PAUSE IT: What do you see? Midge Kelly’s (Kirk Douglas) intensity burns off the screen in director Mark Robson’s Champion (1949). An up-and-coming prizefighter, he bears a joyless expression which is that of a determined man. Overlaid atop Kelly’s stern countenance is a second image, the sports section of a newspaper. At the bottom of a long list of contenders’ names, Kelly’s name is visually highlighted. The composite image of Kelly and the overlaid newspaper is what we call a superimposition. A superimposition is an editing technique where one shot fades out as it merges with a subsequent shot fading in. Whereas a traditional straight cut seeks to preserve the illusion of continuous space, time, and motion, a superimposition has a different effect. Superimpositions collapse two distinct spaces and times down upon one another in order to emphasize the relationship between two shots. Is there a harmony, a counterpoint, a third meaning produced through the merger of images? As in the case of this specific image of Kelly, the still has the effect of letting us in on the protagonist’s interiority — his state of mind. It is in this moment where we learn that Kelly, a driven man of few scruples, will stop at nothing to be declared champion, and he doesn’t care who he hurts in the process. Champion was nominated for six Oscars (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Black and White Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Drama or Comedy Score) and won Harry W. Gerstad his first Oscar for Best Film Editing.
Director: Mark Robson
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy, Marilyn Maxwell
Cinematography by: Franz Planer
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February 2, 2018