If you’re a regular reader of The Playlist, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the name Antonios Papantoniou by now. Sound familiar at all? Papantoniou is a fastidious and astute independent filmmaker who also makes incredibly detail-oriented, painstaking studies of camera and shot techniques employed by some of the greatest directors working today. He’s dubbed these video essays his “Shot by Shot” series. We’ve already featured ones he’s done on Spielberg (“Jaws”) and Scorsese (“Cape Fear”).
Before Papantoniou studied either of those films, though, he turned his focus to the incredible and classic union station scene in Brian De Palma’s 1987 hit, “The Untouchables.” OK — brief time out. If for whatever reason you haven’t yet seen the scene in reference, it’s one of the most tense, beautifully choreographed, flat-out awesome shootouts ever to be committed to film. We’ve added it below, so you can watch it in its entirety without Papantoniou’s notes. But if you haven’t seen it, then that probably means you haven’t seen “The Untouchables” yet, so go watch it, and come back to finish reading in two hours.
Ever the trained eye, Papantoniou professes that, “Using minimal dialogue, De Palma builds a visual tour de force creating an indelible cinematic experience, which works on a technical, stylistical [sic], rhythmical, and emotional level.” He then analyzes the 215 cuts De Palma employs in the nine-minute-and-45-second scene, starting with two shots that lead into the train station. In what has become Papantoniou’s trademark, he maintains a running analysis of the camera angles, movements, and shot duration on the right side of the screen alongside the scene itself. This dedication and layout really hammers Papantoniou’s point home. When he claims, “With his own unique post-modern style, [De Palma] creates iconic images through graphic violence, grotesque faces, and expertly choreographed action,” it’s next to impossible to argue.
Watch the entire, laboriously edited “Shot by Shot” below. You might have to watch it twice, because no matter how many times you’ve seen it, that Union Station scene is so darned hard to look away from.