A 12.6.23 N.Y. Times piece about the dissolve, a classic but all but abandoned cinematic transition device, was posted a couple of days ago by M.D. Rodrigues. The article mainly focuses on Alexander Payne‘s elegant and artful dissolves in The Holdovers.

“Each dissolve is a dawdling ellipsis,” Rodrigues explains. “Over its course, feelings develop or disperse; life happens or doesn’t. With its slow, valedictory air, a long enough dissolve evokes the momentum of real experience.”

“One thing is going away, another thing is coming in,” Payne has observed. “I can’t explain it, but there’s something poetic and melancholy about it.”

But near the start of Hal Ashby‘s The Last Detail, however, a dissolve is used for comic effect. I chuckle each time I watch it.

Otis Young‘s “Mule”, an in-transit sailor, is ordered to report to the master-at-arms (i.e., top sergeant). “Tell the M.A.A. you couldn’t find me,” Mule tells the lower-ranked messenger. “”He knows where you are,” the seaman replies. “Oh yeah?….when you’re in the Navy, shirtbird, and in transit, nobody knows where the fuck you are so go tell that F.A.A. to go fuck himself, I ain’t goin’ on no shit detail.”

What’s funny is how Ashby starts the slow dissolve before Mule has fully delivered his rant. It begins as Mule says “so tell that F.A.A. to go fuck himself,” as if Ashby is saying to the audience “this isn’t worth your time…he’s just blowing off the usual steam…just another pissed-off sailor…blah blah.”