Friday, 24 April 2009
In his To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in Japanese Cinema
(Berkeley, 1979), Noel Burch talks about ‘pillow shots’ or ‘cutaway still-lifes.’ ‘The particularity of these shots,’ he writes, ‘is that they suspend the diegetic flow […] while they never contribute to the progress of the narrative proper, they often refer to a character or a set, presenting or re-presenting it out of a narrative context. Pillow shots (the term is derived from Japanese poetry) most often achieve their uniquely de-centering effect by lingering unexpectedly on an inanimate object. ‘People are perhaps known to be near, but for the moment they are not visible, and a rooftop, a street-light, laundry drying on a line, a lampshade or a tea-kettle is offered as centre of attention. The essence of the pillow shot, then, lies in the tension between the suspension of human presence and its potential return.'