scene I tend to re-watch four or five times whenever I see the film, but I’ve selected a different scene. It’s the picnic with Bonnie’s mother and family. It occurs late in the film, and death—Bonnie and Clyde’s that is—is beginning to feel inevitable. For almost two minutes the film becomes dreamlike, with hazy filters and distant sound. But it’s Dede’s editing that really hits me: like the film’s violent conclusion, time is warped, but in this case you’re floating. It feels like Bonnie’s heaven and funeral combined.



Reds (1980)
This is an early scene from Warren Beatty’s 1980 film (which Allen also executive produced). Activist/journalist John Reed and writer/future wife Louise Bryant have just met. She’s interviewing him, and she (and we) quickly get a sense of his passion for politics and change.

Something tells me this was fun to edit. Not easy, but fun.


The Breakfast Club (1985)
I remember being surprised to find out she had edited this John Hughes film. But as I’ve re-watched it over the years—and enjoy it more and more—I can see her imprint. The success of this film is hinged on the Reaction Shot.

Since these characters slowly warm up to each other in the first third of the film, their reactions to each other aren’t always verbal. (This is particularly true of Ally Sheedy’s character.) Not to take anything away from Hughes, but I imagined he’d let the camera roll sometimes, asking the actors to give multiple versions a reaction, perhaps varying the intensity, and then he and Dede would pick and choose, meticulously pacing the evolution of these complex relations. Even though I’m talking about a cumulative impact over a ten minute scene, I ‘ve strung togther most of these reaction shots into a single clip. (I hope this doesn’t do a disservice to Dede’s work. I even feel cheesy cutting this to the Simple Minds tune, but I hope my point comes across.)

Next time you watch the film, I suggest paying close attention to the reaction shots throughout the whole film. It’s great storytelling.


BONUS: The “Clyde Barrow” Jump Cut

Clyde: Before and After

Ten days ago I did a post about jump cuts, and due to my vague prose and the technical limitations of the internet, one jump cut I referred was impossible to understand. Ironically, I’ve been meaning to write an addendum to that post, explaning that edit in more detail, and with Ms. Allen’s passing I feel even more responsible to accurately represent her work.

This 25 second clip breaks down the edit, at varying speeds. About ten frames of a shot are removed just as Clyde says his name.



I don’t want to get too sentimental over these things, but I can safely say Dede Allen’s work changed my life and the lives of many others. Her work pushed envelopes and changed the way we abosorbed information, which is no small feat.

(Jesus, all this and I forgot to show anything from Slap Shot! What a masterpiece of editing! Well, that’ll have to wait for another post.)

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5 Comments

Filed under Film, R.I.P.

5 responses to “Dede Allen, Film Editor

  1. illy c

    pleeeeeeze do Slap Shot

  2. My editing teacher from the 90s, Mimi Arsham, sent me this e-mail today:

    “I’m very glad you did this.

    I brought her up to Purchase once – she wanted a favor of me (can’t remember what) so she agreed to come up, and she was scared stiff – she was afraid the students would be too ‘intellectual.’ But of course, she knocked them dead.

    Her great mentor in NY (as assistant) was CARL LERNER, a terrific editor of ‘features’ in NY, when we did mostly documentaries.”

  3. Pingback: Dede Allen, Film Editor, Part 2 « Peel Slowly

  4. Pingback: On the Cutting Edge with Belmondo, Beatty…and Moe « Peel Slowly

  5. Today, I’ve discovered this blog thanks to “Art of the Guillotine”!
    I really love it, congratulations!!!

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