The Seconds Pile Up
by Adrian Martin
One of my favorite short films is Jean Rouch's Gare du Nord, part of a well-known nouvelle vague compilation of the early 1960s, Paris vu par ... (1964). Rouch's contribution appears to be one continuous shot or long take running for around fifteen minutes, although it is in fact two shots joined with a cleverly disguised cut. In it, a man and woman argue. They start indoors in a high-rise apartment. The camera follows them into an elevator going way, way down - and then out into the streets. The exchange gradually becomes more tense, frantic and violent. The scene spills into the streets of Paris around a large train station (the Gare du Nord), and hurtles along. The live, direct sound recording strikes the viewer as forcefully and palpably as the long take technique. Finally, these two people reach a bridge, and encounter a disturbed stranger. One of these three, in despair and frustration, jumps off. The camera concludes its movement by tipping over the edge of the bridge to see a crumpled body below.
—This text is an updated adaptation of
Adrian Martin's contribution to the
1997 St Kilda Film Festival forum on "The Future of the Short Film".