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6 February 2020

In the Life Cinematic series, filmmakers talk candidly about their perfect movie moments. Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright champions An American Werewolf in London, Carrie, Bullitt and Mad Max: Fury Road in categories ranging from the Needle Drop to the Perfect Tension Build.

Edgar Wright and Robbie Collins, Life Cinematic

In the second episode of Life Cinematic, British director Edgar Wright talks to critic Robbie Collin about the films that have influenced his life and career.

From the Perfect Needle Drop to the best Single Long Take, here's a taste of what Wright had to say about the movies he loves, from modern classics such as An American Werewolf in London, Carrie, and Bullitt to contemporary films including Mad Max: Fury Road.

Life Cinematic explores the art of film-making in a completely new way, featuring an interview with a renowned film-maker alongside a mix of classic clips that have influenced them. Watch on BBC Four on Thursday 6 February and on BBC iPlayer.

This scene would be hard to do in edits... to do it in one shot is just ambitious bordering on insane.
Edgar Wright's Perfect Single Long Take

Read on to find out which amazing scene Edgar picked for his Perfect Single Long Take...

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David Naughton looks at the camera "as if asking the audience for help" in An American Werewolf in London

Director John Landis' cult hit is stuffed full of moon-related tunes, including Van Morrison's Moondance, Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising, and three different versions of pop standard Blue Moon.

Sam Cooke’s soft, soothing take on the latter was used for the film’s werewolf transformation scene, providing a tongue-in-cheek contrast to the agonising metamorphosis happening on screen.

It’s a trick called “soundtrack dissonance” or counter-scoring, and it was also used to memorable effect by Edgar Wright in Shaun of the Dead (pictured), with Queen’s jaunty Don’t Stop Me Now sound-tracking the zombie battle in the Winchester pub. Wright says of American Werewolf's musical tonal shifts, "those real left-turn mood swings make me... excited".

  • John Landis reveals why there's not a silver bullet to be seen in An American Werewolf in London
An American Werewolf in London is scary, it’s funny, it has amazing effects, it has male and female nudity, it has swearing... It just feels transgressive and mischievous, in the best way.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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Thirty years on from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, George Miller returned to his dystopian franchise for a reboot, shot in the Namibian desert.

The director eschewed heavy CGI for Mad Max: Fury Road, instead relying mainly on practical effects and stunts for its complex battle scenes.

The movie is in almost constant movement, with some shots lasting just fractions of a second, so Miller ensured that all action took place in the centre of the frame - so the audience’s eyes wouldn’t have to dart around between rapid cuts.

You could pick any three minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road as the best action scene!
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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Cuban-born artist Pablo Ferro started his career illustrating comics for Marvel’s Stan Lee, before becoming a celebrated Hollywood title designer, working on the likes of Dr. Strangelove, Midnight Cowboy, Harold and Maude and Men In Black.

In his ingenious opening montage for detective thriller Bullitt, each credited name slides away to leave behind a “window” through which a new shot is introduced. It’s all paced perfectly to Lalo Schifrin’s iconic jazz soundtrack.

Even before you’ve seen Steve McQueen in a sweater, there’s no argument that you’re watching a very cool movie.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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Choreographer and director Busby Berkeley threw away the Hollywood rule-book with his work in musicals of the 1930s: “They put on numbers then like you’re going into a theatre and seeing a number being done… Not my technique.”

One of the most innovative visual stylists of his era, he pioneered many of the hallmarks of the modern musical, from fluid camera movements to frequent aerial shots. For the I Only Have Eyes For You sequence in Dames, Berkeley used mirrors and a heavily polished black floor to reflect and refract images, creating a dancing dream world.

The amount of techniques that Busby Berkeley invented and other people took into other musicals, advertising, visual art... it’s extraordinary.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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An icon of Hong Kong cinema, John Woo had directed dozens of action movies before Hard Boiled - the last film he made in the city before decamping to Hollywood.

The thriller climaxes with a bravura showdown at a hospital, which took 40 days to shoot. At its centre is one carefully choreographed long take, which includes a 30-second conversation in a static elevator, during which the entire set was reset outside.

According to Woo, he decided to try the extraordinary shot because he thought he and his crew were getting bored.

John Woo brings showmanship, musicality and choreography to action cinema. This scene would be hard to do in edits... to do it in one shot is just ambitious bordering on insane.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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Black comedy Delicatessen depicts the disparate lives of a group of residents living side by side in a post-apocalyptic French apartment building.

The film was inspired by co-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s experience living above a butcher’s shop and being woken daily by the noise of sharpening knives, and sound plays an important part throughout.

In this scene, the building’s tenants are united by diegetic sound - sounds that the characters would hear, as the rhythms of their individual activities (from ceiling painting, to violin playing, to sexual activity) combine to create a frenetic symphony.

There are lots of films I love, and then there are set pieces in films that make me sit up and say, 'I wanna do that'. That Delicatessen scene is one of those sequences.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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The use of voiceover is often criticised as a lazy Hollywood tactic that goes against the old adage of ‘Show, don’t tell’, but for Edgar Wright, the Coen brothers manage to invert clichés with their use of highly stylised voiceovers.

The pair’s screwball farce Raising Arizona opens with an eleven-minute introduction sequence, heavily narrated by incompetent robber H.I. (Nicolas Cage).

The mismatch between H.I.'s thick, ‘redneck’ accent and his matter-of-fact, articulate delivery subverts audience expectations, immediately plunging us into the Coens’ whimsical, satirical world.

It becomes this almost dreamlike film where you accept their heightened version of reality because the narrator is guiding you with a very specific comedic voice.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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Carrie (1976)

Director Brian De Palma is acclaimed for his mastery of tension, not least in this climactic scene.

The titular Carrie has been announced as prom queen, unaware her bullies have rigged a bucket of pig’s blood above her head. It’s only a matter of time before her elation turns to utter humiliation.

For editor Paul Hirsch, De Palma’s use of point of view in the sequence was crucial: “I was able to construct a scene in which all of the characters and their motives are understood by showing the audience what they’re seeing and how they’re reacting to what they’re seeing.”

It’s the first Stephen King adaptation on screen and actually I think it’s the best.
Edgar Wright, Life Cinematic

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