Around this time last month, I wrote a piece about superstar editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey (the duo have worked together for some time now, their latest project being little movie directed by a guy named J.J. Abrams called ‘The Force Awakens’) and also Margaret Sixel, the Oscar-winning editor who was responsible for stringing together the chaotic audio-visual symphony of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The piece alluded to a larger point, which is that women have played an integral role as film editors throughout the history of the medium. This goes all the way back to the pictures of Arthur Penn (think “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Night Moves,” cut by the great Dede Allen) and goes well into the later half of the 20th century with giants like Sally Menke, Quentin Tarantino’s go-to editor who worked on every film of his save for “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight” (she passed away in 2010). And now Fandor brings us “A Cut Above,” a video essay dedicated to ten pioneering female artists who shaped the art of cinematic editing.
There’s some great stuff on display here: I was not aware, for instance, that Cecile Decugis, who cut Godard’s “A bout de soufflé” and in a sense, helped the director to invent a new kind of cinematic language, also lent her playful, slightly frenzied touch to Francois Truffaut’s wild and underrated “Shoot the Piano Player.” Verna Fields also gets a much-deserved shout out for her smart and innovative work on golden age classics like “Medium Cool” and “Jaws.” The video also highlights some of the great director/editor pairs throughout history, citing Menke’s relationship with Tarantino as well as Martin Scorsese’s work with Thelma Schoonmaker and the coupling of director David Lynch with his ex-wife and frequent collaborator Mary Sweeney.
Check out the video, scored to “Metamorphosis One” by Philip Glass, below.