TonyZao

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About TonyZao

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  1. My ideal combination would be something like Hitchcock as director, Tarantino as screenwriter, DiCaprio and Liam Neeson starring and Morricone composing the score. That would be a fitting dream team!
  2. One thing I've always liked about classic Hollywood films is the way the protagonists are flirting with each other. It's subtle, classy, elegant, flirting is turned into an art, something you don't see much in modern films, because there is no censorship and everything can be said or shown. In this scene, the actors are talking about something primate and vulgar such as sex, yet they're doing this in a way you could believe they're talking about a work of art. Grant was an expert in such scenes for decades, Saint was not so experienced, but here she is at least his equal. Hitchcock always liked trademark items, like the letter R in Rebecca or Guy's cigarette case in Strangers on a Train. His films are frequently cases of dubious or mistaken identities, so these items, such as the R.O.T. matchbook here help us connect the name with the person. As for the "O stands for nothing" line, I believe it's directed to his not-so-favorite producer David O. Selznick (the "O" in his name really stood for nothing, he just made it up). The background music in this scene is typical for a romantic one, and not typical of Hitchcock. However, the other background sounds, arguably connected with the moving train, are there to remind us we're still in the thrilling Hitchcock universe, given his known preference for using trains in his films.
  3. Although I've always found Vertigo a bit too creepy and complicated for my taste, I have to admit that it's Hitchcock's most trademark film, along with Psycho. Even the opening credits are disturbing and add to the mood of the film. I'm a computer engineering student myself and I've studied Lissajous figures quite a bit, and I never imagined they could be used in such a subjective way to create distorting, formalistic images, and even dizziness. By watching this brilliant opening sequence, you know that what's gonna follow is not ordinary, and is probably going to play with your mind, even make you feel uneasy. It's difficult to pick a single image as the most powerful, but if I had to I'd pick the last one, the human eye with this disturbing spiral figure in its center. Even the colors are disturbing in this one, and the way this figure is moving and the eye blinks is almost frightening. Bernand Hermann's one of the most brilliant film composers of all time. His score there is perfect for the kind of film Vertigo is and is beautifully combined with the title sequence. Just like in Psycho two years later, and even later thrillers such as Jaws (another genius, John Williams, composed this one), it's a score fit for a thriller; disturbing, high-toned, it makes you feel you're gonna have a tremendous, terrifying expierence for the next two hours or so.
  4. The opening scene isn't a Jeff's POV shot, yet the camera moves in an entirely voyeuristic way. It quickly shows us the entire field of action of the film, the apartments Jeff is able to look at through his camera and, finally, his own. Hitchcock gives us a taste of the claustrophobic, voyeuristic style of the entire film and wants to make us feel a guilty pleasure that we're watching all these people in their private lives. Jeff is shown sweating, visibly dissatisfied with the fact he's unable to move because of his broken leg. The words written on his bandage is another display of Hitchcock's black humor. Afterwards, the camera moves to his apartment showing many photographs of important events, in order to let us know his profession, as well as fashion magazines. The first image we take of Jeff is one of a restless, adventurous man who is really bored to death because of his accident and tries to find a pastime fit to him. Apart from the guilty pleasure I've already mentioned, the real feeling of watching a film comes to the mind in this scene. After all, when we're watching a film we are bound to our seats watching a story in which we have no part, and penetrating through the thoughts and feelings of the men involved. The way the camera moves through the apartment is disturbing and emphasizes these unique feeling. I'm not sure if Rear Window is the most cinematic Hitchcock film, but it's certainly a strong candidate. It takes film back to its roots and meaning as "moving pictures", and this film is probably closer to the fundamental principles of "moving pictures" than anything else he's done.
  5. I really love Strangers on a Train, and the main reason is this whole criss-cross idea with the switching murders that captures your attention from the beginning (even Danny DeVito tried to imitate it!). Hitchcock uses the railroad tracks to show us two different paths that cross that each other, and then the two characters; their shoes, their equipment, their clothing, but not their faces until later. He uses time and coincidence, two seemingly ordinary people, strangers to each other, who just happened to catch the same train and sit opposite each other. Once more, Hitch tries to say that what's gonna happen could easily happen to anyone of us. Guy and Bruno appear like two ordinary people at the beginning, but they still seem different. Bruno's clothes are more fancy, his way of talking more refined, his attitude more social. Guy, although he's the one who's famous, is more of an everyday guy who looks after only his own business. Personally, I think that the casting of Robert Walker and Farley Granger (a guy who usually played innocent-looking characters getting into a lot of trouble in a blink of an eye) in the respective roles is just perfect. Dimitri Tiomkin wrote many excellent film scores in classic Hollywood, and this is one of his best. This score can be easily connected with film noir; it creates an intense, disturbing mood and atmosphere and sets the pace for the huge suspense that's gonna follow.
  6. I absolutely love Notorious from every angle. Hitchcock is masterful from the first scene to the last one. In this scene, the subjective, expressionist, shadowy POV shot of Cary Grant entering the scene is one of his very best, and a proof that he was more handy with B&W filming than color. This time, the scene is dark-toned and the atmosphere is heavy, introducing us to two characters who are gonna be the heroes in the picture, but are not saints by a long way (typical noir). I personally believe that Notorious is as close as Hitchcock ever got with film noir theme and scenery. The camera is moving constantly, once even making a 180 degrees rotation on Cary Grant. Grant's characters appears colder, more formal and slightly sinister, while Bergman, whose POV shots is combined with disturbing close-ups of her face, is more hot-blooded and disillusioned. Grant is formally and impeccably dressed, Bergman is certainly not, but she's still incredibly attractive, No Hitchcock film, in my opinion, had better casting than Notorious. Two gorgeous and tremendously versatile film stars, with great chemistry with each other and with Hitch, portraying complicated characters with star power and acting depth (perhaps the best performances of their respective careers). Both actors were known for playing heroes, nobody couldn't see them as villains but, in this film, Grant is almost villainous (despite being on the "good guys" side), while Bergman is not the "good girl" she usually was, but maybe as close to a femme fatale as she ever got.
  7. Hitchcock opens the film showing us a perfectly married couple, in an idyllic, almost unreal situation. They're in love, they're rich, they don't care about anything. In typical Hitchcock fashion, it appears that nothing can go wrong for the characters displayed in this scene, except everything does in the rest of the picture. One could say that the "ordinary guys in extraordinary situations" doctrine appears in this film, too, with the difference that this time the ordinary guys (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) are largely to blame for being driven into their troubles. Hitch shows us a panoramic view of the room where the couple shares their love, the luxury, the comforts, the calmness. Nothing shadowy or sinister here. Mr. and Mrs. Smith is not a typical Hitchcock film but it features some Hitchcock touches, and that's the case in this scene. Although the film opens in a **** and not in a public place like most openings we've seen, the light-hearted atmosphere and characters are similar. I personally don't like the film very much because of the main characters. Even for a typically bitter and dark-humored screwball comedy, Mr. Smith is too dumb for my taste and Mrs. Smith is too sinister. However, nobody can blame Montgomery and Lombard about this, they are both great and the chemistry between them is obvious throughout the film. As much as I didn't like their characters, it was enjoyable to watch them together and I believe everyone should watch the film once just out of curiosity.
  8. Hitchcock's contribution to film noir was immense but largely ignored. I think that the main reason Hitch is not considered an important noir director is because his films were so unique that trying to fit them into a particular style or film movement is irrelevant. Uncle Charlie could be compared with many noir characters in this opening scene. He seems calm, not disturbed by the fact two unknown men are looking for him, nor by the large amount of money in his room, he's nonchalant, calculative, and lacking any sentiment. If he feels fear or anything else, it's well hidden. That's his attitude throughout the whole film; he doesn't care about anyone, he doesn't respect anyone he looks only after himself and his well-being. Lighting, shadows, the setting and dialogue from this opening scene remind me of film noir style. The first lines are practically the same with the ones in The Killers. However, Uncle Charlie isn't like the Swede, he's not giving up and he has an air of invincibility ("they've got nothing on me", he says to himself). Music frequently helped Hitchcock as a precursor to the most suspensful moments in his films as well as setting the mood and the tone for the audience. In this opening scene music is almost disturbing, in typical noir style, because what we're watching is disturbing, too. So, what we hear emphasize what we see, and the viewer uses more of their senses than just vision.
  9. Hollywood's influence is obvious in this opening scene. Hitchcock very rarely used flashbacks in Britain, yet he begins his career in the US with one. In the UK, Hitchcock's films typically opened in packed public places with light-hearted dialogue. In this one, there is no humor or levity, the first character, bar the voiceover, appears two and a half minutes into the film and the locations are remote and somewhat scary. Rebecca is not only the first American film for Hitchcock, but also one that is not the most characteristic of his style. However, the "Hitchcock touch" is there, with the disturbing shots, the subjective flashback and, more than anything else, the long shot with the cliff and then Olivier's appearance. This shot is, in my point of view, one of the most terrifying and breathtaking in Hitchcock's career. Secondary characters are very important in Rebecca (Mrs. Danvers, Jack Favell, even Mrs. Van Hopper at the beginning), but Hitchcock manages to make a character of both the unseen Rebecca and the house itself. Joan Fontaine's narration and description of Manderley is more fit for something with a soul and powers of its own rather than just a building. Hitchcock's shots and camera movements through the mansion make us correctly guess than the place itself with play a part when the plot unfolds.
  10. Hitchcock's favorite opening scenes were arguably these international public places. In The Lady Vanishes, the setting, the folklore Central European music, the smiling hotel manager who speaks in all languages, the characters coming from every corner of the world, are contributing to a playful, light-hearted tone. Once again, nothing is there that can make us believe this film is a crime thriller. Charters and Caldicott are somewhat the typical Englishmen of the 30's, obsessed with cricket, with a characteristic accent and way of talking, and friendly towards other nations. They add even more levity to the whole scene, as well as some "British-ness" with which the British audience of the time could identify. I always like to compare their appearance here with their next one, in Night Train to Munich, another thriller also starring Margaret Lockwood, made just after UK declared war to the Nazis. Thus, Charters and Caldicott, initially minding only their own business, suddenly become staunch, active patriots, and this shift perfectly reflect the UK's shift of international policy from appeasement to open war. As he did in The 39 Steps, Hitchcock has the way of introducing his star even in this international set full of different characters. Lockwood bosses the scene the same way she bosses both her companions and the hotel manager. The polished way she talks and walks, the way the camera moves towards her and gives her most of the frame, everything expresses her dominance. Her performance as a bratty socialite turned into an amateur sleuth is just amazing, and I think it's the best ever in a Hithcock film by a brunette.
  11. Hitchcock had developed a habit of starting his films in public places, with pleasurable atmosphere and much of levity by his very early days. Once more, we see a bunch of ordinary people, including the one who's gonna be the reluctant hero of our story, entertaining themselves. This time, however, nothing seems to be disturbing or precursing a crime or a manhunt, and by this scene alone you couldn't guess this film's gonna be a spy thriller with crime, suspense and manhunt. Another deviation was the fact that this time Hitch wants us to identify with one character by the very opening scene. Although Robert Donat's character doesn't do much to distinguish himself from the rest of the audience, the way the camera moves to him gives us a hint that he's more important than the others; not as a man, but to the plot that's gonna unfold. That's exactly Hitchcock's touch, an ordinary man, who could easily be you or me, who is practically randomly picked to become first a target and finally a hero. I believe suspense is higher in this kind of films because the viewer realize it could be them in the hero's place and identify with them. In this light, it's only natural that Hitchcock preferred public places packed with crowd as his scenery for much of the action. My favorite scene of this kind is the auction from North by Northwest, his trademark innocent-man-on-the-run film. In the opening scene from The 39 Steps, Hitchcock's touch is there: the ordinary hero in an ordinary setting, before everything turns to chaos and, of course, the Memory Man, one of his greatest Macguffins of all time.
  12. What I like about Hitchcock's late British films compared to the famous American ones (although I generally prefer the latter) is their simplicity and the levity of the scripts. The two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much pose the perfect example. In this version, I think that this opening scene makes us anticipate that characters will be more important than the plot, as it shows us nothing really interesting in terms of events, but introduces us to colorful characters. Peter Lorre's character looks really cool in this opening scene. A humorous, seemingly well-natured foreigner who has no trouble to strike up a casual conversation after a near-accident. When I watched the film I was suspicious of him only because I have often seem similar characters portrayed by Lorre and turning out purely sinister, otherwise he doesn't reveal anything that would make you anticipate he's a villain. Lorre was the perfect guy to play such characters and I wish he had worked more with Hitchcock in his career. This opening scene is similar to that of The Pleasure Garden because they're both light-hearted but make you suspicious something more serious is gonna happen. I can't find many similarities with The Lodger, when a crime has already happened. Hitch's style by 1934 was much different than the one of his silent days, although he never forgot his roots, and The Man Who Knew Too Much is perhaps the most important film in his career, as it paved the way for most of his later famous films in both sides of the Atlantic.
  13. Hitchcock is known for his audacious experimentation in his films, but, in my opinion, nothing tops Blackmail. The most important invention in film history, sound, appears for the very first time in the whole Europe in his hands, in a film that was made to be silent, yet still he manages to innovate and use it to achieve his targets. Hitchcock knew that, when people have something in their minds, everything they see and hear appears to be somehow connected with this, and reason starts to fail. With this in mind, we can understand Anny Ondra's reaction when she repeatedly hears the word "knife", and, generally, anything that has to do with the murder she's thinking about. It's amazing that Hitchcock managed to use sound to give a POV of the main character to the viewer in his very first sound film. Typical for Hitchcock, the scene becomes increasingly disturbing until the climax (Alice throwing the knife away). At the beginning, she just happens to hear a woman talking about the murder, then starts to only listen to what she has to say about the murder weapon -a knife- ignoring everything else she says. Finally, her hearing of the word "knife" becomes distorted and, combined with the fact she had to use a knife to cut the bread, she panics and throws it away. I believe that images and shots are much more simple to use subjectively than sound and dialogue, because there's much more room for editing and it's easier for the audience to identify with what they're watching rather with what they're hearing.
  14. Once more, Hitch uses a technique, this time POV shots, to subvert the normal objectivity of watching the film and make us identify with the character whose POV we are watching. Everything is about looks here, the angry look of the girl, the even more angry one of the headmaster, the terrified one of the innocent but framed character played by Novello and the guilty but pleased one of his classmate. Hitchcock wants us to understand the characters just be looking at them and getting into their shoes, without showing much. I personally think that one of the reasons he experimented with POV was the fact that films back then were silent, so he couldn't use words and dialogues to bring us closer to the set-up and the characters, only looks and expressions. As it was the case with many of his techniques we have seen this week, such as the rapid cuts and meticulous montage, he probably tried to eliminate the handicap of silent films with them, yet they were very successful and trademark of his in his sound career as well.
  15. The Ring is certainly not your typical Hitchcock film, yet his flirting with German expressionist ideas and the importance of montage and film editing dominates the film, and it continued to influence his way of filmmaking throughout his career. Rapid cuts, very different from one another and somewhat disturbing to the audience, are used again by Hitch to create a subjective atmosphere. Also contributing are some distorting stills that resemble a painting rather than a film scene, and the constant change of pace from fast to slow and vice versa. Hitchcock uses this disturbing effect to make us identify with the main character, a boxer who's afraid he'll lose his wife to the champion, and comes to believe that the way to win her is to become the champion himself. A couple of close-ups to his face and his expressions emphasize this jealousy and ambition that has overcome him and, combined with the fast-paced but disturbing dance sequence are used to make us be closer to one character rather than objective viewers. Hitchcock sets the stage perfectly to emphasize the rivalry between the two boxers, who are ready to fight not only for the championship but for a woman as well. Throughout this whole sequence we are watching them willing to escalate this rivalry and ready to take action against each other.

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