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VIDEO ESSAY: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Press Play By Leigh Singer and Matt Zoller Seitz | Press Play March 7, 2013 at 9:30AM

Oh, hello there, reader. I know why you’ve come. You’re here at Press Play to watch Leigh Singer’s awesome supercut of fourth-wall-breaking moments in cinema, aren’t you?
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Oh, hello there, reader.

I know why you’ve come. You’re here at Press Play to watch Leigh Singer’s awesome supercut of fourth-wall-breaking moments in cinema, aren’t you?

Yes, of course you are! Fess up. Don’t be shy. So saucy! Just look at you, with your bashful, “Oh, dearie me, I just popped over to see if anybody had a new piece up, and oh, look, eye candy, I guess I’ll stick around and watch a minute or two.” Very convincing! Are you a professional actor? A model, perhaps?

Adorable!

Come clean, now. Tell me what clips you expect to see. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Listmaking. Seeing if the filmmaker chose the moments you would have picked, and perhaps a few you didn’t know existed. You expect to see Anthony Perkins staring into the camera at the end of Psycho, his face a near-catatonic mask, yet oddly joyous. Or that moment in Annie Hall, maybe—Woody Allen producing Marshall McLuhan to silence a pretentious nimrod in line at the movies. Or the moment in Amelie when the heroine stops being enthralled by a movie just long enough to tell us, “I like turning round and looking at people’s faces the dark.” Or Ferris Bueller or Alfie smarting off. Or Groucho telling us that the obligatory musical number would be a great time to hit the concession stand.

What, too obvious? Too on-the-nose? Well, what about Malcolm McDowell doing his Alex the Droog death-stare in A Clockwork Orange, intercut with an homage to that same moment in the McDowell-starred crime thriller Gangster #1? Or Tyler Durden talking straight into the camera in Fight Club, cut together with Ingmar Bergman’s personality-merging psychodrama Persona? A bit more impressed, then, eh? I was, too. A clever one, this Singer. Very clever. You’ll like his work, I promise.

Don’t skip around, though. Watch the whole thing. There’s rhyme and reason to it, and poetry, and mad inspiration, and internal logic, dream logic… I’m rambling here, distracted, thinking about the music cue he lays down around the 6:00 mark, and smiling.

Oh, and be sure to stick around and watch the credits. They’re quite lengthy but filled with suggestions for further viewing. And there’s a little joke at the end.

Well, that’s it. What are you still reading this for? Press play and start watching!

--Matt Zoller Seitz 


This article is related to: Leigh Singer, Matt Zoller Seitz, video essay, Video


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