Daily Dose #17: What Do I Do With My Free Afternoon? (Title Sequence and Opening Scene of Psycho)
Posted 24 July 2017 - 04:04 AM
This is shown by the specific date and time stamp Hitchcock places on the opening scene. (Hitchcock also placed a similar stamp on the opening of "Notorious," which he wrote with Ben Hecht). By showing us the specific date and time of an ordinary, random window through which we view an ordinary and random couple having an ordinary random tryst, Hitchcock reverts to a favorite idea that evil lurks in everyday places among ordinary people. So, at any given date and time, through any given window, in any given town the seeds of crime and evil can be sown. In our particular window, we see the genesis of Marion's theft borne of her desperation to be in a respectable relationship with Sam.
3. Marion is someone who is capable of moral breaches, as seen in her illicit relationship with Sam. Although her affair may be tawdry and a minor lapse in accepted morality of the period, it leads her to a larger crime of theft of a substantial sum of money from someone who has placed trust in her. In her discussion with Sam it is clear she is violating her sister's trust in her by carrying on a sex affair with him and she has violated her boss' trust in her by stealing the money. Marion is untrustworthy and a criminal, no matter how normal she looks on the surface. Criminality is another theme of "Psycho."
Mario is about to run into Norman, who also appears fairly attractive and innocent on the surface, but is capable of horrendous criminality. Their crimes aren't equal, but each is a criminal just the same.
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Posted 24 July 2017 - 03:13 AM
How does the graphic design and the score introduce the main themes of this film?
The moving lines of the graphic along with the strings of the score tell us that what we are about to see is going to be ‘edgy’, nervous. It’s also going to be fast paced and constantly on the move. The actual words presenting the title of the film, the names of the main players, etc., are fragmented, skewed, one might say schizophrenic.
As the titles end, we have three shots of Phoenix, Arizona, and a very specific day, date, and time: “FRIDAY, DECEMBER THE ELEVENTH” and “TWO FORTY-THREE P.M.” What is Hitchcock seeking to establish with such specificity?
We are about to enter a very specific reality. The world of a very specific, mostly ordinary, person at a very specific point in time. This is a person whose day to day reality might not be all that different from your own. At least up until now.
Why do you think Hitchcock elects to enter the hotel room through the semi-closed blinds from the outside?
Once again we, the audience, are being implicated as voyeurs. Much as we were in Rear Window. Someone else will be revealed as a voyeur later in the film, peering at this same woman through a cleverly hidden little peephole.
Since this is the opening scene of Psycho, how does the hotel room scene function as a way to establish Marion Crane as a main character?
Marion is clearly the one in charge here. We are on her turf, and Sam has come here to be with her. Also, Marion tells Sam that they are not going to continue the way they have been going with this relationship. She is the one who is calling the shots here, and Sammy Boy better toe the line. We get the feeling that Sam will soon be heading back to wherever he came from and we will be left behind to share Marion’s reality.
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Posted 24 July 2017 - 02:13 AM
Sam Loomis is yet another example of the Hitchcock male who is content to enjoy a physical relationship with an attractive, unattached female but who is himself marriage shy. Sam's excuse, alimony poverty, allows him to fend off Marion's desire to have him make, literally, an honest woman out of her. Just as Lisa Fremont declares that she is finished with Jeffries, Marion declares an end to her relationship with Sam, but the temptation of $40000 in cash draws her back in, since the infusion of so much cash would strip Sam of his final excuse for not marrying her. In the same way, when Jeffries refuses to make an honest woman out of Lisa, she reverts to crime - burglary of Thorwald's apartment - in an attempt to solve the mystery which has been stealing all of Jeff's attention. Both Lisa and Marion show that they are moral women caught in an immoral dilemma, driven by men whose morality doesn't extend to the way they treat the women who love them.
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Posted 23 July 2017 - 10:11 PM
This week finds us entering Hitchcock's Universal Years. The first film up: Psycho.
We are starting with the film's iconic title design sequence and the very first scene of the film.
Head over to Canvas to watch the clip, and then come back here and discuss.
Here are three topics to get the conversations started:
1. Psycho opens with title design by Saul Bass and music by Bernard Herrmann. This is their third collaboration for Hitchcock, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. How does the graphic design and the score introduce the main themes of this film?
2. As the titles end, we have three shots of Phoenix, Arizona, and a very specific day, date, and time: “FRIDAY, DECEMBER THE ELEVENTH” and “TWO FORTY-THREE P.M.” What is Hitchcock seeking to establish with such specificity? Also, why do you think Hitchcock elects to enter the hotel room through the semi-closed blinds from the outside? Does the meaning of this shot remind of any other Daily Doses (and/or films) we have watched in the 1940s or 1950s?
3. In the remainder of this sequence, we are introduced to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). The scene pushed the boundaries of censorship, especially considering our last Daily Dose for North by Northwest was edited for a line of risqué dialogue. Since this is the opening scene of Psycho, how does the hotel room scene function as a way to establish Marion Crane as a main character? Defend your answer.
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Richard Edwards, PhD
Ball State University
Instructor: TCM Presents: The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock (2017)
Instructor: TCM Presents: Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies (2016)
Instructor: TCM Presents: Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir (2015)
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