While I’m far from the first to draw attention to Ozu’s empty frames, I’m surprised not to have heard (or perhaps I’m surprised not to remember) Ozu referenced in criticism of Woody Allen’s work. I imagine a side-by-side comparison of their empty frames would enhance our understanding of the “technique” surrounding empty frames, and the contrasting meanings it can have. Perhaps this will be food for a future post, but I’ll allow myself a few quick thoughts in a general way now.
– Empty frames, as a technique, tend to only be found as bookends for scenes. Used as supplementary information to the traditional mastershot, they’re either strung together to display a wider environment for the viewer or they’re used as a wideshot into which the actors enter or exit. Rarely, if ever, does a scene have an empty frame at its center.
– In Annie Hall, the empty frame is used as a comedic gag when, during Allen and Keaton’s amicable breakup, both take turns entering and exiting a static frame, until they exit simultaneously, leaving the viewer with an empty view as the conversation continues.
– How possible would it be for a contemporary director / editor to utilize empty frames in a financed film? One imagines that an empty frame would be the first item sacrificed to the altar of modern pacing, of which their is one rule: frenzy.
– Haneke might be another director worth visiting for his empty frames. Funny Games is ostentatious with its use of empty frames, while Caché’s plot revolves around a video tape of a (largely) empty frame. Haneke has a skill at making empty frames transform, like a magic eye illustration, from impartial wideshots into frames imbued with meaning and character. The best example may be from The Piano Teacher, when from a tangle of hockey players, unknown and unimportant, Walter emerges to have a conversation with Erika (just off screen, if I recall). Haneke’s technique is not unlike Slavoj Žižek’s famous example from The Birds, in which Hitchcock transforms an impartial wideshot of the town into the birds’ subjective view.