<I>Last Night In Soho</I>: Editor Paul Machliss, ACE
January 20, 2022

Last Night In Soho: Editor Paul Machliss, ACE

Focus Features’ Last Night In Soho is a psychological thriller in which Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer in London, is able to return to the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Eloise holds Sandie up as a role model and inspiration, and as the singer’s career takes off, Eloise is pulled along on the adventure. 

Edgar Wright directed the project, which is based on a story he conceived and a script he co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. He recruited cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung to shoot the project, and once again called on frequent collaborators Paul Machliss, ACE, for the edit, and composer Steven Price for the score. 

Paul Machliss, ACE (pictured), started his career in the UK cutting music documentary films. He originally collaborated with Wright on both series of the cult hit television show Spaced, and went on to cut the BAFTA-winning comedies Black Books, The IT Crowd, Peep Show. More recently, he cut the pilot for the comedy drama series Fleabag. 

For Wright, Machliss has cut the feature films Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, The World’s End and Baby Driver, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. He has also edited The Kid Who Would be King for director Joe Cornish, and is currently cutting The Flash for Warner Bros. and director Andy Muschietti. 
Last Night In Soho was shot on Super 35mm film, while an Arri Alexa was used to capture night exteriors. Machliss used an Avid Media Composer for the edit and was on-set for the shoot. 
“During on-set editing, I was connected to the Q-Take Video Playback system and generated my own media from the files recorded by the Q-Take,” he explains. “Back in editorial, media came from the lab, which created the Avid Media, having telecined the rushes and performed the sound-sync.”

One of his favorite scenes in the film is referred to as the ‘Basement Nightclub’, a scene that was challenging for several reasons.

“This is the scene where Sandie has been coerced by her boyfriend Jack (Matt Smith) to pick-up men at a very sleazy nightclub,” he recalls. “The scene starts with a direct verbal threat from Jack to Sandie, and then we watch as she is propositioned by her first ‘customer’. It then develops into a montage as we watch her being ‘courted’ over successive evenings. 

“Her cynicism grows due to the same pick-up lines being used on her night after night, and this is also reflected in the repeated use of identical camera setups between Sandie and the various men soliciting her. In-between the champagne and the men’s tiresome dialogue, we see her gyrating around the dance floor, her outfits changing on a nightly basis, as well as the lighting becoming increasingly psychedelic and the photography more intense. All this is set to the music of The Walker Brothers’ version of ‘Land of a 1,000 Dances.’”

“Even though the song is mentioned in the script, it was initially described as playing constantly in the background behind the aforementioned action. I thought that given the tempo of the track, it would lend itself to a more precise use between the music and the dialogue, and so I set myself the task of allowing a specific amount of time between the verses and the chorus — looping the bars if necessary — for the repeated shots of the champagne corks popping and the dialogue of the men making their overtures to an increasingly-wary Sandie. 

“This helped produce the feeling of Sandie effectively on a ‘conveyer-belt’ of nightly hustling and the exposed the rigidity of the situation she found herself in. The deliberate repetitiveness of the music, the dialogue, the camera work and the lighting became a wonderful palette whereby I could blend all these elements of sound and picture to produce a truly disorienting effect where – as the viewer – we could be both observer and protagonist.”