Reading Movies

The movie clip that I chose to “read” was “Judge’s Game” from Rounders.  This is a movie that I knew nothing about before this week and know only a little more about now. The Judge’s Game scene starts with six older men playing cards. Just after the action starts, a younger man, Mike, enters the room, comes over to the table and helps one player win the hand.  The dialogue of the scene is supplemented by a narration voiced by Mike.

In this clip of 3:33 minutes  I counted at least 67 camera shot changes.  Most of the shots were taken from between the players as if the camera were involved in the game.  Initially I thought that all of the camera shots were from one side of the table, obeying the 180 degree rule, but after trying to figure out exactly where everyone was sitting it would appear that some of the shots were from the opposite side of the table.  The initial shot of this scene is the only one that shows all six of the player and is takes place from behind a desk at the eye-level of a seated person, and moves to the right, a positive movement according to Ebert.  All of the shots are from this level or slightly lower, when the camera focuses on the chips and hands on the table.  This makes the viewer feel a part of the game.

This scene had three main sound tracks.   There are the sounds of the game – discussion, the sounds of cards and chips being moved,  a track with music which is present at the beginning of the clip but fades out once Mike comes to the table and fades back in at the end of the scene when Mike leaves and a third sound track which is narrated by Mike and fills in some details of the game.

Watching the clip in three different modes helped illustrate the many threads that make up the film.  Focusing on the camera angles drew attention to the importance of the camera position and how that affects how the action is perceived.  Separating the sound from the action revealed the different layers that are necessary to create atmosphere.

From this clip, I would think that this movie would fall into the drama genre.  It could also be a crime/gangster movie, but I don’t think there is enough information here to indicate that.

One interesting piece of trivia about this movie is that two of the main actors, Matt Damon and John Malkovich later played Tom Ripley in different film adaptions of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books.

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