June 10, 2014

The Cinematography of 'Louie': How a Simply-Shot Comedy Masterfully Utilizes the Long Take

Let's admit it. We all love long takes. Most of us have watched, and groveled over, the incredible 6-minute take from True Detective that made waves around the internet several months ago. Add to that the numerous other dramatic shows on television that have begun to utilize extremely cinematic long takes, and it's safe to say that contemporary television has become a haven for long take lovers. However, there's one show on television that has made the consistent use of the long take an instrumental part of its cinematic repertoire, and it's probably the show you would least expect. I'm talking, of course, about Louis C.K.'s unassuming FX comedy, Louie.

In a recent article over on Slate's culture blog Brow Beat, Forrest Wickman pulled a few prime examples of masterful long takes from the current season of Louie (a season that has heavily utilized the long take). In his article, Wickman breaks down a few of these shots from a film criticism perspective, and he does so quite well. In this article, however, I'm going to look at several of the same shots, as well as a few others, but from a perspective of functional cinematography, and break down how the long take is a critical part of the show's humor, drama, and everything in between. So let's get to it!

In order to understand why the long take lends itself so well to the odd, stylistic comedy of Louie, it's important to understand what exactly it is that makes the show so funny. For the most part, it's hardly the content that makes it hilarious because the content is oftentimes comprised of basic everyday situations (with some comedic twists, of course). More than anything else, it's the character of Louie, in all of his awkward glory, as he stumbles through a combination of mundane and absurd occurrences. It's very much a unique portrayal of a funny character in an even funnier world.

Here's a quick example scene, and one of my personal favorites, from the third season of Louie. Fans of David Lynch should be highly appreciative of this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwUmXT3RJCM

Now that you've seen an example of the show's humor, let's talk a little bit about how long takes are used to maximize that humor. In order for Louie to be at his most awkward throughout the absurdity of his life, the show's director of photography Paul Koestner allows many of these situations (oftentimes a conversation between Louie and another character) to play out in real-time from a safe distance. This allows Louis C.K.'s immaculate sense of comedic timing and his gloriously goofy body language to take precedence in these shots.

Here's an example from the current season of how the long take is used to accentuate and magnify both the physical and emotional awkwardness of Louie's character as he seeks relationship advice from his downstairs neighbor. After a few loose closeups to establish the characters, the camera settles into a cramped medium 2-shot for nearly 2 full minutes as Louie confounds the doctor with his misguided notions of love and relationships.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijQI2AJvNjI

Although Louie is an entirely unique spin on the comedic sitcom, it constantly ventures into dramatic territory as Louie deals with the inherent darkness present in his situation as an aging, and oftentimes lonely, single father in New York City.

Here's a prime example of the show's dramatic tendencies from the current season. In this short scene, Louie is talking to his ex-wife about the future of their youngest daughter (who has been having behavioral issues). Unlike the previous example, however, this long take doesn't necessarily add to the humor of the scene, but instead allows the audience to experience an emotional parental dispute in real-time and from an entirely objective point of view. The cinematography allows us to casually observe as Louie descends into an irrationally emotional state, and it's that cinematographic choice (to maintain distance and let it play out in a single shot) that makes this a powerful little scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8DepwwXx3Y

Of course, the long takes in these scenes are purely functional. They give Louie and another character a place to interact, and not much else. The content and the acting take over, and the humor and/or drama are derived almost entirely from that. However, the show's long takes aren't limited to locked-down 2-shots. Not by any stretch of the imagination. They can also be quite dynamic and interactive, as is the case with this shot, which features Louie's Hungarian love interest and his youngest daughter as they indulge in a spontaneous violin duet in a stairwell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8UzeF7N9Bc

Then, of course, there's this whopping 7 1/2 minute long take from the third episode of the current season. This one also made its rounds on the internet, but not nearly to the extent of the shot from True Detective (and definitely not for the same reasons). In this scene, Louie is finishing up a rather successful date (a rare occurrence in the world of Louie), when his overly nice-guy sensibilities get the best of him and he says something stupid. Then actress Sarah Baker delivers this doozy of a monologue, all the while a steadicam glides from two shot to closeup, then twirls to the opposite side of the 180˚ line and back again in a wonderfully choreographed dance.

Also, keep your eye out for the brilliant breaking of the fourth wall at 4:19.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFdWcNJ17YY

All in all, the cinematographic techniques in Louie are varied to say the very least. Most shows define their aesthetic and their cinematic language early on, then stick to those techniques (and the assigned meanings for those techniques) throughout the run of the show.

Louie, on the other hand, is a constantly shape-shifting behemoth of a show. In one moment, it's an absurd comedy, and in the next, an equally absurd, yet strikingly poignant dramedy. Despite the fact that techniques like the long take are reused again and again on Louie, these techniques hardly ever mean the same thing from scene to scene. And it's for that reason that this show's cinematography is absolutely brilliant. The content is constantly changing, and the cinematography, despite the show's stylistic simplicity, subtly changes along with it to support those shifts in tone.

This cuts to the core of what cinematography is. Cinematography isn't about creating aesthetics for aesthetics' sake, but instead it's about creating aesthetics in support of a larger purpose. It's not just about telling the story in a visual way, but using visuals to enhance the story that's already being told. Louie's cinematography isn't flashy by any stretch of the imagination, but it accomplishes all of those things and then some. For that reason, the cinematography of Louie might just be one of the best on contemporary television.

What do you guys think of Louie and its long takes? Let's hear your thoughts about Louie's cinematography down in the comments!

Link: The Long Takes of Louie: The Most Cinematic Show on TV -- Brow Beat

Your Comment

55 Comments

Well,
you've summed up everything I think about Louie´s cinematography.

That violin scene it just brought tears to my eyes. Not because of the context or either the story, but the cinematography itself. The way that 'world' is revealing itself in front of our eyes is just sublime.
And also, there's one scene you've not mentioned, but it has the same impact.
I guess S04E01, when he meets the girl in the Seinfeld event. The girl is 90% of the time out of focus, out of reach... This show is just brilliantly written, filmed, acted, cutted...

June 10, 2014 at 10:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Men that episode was the shit (S4E02). I mean the way everything was played to the advantage of the story, it was so illuminating. The mere fact that he was under dressed, over weight and just light years away from the social construct he was in wasn't enough for their unique minds. They had to craft the cinematography to show how out of place he was.

June 12, 2014 at 9:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mo

I've always had a fascination with 'oners' starting with a simple shot in Scream (1) where they performed a crane shot and the shot continued forward as a steadicam operator stepped off the crane & walked across the school grounds!

My favourite shot though still goes to Atonement. It's so well choreographed and is absolutely beautiful. A real work of art:

http://youtu.be/m_yhuhp880s

June 10, 2014 at 10:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Darrell

Wow, I had never seen that one before. That's some seriously masterful (and beautiful) filmmaking. Thanks for sharing!

June 10, 2014 at 10:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4545

No problem Robert ;)

The film flew under the radar unfortunately but it's seriously worth a watch!

June 10, 2014 at 11:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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7 Academy Awards nominations including Cinematography and Picture (back when there were only five Picture nominees, no less) hardly suggests that the film is in any way obscure... But it is a terrific watch for those that haven't seen it.

June 10, 2014 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Will

Yep, it's certainly not obscure. I think what I'm remembering is that strange atmosphere where it was nominated but it seemed few had actually seen it & nobody seemed bothered by it at the awards ceremonies. Do you know what I mean?

June 10, 2014 at 3:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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More proof that NoFilmSchool basically scours the Web for other writers' ideas, to create its own "original" content.

June 10, 2014 at 11:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Steven

nothing is original - all ideas come from somewhere else - but plaguarism is something else if you are accusing them of that - do you have a link? This post got me into Louie. I really thought it was interesting. Thank you NFS

June 10, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ed David

Wow, that is truly moving. Greatly shot and choreographed.

June 10, 2014 at 11:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Xiong

This was meant to be a reply to @Darrel post above. :/

June 10, 2014 at 11:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Xiong

Absolutely Xiong ;) as mentioned it's one of my all time favourites.

You can see a small Behind the Scenes piece here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrXmHKqnVOs

June 10, 2014 at 12:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Awesome, thanks for that!

June 10, 2014 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Xiong

For a little more about the Dunkirk shot of Atonement:

http://www.steadishots.org/shots_detail.cfm?shotID=298

This is the second most popular shot on the site, second only the Goodfella's shot, which is high praise, considering the site is run by and for Steadicam-ops.

June 19, 2014 at 2:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

"...second only *to* the Goodfellas shot,", it was supposed to read. Argh... When will comment editing begin? When's that site revamp coming?

June 19, 2014 at 2:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

Long takes are super challenging. I had to create one for a directing film productions class:
[vimeo 91755923 w=500 h=281] NSFW - A very short film in one shot - Long Take from Daniel Reed on Vimeo.

June 10, 2014 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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heh, that embed code didn't seem to work; here's a regular link:
https://vimeo.com/91755923

June 10, 2014 at 1:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Holy f-ckin' god! That's a gorgeous one take film. Excellent across the board...stellar lighting, composition, & operating...to say nothing of actually telling a story incredibly well in one take that has emotional beats and great pacing to it and isn't just being flashy. Until I saw a couple wobbles in the low lock off, I saw no indication it was a gimbal at all and not a Scorpio head on a telescoping crane or equivalent.

June 19, 2014 at 3:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

but Atonement has camera movement to keep the shot alive. The shot from Louie above has no camera movement.

June 10, 2014 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chad

I wasn't making a direct comparison Chad, I just saw the words 'long take' and 'oner' and it set me off! :)

June 10, 2014 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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That last example from Season 4 Episode 3, which I watched when it aired, is actually not good. I hate to say it, but since there are younger filmmakers on this site, I felt I should offer a counter opinion. It simply is not good film directing. If you're going to do that scene in one take, the choice to revolve around the characters is not the best one, because it draws attention to the camera (and the handheld work is particularly bad as well) and away from the performances, and moreover, the camera isn't even always looking at the most important thing. It's almost as if he doesn't understand what the scene is about. If anybody else but the star of the show had directed that scene he'd never work again; it simply doesn't meet a minimum artistic, or even professional, standard. I hate when students read about something substandard getting lauded. Louie is a brilliant comedian, but he is not a film director.

June 10, 2014 at 1:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

Interesting opinion, one that I do not share in the slightest. There are a few framing issues (1:23 and 1:38), however, aside from those 2 hiccups I would not call the handheld work on this scene to be horrible. Common sense would imply that there was more than 1 take of this scene. If I had to go out on a limb, there was almost certainly a take where each of the characters was perfectly framed. My guess is that such scene did not have the emotional power that the above video/take did. It was most likely a choice made in the editing room to go with the scene that contained the strongest emotional connection. I would much rather have stronger performances than a take with weaker performances and 2 seconds worth of better camera work.

As for your statement that the most important thing was not always focused on, I am curious to hear which parts you felt this was the case as well as what you would do differently. My first reaction was to focus solely on Sarah as she delivers her monologue. Keep the camera on her face as she delivers each line with the intention of driving home her each and every word. However, as I started to break the scene down, I began to realize that does not have the power of what was filmed above. The scene is meant to be uncomfortable, we are meant to see her frustration and his speechlessness/powerlessness. The camera flipping back and forth between them in that scene I felt did a very good job of placing us in the scene as if we are Louie himself. As if Sarah is chastising us for feeding into the stereotypes/sentiments she has battled against her whole life. As if we are standing there unable to slip out and escape from the chastisement we more than likely deserve.

Lastly, judging from the universal positive reaction to this scene from Louie fans and non-fans alike (believe me, this scene having 900,000+ views on YouTube, is evidence of its reach far beyond those who watch the show) the job of the director and DP was accomplished by allowing the audience to connect with the message they were attempting to convey. Therefore, I do not agree with your statement that Louie is not a skilled director. Maybe one that does not fall in line with your sensibilities, but he is a skilled director nonetheless.

June 10, 2014 at 3:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CoolHandLuque

test

June 10, 2014 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

I understand favoring a take with a better performance over one with better technique -- I would make the same choice. But since we haven't seen the dailies, I can only comment on the poor technique, with which even you agree. As far as content, yes, we should be seeing her initially, but the scene is not about her. The SHOW is not about her, it's about him. So you're correct that the real point of this is how her feelings affect HIM -- his powerlessness, as you say, his self-disgust at being complicitous in her problem, etc. So why am I not looking at him when it matters, or only some of the time, why does the operator seem to miss the exact reaction I want, late to make the pan? Because the camera is doing the wrong thing. If it can't be properly covered with reverse angles because of time constraints, or even if you WANT one shot to keep the emotional intensity of what she is doing, we have grammar for that. It's called a two-shot. Swinging the cam around is a garbage choice, in almost all circumstances. My opinion, of course. Louie is brilliant, but the writing on that show needs help and he needs a real director. Each episode is like a thesis film from somebody who is really talented but not there yet.

June 10, 2014 at 4:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

Good points ... However, I am in the other camp, in that I find HER to be the most interesting thing in this scene. This scene is about HER. It is about her and her frustration more so than it is about him feeling awkward or guilty for his actions/words. As I said before, her monologue is directed not only to the character of Louie, but to many of us (males) as well. Therefore, doing a simple 2 shot would disconnect the audience and make them an observer rather than a participant. The diner scene between Louie and his ex ... a classic 2 shot, has a decidedly lower emotional attachment associated with it. If the 'So Did the Fat Girl' scene were to play out in a similar fashion, I feel Louie's message of society's perpetuation of 'fat girl shame' would have been lessened or non-existent from the 2 shot set up you suggested. I found the stylistic choice to be spot on for the message/emotion he was trying to convey.

June 10, 2014 at 4:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CoolHandLuque

I agree that Louie maybe should not edit his own shows. Directing is another thing, I'm ok with that. But the lighting and camera operating is quite dodgy. The use of wide angle lenses at times just feels like they're trying to solve problems rather than say something with the lens choice. Love the show though...

June 10, 2014 at 6:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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RobW

Louis C.K. has always had the approach of a post modern comedian; breaking down the constructs of family, marriage, parents, children, work and life in general. His sense of humor is driven by the force of life's fluidity. And his approach to directing, while not for everyone, is very post modern. His wife is black, because she was the best actress to try out, yet his children are white as snow. His shot composition may go against traditional film school composition, but with worth and well thought value.

Not everything needs to be done traditionally. If you don't like the construction of the scene, I understand. But denying artistic merit because it revolves around the characters when you personally would have preferred a different style is unfair to his creativity. He chose to use the camera's movements as a shift in power, in tone, in understanding. And understanding is what Louie is all about, its a show about understanding the plight of others, and embracing life's magical moments of revelation and love.

And as for True Detective long take, its mentioned in the first paragraph, and most of us here love it as well. They both serve a different purpose and that's what many of us love about cinematography. Its not a science, but an art, and we all get to share our visions of the world, and how that's communicated is different with each artist.

June 10, 2014 at 7:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ken

Ken hit the nail on the head. Trying to judge Louie's content by conventional standards is somewhat like trying to paint a barn with a toothbrush.

June 10, 2014 at 8:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4545

I honestly have no idea what that means.

Here's the larger problem: Ken didn't hit the nail on the head. Not to pick on Ken, whom I'm certain is a lovely and talented guy, but this is how standards get gradually eroded and we end up where we are. It has nothing to do with my personal taste (which I haven't described) or some vague notion of "tradition" vs. modernity. That type of shot that he does there is generations old. Handheld itself -- which people, amazingly, still think has some "edgy" quality or furthers versimilitude because it seems "documentary-like" or whatever -- is fifty years plus old. There's nothing untraditional about that type of shot -- they TEACH it in film school, and have for years. My issue is simply that it's the WRONG SHOT because it does not convey what the scene is about in the most effective way. The scene does not function as well as it should because of the directing. It is no more complicated than that.

If the people who are on this site continue to validate poor artistry -- hey, forget high-falutin' concepts like art, how about simple poor craftsmanship -- because Louie is being "creative" or he's "post modern" or he's above being judged (seriously, did someone actually say that?) then there is no chance that the general public will be able to distinguish good from bad, and the overall quality of work will diminish. I know Louie's talented, and he's super-hip right now, but it is okay to say when something sucks. And the directing there (not the writing) is subpar (so is his acting, but that's another day). That actress is very good, though, and that individual scene is well written (though the episode as a whole, and all the episodes, have some narrative problems). But whatever.

June 11, 2014 at 12:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

You're basing your criticism on the fact that this show's content and the actual making of said content don't fit into any kind of traditional concept of how filmmaking should be done.

Here's the thing, though; it's entirely intentional. The writing defies just about every screenwriting trope around on purpose. The acting is awkward and bordering on inane on purpose. The cinematography eschews traditional notions of proper coverage and conventional framings on purpose.

It's storytelling that defies everything we've been taught about storytelling, and for that reason, it's very easy to view this show as "wrong" or indicative of a decline in standards. However, (and this is just my opinion), this show works on so many more levels (comedic, dramatic, satirical, societal) than just about anything else on television.

We'll probably have to chalk this up to a difference in opinion, which is totally cool. However, for me this show rocks my socks off not only in spite of the fact that it goes against everything I was taught in school, but because it goes against everything I was taught in school. Call it rebellious, call it post-modern (which is definitely is), or anything else. Louie plays by its own rules, and it wins every time, whether you view it that way or not.

June 11, 2014 at 2:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4545

Thank you. +100
This isn't a hipster movement, riddled with "my art isn't your art. You can't judge me" BS rhetoric. Either it's done correctly, or it isn't.

Simple as that.

I've gone through several debates like this in the illustration world. Where someone who is genuinely talented at drawing figures has trouble with anatomy. So instead of owning up to it and learning how to properly draw the male and female forms, many artists had claimed it was a "style" and their method of self expression. When the reality was simply that they didn't know how to draw musculature and human form properly at the time. This happens A LOT in art school, especially when I studied comic illustration from a variety of teachers.

Same argument, different medium.

June 12, 2014 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nope. Not nearly the same. Drawing the human body has obvious references to what is correct and incorrect. If that's your only measure for judging art then that's on you. But there is no such reference points for "accuracy" in staging a scene and putting the camera other than your own baggage that you've been fed from countless conventional tv shows. Real life "accuracy" in drawing is only one dimension in comic art as well, and not one of prominence. Plenty of people can draw and paint to photo accuracy. How many of them are famous? How many paintings in the Louvre are photo accurate. Maybe you should learn something more about art.

August 10, 2014 at 1:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dafre

Wow you are so incredibly wrong its not even funny. The scene is absolutely about her. Girls like that finally being given a voice. One shot of Louie's speechless face is enough to cover the whole scene. It's about giving someone who never gets a chance to speak or be seen, the chance to be seen and heard. It was a brilliant scene brilliantly written, directed, and acted in its simplicity and elegance. What you want is some generic conventional coverage that you see every day of the week in every show on tv. That would be boring and not nearly as memorable.

August 10, 2014 at 12:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dafre

I don't watch many shows but no televisual use of the long take has impressed me tbh. The great ones that spring to mind are several in Werckmeister Harmonies and also Haneke's masterful one in Code Unknown(the tube scene).
A bunch of single take films popped up few years ago, usually shot on 5d's, where the screen would curiously go black every 8-10 minutes as the camera moved into shadow. Coincidentally the canon's also have 12 minute cut out time ....Russian Ark is the only full length one take film i have come across that really stands up. it is also one of the very few that was actually shot in one take with no disguises. It is tough to be impressed by other uses of the long take after viewing it i found.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE2jRxToAjQ

June 10, 2014 at 2:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Andrew Black

There's a great long take in one of the episodes of True Detective that dwarfs anything on this show.

June 10, 2014 at 4:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

let's see your best long take.

June 11, 2014 at 12:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Demarcus

Why? What would that prove? I was discussing the long take in Tre Detective.

June 12, 2014 at 3:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

The scene with the "fat girl" probably should have been done in a two-shot with the camera off to his side (i.e., him closer to the camera than her). Her words are what is supposed to illicit his reaction, so she might as well be off-screen.
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In any case, there's something different about the show that is worth checking out, if you're a fan. I happen not to be one. I don't find his standup to be particularly unique or amusing either.

June 11, 2014 at 2:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

The thing with that particular scene is that it's actually not about Louie. She even tells him that he's standing in for all of the guys in the world as she speaks on behalf of all of the fat girls. She's actually speaking to the show's male audience more than she's speaking to Louie, which makes it imperative that she be the primary focus of the scene.

June 11, 2014 at 12:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4545

Agreed. I wonder how that point was so easily missed by so many.

June 11, 2014 at 1:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CoolHandLuque

Double agreed, and in the same boat.

June 11, 2014 at 2:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ken

Double double disagree. The brilliance of the scene is that is it IS about him -- this is what makes the show unconventional in the way that you guys laud. I wonder how that point was so easily missed by so many.

June 12, 2014 at 4:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

It's his show. So it is about Louie. That's why the show is called "Louie". Now, if this was some sort of a major guest star doing her bit as a fat girl, it'd be different. Maybe. "Seinfeld" occasionally let top guest stars like Philip Baker Hall or Charles Levin do their shtick but the four main characters were the center of the attention always.
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I came across an old "Sanford and Son" episode recently. Well, Fred Foxx was the star and he got all the punchlines. The supporting/episodic actors provide the setup and Fred provides the finish. In the basketball terminology, they set the picks and he shoots the jumpers.
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BTW, as to that "fat girl dialog", I actually found it fairly unimpressive ... as someone who had been out with overweight gals myself and discussed a number of weight/image related issues, I found it to be way off the mark ....

June 11, 2014 at 6:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Not to be that guy, but ... 'Fred Foxx' ????? I mean ... come on.

Also, to compare 'Louie' to 'Seinfeld' or 'Sanford and Sons' is a pretty weak argument to say the least. I am not entirely certain how you can even begin to draw comparisons between a show which aims to examine modern day to day life for a middle aged, single father and two text book multi-camera sit-coms employing a laugh track. The only similarity is that they are created by comedians. To judge one off the merits of the other is a futile exercise. If anything, Louie allowing his supporting characters to have the spot light goes to show the maturity Louis possesses. Hell, look at his list of guest stars so far on this show: Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, F. Murray Abraham, David Lynch, Robin Williams, Parker Posey, Jeremy Renner, Matthew Broderick, Melissa Leo, Dane Cook, Ellen Burstyn etc etc ... all of them in each of their scenes have been allowed the opportunity to really chew on some great material. Louie hasn't demanded the spot light in every episode. He has done what a good director should do: surround himself with talented individuals and let them flex their muscles. If he made it all about himself, there is no way he would be able to secure talent like this week after week after week.

I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in the world...those that understand 'Louie' and those who do not. There is not middle ground. It's kinda of like being able to curl your tongue; ya either got the genetic ability to control the necessary muscles or you don't. It does not make one person superior to another ... its just how it is I guess.

June 11, 2014 at 8:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CoolHandLuque

Uh, say what you will about Seinfeld, but it wasn't a "text book multi-camera sit-com employing a laugh track."

June 12, 2014 at 4:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

Yeah, it totally was. There were thematic one-offs, and some stuff shot in the real outdoors, but this show is pretty much the definition of that production style.

June 19, 2014 at 3:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

I love Louie, but the scene with the fat girl shouldn't have been a long take. Why? Because of pacing.

If it were broken up with well composed shot after shot after shot, we would have better pacing, and the scene would have been more powerful, starting with casual conversation, leading to more dramatic tone, and ending with comedy.

You can see Kubrick do this better than anyone in almost all of his movies, like the bathroom scene in The Shining that ends with "You've always been the care taker."

It's basically filmmaking 101, but so few people can pull it off.

June 11, 2014 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert

I disagree with you wholeheartedly that this scene should not have been a single long take. As I stated above, by making it one long continuous take, it forces us as the audience to not look away. Cuts are a lot like breathing...most of the time you don't notice they are there until they are not there. If there were cuts, that allows us the viewer to subconsciously lower our guard and view this as a TV show where a girl is yelling at a guy. By keeping this scene as one long continuous take, Louis is forcing us the audience to be an active participant in the scene. As previously discussed, the scene is as much Sarah speaking to the show's male audience as it is her speaking to the character of Louie.

The scene is supposed to feel uncomfortable as hell. We are supposed to want to high tail out of there and no longer listen to her go off on Louie (us) anymore. However, Louis, better than any filmmaker I can think of right now, is all about honesty. In situations such as that, there is nowhere to run (at least nowhere that common decency allows). The only options are to either fight back and turn the situation into a shouting match, or to just stand/sit there and take your lumps. To me, this scene is the truest at conveying what it actually is like to be in a situation such as this, where someone is unloading/venting toward/at you.

June 11, 2014 at 4:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CoolHandLuque

I did feel it was not paced quite well, i remember feeling, the lack of breath to use @CoolHandLuque's metaphor. But it wasn't about the long take, I think it had to do with the execution of the scene, keep it going but even with long take shots you could always take the air out by going deeper. Instead of cuts, I'd use a lil depth of field ploy, just to draw you in even more into the action. The only out is in.

June 12, 2014 at 8:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mo

LOUIE is the best thing on tv, just because it isn't in your face about trying to be the best thing on tv.

June 12, 2014 at 1:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jorge

Louie is by far the most Neo Noir Comedy of i'd say all time. I am lacking in my extensive knowledge of neo noir comedy, but Louie has in its core such a brilliance that takes the pie and cherry icing topped. Poignant, emotionally driven and hilarious with a touch of sadistic, Louie's story telling is so powerful that I wonder why aren't all movies made this way. TRUE.. Such an inspiration, Such Justice. lol

June 12, 2014 at 8:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mo

Hmm, I guess we have different opinions here. I almost always object to the "long take". It sticks out like a sore thumb in most cases, and all four examples you presented had me wanting to cut to another view, to see someone's reaction that I couldn't because it was out of shot, or to cut to a close-up.

All four of those were frustrating for me to watch, not endearing or captivating. The doctor/dog scene was the most acceptable, but even then, I kept wanting a cutaway. The "dating" scene reeked of "Hey, look at our TECHNIQUE!" - which a movie or show shouldn't do. We should get so lost in the story that we don't notice the technique. (Unless it's ALL about the technique - "The Grand Budapest Hotel" for example.)

December 5, 2014 at 1:25AM, Edited December 5, 1:25AM

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Brian Johnson
Director
74

wondering if you could expand on his rig/setup. i know he uses some pretty hefty lenses ect... i also know its red but what else does he got on these rigs?

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/director-comedian-actor-lou...

April 27, 2015 at 8:05PM

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M. Tob
154

curious because i want to know what goes into these long shots, especially the ones that circle around an actor so effortlessly. steadicam, red, but what else (mic ect...)

April 28, 2015 at 12:47PM, Edited April 28, 12:47PM

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M. Tob
154

I think that the way Louie uses the long take is one of the best ways that its used in modern television.

August 2, 2015 at 11:08PM

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Christian Juliano
Aspiring Director/Writer
88