Frame Style Blog Post: The Blues Brothers

The sequence preceding the beginning of the mall chase from The Blues Brothers displays a wide shot of a dimly lit parking lot at night, the titular brothers driving to escape the cop cars pursuing them through winding lanes of occupied parking spaces, which then cuts to a close-up exchange from Jake to Elwood to get them out of said lot, dimly lit on both sides of the face with heavy shadow in the center. Elwood then proclaims he will get them out. We have a set-up of a tense situation, the intensity increased by the close-ups seeming to place us in the car with the brothers.

We suddenly cut to a close-up, shot-reverse shot exchange between a cashier and customer about the quantity of a certain plush toy, a seemingly illogical disruption of the action.

The very next second, a wide shot displays the Bluesmobile crashing through the store wall and shelves, rapid car-level close-ups spliced in as the Bluesmobile speeds into the mall. The same is done for the police cars following in pursuit. The swell of horns come on as the film hits us with a burst of energy.

From here, a few patterns of action and framing are employed here. The general space of cars in motion is established by wide shots, and tighter shots of car passes and crashes into various merchandise and windows are spliced in, sometimes with shaky cam when the action is especially close. Some of the most pronounced destruction is also accompanied by swells in the horn section of the music. The building destruction and prominent horn track in these close-up frames adds a sense of chaos when juxtaposed with the level, observational angles of the movement of cars in space, making it seem real. The key lighting of the drivers and extras in this scene as well as the displaying of real-life store names like Pier 1 Imports and Toys ‘R’ Us also adds a sense of realism to the situation.

Spliced in are close-ups inside or outside the front seats of the cars, depicting the drivers. The shots of Jake and Elwood carry some conversational commentary about the mall displays as they rush by, clashing against the action for a sense of humor. Other shots of this kind, such as the upside-down view of a police car driver overturned in the chase, a camera resting on the hood of a police car tracking another, and the shots from within the driver’s seats appear to grant us a “front-row seat,” treating us as part of the chase and bringing us closer to the action.

This chaos continues until a police car crashes to a halt into a store shelf, pedestrians run across the camera, one running straight into it, and we then cut to a wide shot of the doors of a JCPenny, the Bluesmobile crashing through the glass doors as the horns swell and the music ends with a flourish. The Bluesmobile drives off, as this draws the chase to a close, the soundtrack turning quiet, allowing the aftermath and the audience to breath.

– Collin Gaddie