The Moment of Recognition


Patrick Keating


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Accompanying text

This audiovisual essay is the fourth that I have produced on the subject of camera movement in studio-era Hollywood.[1] All four serve as companion pieces to my book The Dynamic Frame: Camera Movement in Classical Hollywood. This fourth video focuses on a technique that I call the “recognition” shot, wherein the camera dollies toward a character who is experiencing a moment of realization. I start by asking why a single shot from Phantom Lady (Siodmak, 1944) seems so lively. This question leads to a consideration of the film’s status as a “working-girl investigator” film (to borrow a term from Helen Hanson)[2] and then to an extended comparison with Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak, 1948), where a similar technique is deployed to very different effect.


[1] See Patrick Keating, “A Homeless Ghost: The Moving Camera and Its Analogies,” [in]Transition: A Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies 2, no. 4 (2016),; Patrick Keating, “Motifs of Movement and Modernity,” Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism 7 (2017),; PDF:; and Patrick Keating, “The Strange Streets of a Strange City: The Ambersons Montage,” NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies (Spring 2018),

[2] Helen Hanson, Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film Noir and the Female Gothic Film (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007), 25.