Match cut  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In general terms, a match cut is any cut that emphasizes spatio-temporal continuity and thus, contrasting the conspicuous and abrupt discontinuity of a "jump cut," forms the basis for continuity ('invisible') editing, such as the ubiquitous use of "match on action." In this more general usage, a match cut would thus contrast with jump cuts most immediately and form part of the "reality effect" of continuity editing rather than the visible fractures of spatial, temporal, graphic, and cause-and-effect continuity of jump cuts. Even within continuity editing, though, the match cut is a contrast with cross-cutting between actions in two different locations that are occurring simultaneously or parallel editing, which draws parallels or contrasts between two different time-space locations.

Despite the currency of this more general usage, however, the term "match cut" is more often used when the match between shots is both smooth and visible rather than invisible. For instance, a "graphic match" (as opposed to a graphic contrast or collision) occurs when the shapes, colors and/or overall movement of shot A are matched with the composition of shot B, either within a scene or, especially, across a transition between two scenes. Indeed, rather than the seamless cuts of continuity editing within a scene, the term "graphic match" usually denotes a more conspicuous transition between (or comparison of) two shots via pictorial elements. The term "match cut" often involves a graphic match, a smooth transition between scenes and an element of metaphorical (or at least meaningful) comparison between elements in shot A and elements in shot B.

Thus, a match cut or raccord is also sometimes called a 'metaphor cut'. It is a cut in film editing from one scene to another, in which the two camera shots' compositional elements match, helping to establish a strong continuity of action. It can be used to underline a connection between two separate elements, or for purely visual reasons. In a match cut, an object or action shown in the first shot is repeated in some fashion in the second shot; the objects may be the same, be similar, or have similar shapes or uses.

Notable examples

One of the most famous match cuts is in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Inspired by a mysterious black monolith, a primitive ape discovers the use of bones as weapons and throws a bone into the air after killing another ape. When the bone reaches its highest point, the shot cuts to that of a similarly-shaped space craft—an orbital nuclear weapons platform, as is made explicit in the book—floating through space. In highlighting their formal similarities, the match cut helps draw a connection between the two objects as exemplars of primitive and advanced tools respectively, and weapons at that. A "graphic match" occurs when shapes, colors and/or overall movement of shot A are matched with the composition of shot B.

Perhaps the second most famous match cut comes from Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) where an edit cuts together Lawrence blowing out a lit candle with the desert sun rising from the horizon. Director David Lean credits inspiration for the edit to the experimental French New Wave. The edit was later praised by Steven Spielberg as inspiration for his own work.

A notable double match cut occurs at the end of Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. As Cary Grant pulls Eva Marie Saint up from Mount Rushmore, the cut then goes to him pulling her up to his bunk on the train. The match cut here skips over the courting, the marriage proposal, and the actual marriage of the two characters who had for much of the film been adversaries. The second match cut is sexual innuendo, showing a locomotive penetrating a tunnel as Grant's character gets ready to tuck in with his attractive wife. (This is mockingly reprised in the The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, where a whole series of visual cues are substituted—a rocket lift-off, locomotive entering a tunnel, champagne jetting out of a bottle, etc. — to "hint at" the occurrence of sexual relations between two main protagonists). As with 2001: A Space Odyssey, because the sequential shots are linked visually they serve to meld together two scenes that would otherwise seem incongruous.

Another Hitchcock film to employ the use of a match cut is in, arguably, his most famous work, Psycho. Right after Marion Crane is murdered in the infamous "shower scene", the camera shows blood flowing down the drain of the tub, then cuts to a shot of Marion's eye.

German director Fritz Lang provided early uses of match cuts in his silent and first sound films. In Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, he shows a circular casino from above and cuts to a circle of hands at a seance happening the same night involving Mabuse and others. This not only smoothly transitions into the simultaneous scene, but also links the two activities as "decadent" pastimes of the rich in pursuit of excitement and fashionability. Lang reused the technique in M while cross cutting between the meetings of Schränker's criminal union and Inspector Karl Lohmann's homicide investigation squad. Schränker and Lohmann are matched both in movement and in dialogue (which is carried over the cut to form a coherent phrase) to illustrate their unlikely connection in a shared goal, to capture a serial child killer.

The movie The Lost World: Jurassic Park features a match cut near the start of the film. Firstly, it shows a woman on Isla Sorna seeing her daughter attacked by small dinosaurs. She screams, at which point the camera cuts to Ian Malcom yawning in a subway station. The sound of the woman's screaming transitions into the sound of a subway train arriving. Ian is also standing in front of a tropical-island themed poster.

An interesting match cut occurs in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film The Godfather. During the baptism sequence, where the character Michael Rizzi is being christened, the priest takes some ointment with his finger and touches the child's lips. This is immediately contrasted when we see a barber squirt some shaving foam into his hand from a pump, and spreads it on a customer's face. Both shots are also tracking shots since the movement of the hand is followed by the camera.

Near the beginning of James Cameron's Aliens, a shot of a glass pod that Sigourney Weaver is sleeping in is cut together with a shot of a planet taken from space. The curvature of her face is mirrored in the curvature of the planet. This technique was used in the Exorcist III when a mysterious figure—draped in a blanket and holding out a pair of amputation shears—strides after a nurse, ready to slice off her head. Immediately, the film jumps to a beheaded statue of Christ. Another example of the technique is seen in the ending scene of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, as each character is juxtaposed in similar positions—rolling onto their sides. It enforces the common theme of each character's downfall: all three have reached their descent by way of drugs. Yet another film in which match cuts are used extensively is Sleepless in Seattle. There are several match cuts that shift the story from Sam in Seattle to Annie in Baltimore (or vice-versa) by matching a person opening a door, closing a door, or climbing up stairs. Much of the 2004 film Layer Cake contains match cuts, notably the transition of Mr. XXXX in his bathroom at night after carrying out a hit-job to Mr. XXXX in the morning, ready for work.

A particularly macabre match cut is found in Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, in the scene where Arthur Holmwood beheads his wife, Lucy (now a vampire). The camera follows Lucy's severed head as it flies into the air and begins its descent, then cuts to a rather rare and bloody cut of meat being set down on a table for the protagonists to eat.

The movie Raiders of the Lost Ark has a match cut at the beginning of the movie, where the logo from Paramount Pictures is matched to a mountain in the wilderness, which is shaped similarly to the logo. It is also done with an image on a gong in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, another mountain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and a prairie dog's burrow in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica used a jump cut in the season 2 finale to transition between Gaius Baltar assuming the presidency, putting his head on his desk, and one year later, waking up.

Home Alone 2 also uses an effective match cut. A scene showing Macaulay Culkin watching The Grinch on television zooms in on the character smiling wickedly, this is then cut with the face of hotel concierge Tim Curry making a very similar expression: this suggests a likeness in their characters effectively.

Match cuts are used extensively in the 2004 film Crash, often showing a character opening a door, immediately cutting to a shot of another door, and showing a different character walking through it. This serves to reinforce the characters' interconnectedness.

Several episodes of the television series Futurama use match cuts to transition between the present (the year 3000) and the past (the year 2000) and back. The use of this type of cut helps to enforce the idea that the same characters and locations are participating in both time periods. In the Futurama movie Bender's Big Score, a match cut is used to link the characters of Leela and the narwhal Leelu.

Sometimes match cuts have little meaning attached to them and are used primarily for visual effect or to speed up the action of a movie. Prime examples of this technique are found throughout the Twisted Pictures films Saw II and Dead Silence.

There is one example of a match cut that can be found as far back as the 1940s. In the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale, one of Chaucer's pilgrims releases his pet falcon into the air and while the bird flies, his master looks up at it. The scene switches back to the bird and it quickly changes into a airplane. The scene then switches to a British soldier looking up at the plane. The same actor plays both observers.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Match cut" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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