Leg Shot


I have no idea when some film director first conceived of and employed this  sequence of frames but once he did they were enthusiastically embraced by legions of those who followed.  And there is no sign that despite repeated usage, they will disappear from film making anytime soon.  They are intended either to:  1. Inject a deliberate element of mystery into a story or, 2. Keep an audience guessing, at least momentarily, about which character had just entered a scene.

By now you may have guessed the cinematic device that has proven so persistent and serviceable for all these many years.  Call it a “leg shot” if you will.  There’s no subtlety, little variation in how the scene is presented.  The camera reveals the legs of an individual and remains focused upon them for a period of time, depending upon what purpose it’s meant to serve.  If its intent is to tantalize and encourage us to wonder who we’re about to see, it will, after lingering upon the lower extremities, slowly begin to elevate until at last we’re offered a full-bodied subject.  Were we right?  Did we guess his or her identity?  Quite likely it was someone we hadn’t expected would appear.  The film maker with this delayed gratification technique has had his or her fun.  And we, the audience, have gone along with it, enjoyed the brief suspense.

In the other instance, the “leg shot” advances the story line, informing us that someone  is present and has undertaken certain actions, but then withholds the identity of that individual as the camera remains anatomically static, never elevates above the feet.  There’s but a slight chance viewers can determine who is involved here.  This is somewhat disappointing, even frustrating, as vital information is being deliberately withheld.

Will audiences ever tire of, and will directors finally retire, the “leg shot?”  Given that it’s been around so long, one is reluctant to predict its demise.  Besides, are there any other body parts that could better serve the purpose?

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