efederman

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  1. Both Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock were known to have filmed numerous projects within a circle of chosen actors over time. I find it interesting that they differed so greatly with Orson preferring method actors and Hitchcock favoring non-method actors. At the core, what does this say most about the approach of these two iconic directors?
  2. The opening scene in THE LODGER differs from the opening in FRENZY in several ways. In THE LODGER, the setting is night time and there are quick frantic cuts, lights and screams to indicate the panic of murder that just took place. In FRENZY, the setting is daytime, and the POV shot is a smooth, calm flying above the city, over the water, then close to the water, until we land at a high class gathering of a Senator who is ironically speaking about cleaning up the river. Moments before someone shouts “Look!” and we see the floating naked body of a dead woman face down in the river. The shot of the woman is graphic and would not have been allowed in the same manner during the period LODGER was made. This long shot zooming in on something important is certainly a Hitchcock touch. It reminds me of when we are at the top of the stairs in NOTORIOUS and we ultimately come down the stairs to view the key in Bergman’s hand. We also see this in REAR WINDOW when Lisa reveals that she has the wedding ring on her finger of their murdered neighbor. Being above the city in the beginning of FRENZY for a period of time reminded me of being at not one but ALL of the public places that served as a setting in many Hitchcock films. It is almost as if we could see the train station, the opera house, the apartment buildings, the theater, the hotel lobby all in one shot. He certainly topped him self with an opening public setting and scene here in FRENZY culminating with a speech from a public servant. Finally, the murder at the beginning of a film is something we have seen before; THE LODGER, THE 39 STEPS, ROPE, VERTIGO, SABOTEUR, and even in REAR WINDOW and PSYCHO. I believe the purpose of the opening scene is to create a feeling that this murderer is among us and can be anywhere in the city. Even Hitchcock is in the crowd and the murder being discovered just behind them adds to the fact that this evil is super close to us. As in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, the fact that it is daytime adds to the normalcy which then adds to the horror. If this can happen in broad daylight, amongst this huge crowd WHILE we are honoring the move to clean up this river (and having just been so close in the long zooming opening shot to have been able to feel like we could actually touch the river), then it certainly can happen to any one of us at any given time. Leaving us vulnerable and intrigued at the same time was Hitchcock’s true gift.
  3. True to Hitchcock, the opening scene of MARNIE is true character development created through visuals, playing like a silent film with no dialogue. To me this is most reminiscent of REAR WINDOW where we get a complete look at a character from the start. She is quite clearly changing identities, after taking off with a great deal of money, much like in PSYCHO. Her old suitcase and wardrobe are neutral in color, while her new suitcase is literally bigger, and her clothing is brighter. Her wallet goes from grayish brown, to sparkling gold. The purse is the only exception to this, which changes from a bright yellow to a more subdued color. It is the one thing that ties her previous identity to her new one, with the money being hidden in that very object before the change. As she switches out her old social security card for a pick of her other three identities, we see another hint at PSYCHO; her name is Marion. She nonchalantly picks one from the three new names as if she is used to just changing identities, like this is “normal” for her. She has multiple identities inside and out. The rinsing of the hair dye in the sink is also reminiscent of the blood going down the drain in PSYCHO, and the key “falling” down the grate hints at the lighter that fell into the storm drain in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. The score feels like PSYCHO in the parts where Norman is cleaning up the body and room after murdering Marion. It is sad, contemplative, and reflects danger. Arpeggio-like but slower in tempo, the sound motif repeats as it descends in pitch, driving us deeper and deeper into trouble and melancholy. It is beautiful at the same time so it is effective in building our sympathy for Marnie. Hitch’s cameo is different in this scene from his previous works. Before, we would see him in the background or criss-crossing, or bumping into a character, going in a train, or passing on the street. There is no interaction with the character in MARNIE, although they are in the same hallway. He looks at Marnie as she has passes by so she has no idea that he was even there. It is the first time that Hitchcock looks directly at us into the camera. This is more what I remember from his television show where he would talk directly to the audience to guide them in his shorter stories.
  4. The opening scene to THE BIRDS is more appropriate for a romantic comedy than horror as we are witnessing the chance encounter of Melanie and Mitch, who both seem to be flirting with each other. There is only one ominous sign in the scene- the birds circling around outside before she walks in. The dialogue and deception between Mitch and Melanie all happen at the top or second floor of the pet shop which I find a nice touch that we are set up higher, like birds. The associations between these two and birds move beyond this however, when their playful dialogue includes a sympathy of why birds should not be caged up (like people in society). Melanie states, “Well they can’t just fly around in the shop”, as if they are wanting to to be themselves and let their true guard down. We learn that Melanie can be deceitful (pretending to be a shop worker) and that Mitch is intelligent and on to her game, but also stubborn in the way that he enjoys pointing out her inaccuracies. The sound design of the birds “score” is a constant, never fading through dialogue. Outside there is a lower noise (almost like the adults or the decision makers of the entire species planning their attack) contrasted with the inside bird sounds which are much higher pitched, like children or babies. There the ultimate struggle is subtly presented-who is controlling who? On one hand we have hundreds of birds in these cages in the store, literally outnumbering the customers but the people have the power/control. Outside, we have the people outnumbering the birds, but soon the birds dominate. The opening of THE BIRDS, reminds me of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, first because we see a trolly (or the San Francisco train), but then we are focused on Tippi’ Hedron’s introduction, surprisingly not on the trolley and walking across the street (1st criss cross).When she enters the pet shop, Hitchcock exits- presenting another criss crossing of paths. Then the two identical dogs he is walking are not different from the lovebirds Mitch is seeking, as well as the love he is about to meet in Melanie.
  5. Both the graphic design and the score in the opening credit scene in PSYCHO are bold (even in black and white). There are horizontal gray lines that move quickly across the screen then form a word, sometimes a broken word that comes into view. After a few times, the lines change from horizontal to vertical, then back again. I believe this is showing us the dual personality that encapsulates and haunts Norman and the many directions that takes him. The graphics and music also reflect the rapid nature of the stabbing knife in the various murders we are about to encounter. The music is whirling and has that stabbing pace, and the words are broken or split before coming together. The specific setting of place and time helps us to understand the secretive nature of Marion and Sam. We learn they are sneaking around on their lunch breaks and she says that this is the last time. She states “checking out time is 3:00” and they only care about you “when your time is up” foreshadowing to her time really almost being up. The fact that she didn’t have time to eat also clues us in to the fact that she is nervous or something is truly bothering her. The blinds and the hotel room remind me of the opening scene in SHADOW OF A DOUBT where we see Uncle Charlie for the first time, as we also come through the window. The obvious strong graphic design in the opening of NORTH BY NORTHWEST with Saul Bass, same artist, is similar here as well. Although not specific to this Daily Dose, Hitchcock has murdered characters early in films before; THE LODGER, THE 39 STEPS, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and SABOTEUR come to mind. From the opening clip, we get that Marion Crane is a dangerous but level-headed person who is about to steal more than just lunch hours. She’ll break the rules, but then reflects upon that to ultimately make the right decision. Even though she cheats and steals, we are on her side because she is smart and likable; we relate to her. We must wonder if faced with the same situation, would we take off with the 40K? Would we carry on secret love affairs? Would we skip town to start over?
  6. The greatest sense I get from this famous scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST is sophistication, well-played by superstars of the day; Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. He wears the superstar sunglasses (seen in very few films prior), wears his own clothes, and mentions his face is “recognizable”. She confirms and adds that he also has a “nice face”. The entire scene is really a back and forth between close-ups on these two, so other than what we can read on their faces, we must gather much of our clues from their dialogue (surprising for Hitchcock). This back and forth close up is only interrupted by an even CLOSER look at the matchbook, something which will become extremely important later (back to Hitchcock style to teach us how to visually “read” a scene). Saint is curious as to what R.O.T. stands for but since she knows his first and last name, she inquires only about the “O”. His reply that it stands for “nothing”, really indicates that there is deceit somewhere here, but we are not sure if it is him or her who is withholding or desperately trying to discover information about the other (spy double chase). Are we really to believe that his important “trademark” stands for nothing? I enjoy how one of the icebreakers in this scene is Grant saying “Well, here we are again”. A playful hint at the joke that we are once again in a Hitchcock film, intimately with strangers, and well, on a train. Not to mention, Grant also having been in a previous Hitchcock film (NOTORIOUS) hints again at his personal life merging with this character. The music is subtle here which adds to the sophisticated nature of the setting. These two are well dressed and in high style, and the dining room echoes that of high society. We are in first class, contrasted with the dull and drab outside scenes of really openness and nothingness. We are close together, having dinner with these two, and I believe I can hear the normal but subdued, sounds of silverware and plate clanking. Today is also my birthday! I'm inspired to hop on a train somewhere.........
  7. The feeling I get from the opening scene in VERTIGO, is both a combination of hypnotism and falling. Even though the fall itself feels long, slow and peaceful (as if we are traveling to another space and time), there is an element of danger. The shocked look in the close-up of the eye let’s us know something is threatening. The fact that we as the audience cannot see what is frightening her increases the suspense. There is also the sense of danger as the first spinning object we see looks a bit like a stretched fingerprint of sorts. The long spinning opening here reminds me of the opening scene in REBECCA where we are walking down a long dark driveway. They both feel to me like we are going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The sound assists this hypnotic feel in that there are many repeating arpeggios (giving a slow circling effect). The fact that the music is in an augmented key offers the sound of forward danger. Finally the rapid trills speeds up this circling effect creating the sense of dizziness. The sound also goes from slow to fast, and from soft to loud, then soft again, so tempo, pacing and volume all contribute to this dizzying effect. The most powerful image to me is the eye, shot in close-up with the red filter. We get a glimpse of Judy’s beauty here and it is the only view of any real character in this opening sequence. All else is abstract graphics which is less threatening. The red symbolizes danger (blood) and the sudden shocked look on her eye also contributes to this sense of danger. The close-up of the eye functions as the port at which we fall into the hypnotic and surreal imagery. Not to mention the obvious foreshadowing to the close up eye shot in PSYCHO.
  8. The opening shot of REAR WINDOW establishes the setting and most of the players for the entire movie. As the camera pans around, we are curious to take it all in. We are tempted to look in the windows, and also through that narrow alley that leads out to the street. The sounds are so true and believable as we hear the cars and trucks, and even trains from a distance. We then are looking straight in Jeffries’ apartment while he is completely unaware. We are doing to him exactly what he will do for the rest of the film; spy on people. The look through his apartment tells us a great deal about him; the fact that he is injured, he lives alone, has many books and photographs, he has an expensive camera (along with the many photos, negatives, magazines, and the camera box, all tell us his line of work as a professional photographer). I feel more like a detective here than a voyeur as we are innocent in our gathering of clues. True to Hitchcock’s style, he “tells” us all of these things only through visual images; he is teaching us and training us how to look, as we will need to for this film. As an art teacher, one of the many things I try to train my students to do is exactly this; learn how to look. I so appreciate Hitchcock’s artistic background in this film and I think these artistic touches are best utilized in REAR WINDOW than any other Hitchcock film. For this reason, and for pulling off the successful and amazing feat in the set design, I must agree that this is Hitchcock’s most cinematic movie. I also agree with Professor Edwards that REAR WINDOW is a forward-looking glimpse at intimate relationships which has stood the test of time. The complexities of all of these relationships are juxtaposed and balanced with the use of a single set, (and viewed mostly through a single camera lens). I can't help but feel this goes back not only to several former works of his, as mentioned in class, ROPE, DIAL M FOR MURDER, and LIFEBOAT, but it also goes back further to early days of filming in Hollywood in general (even possibly going back to theatrical roots). Movies like THE PETRIFIED FOREST, or GRAND HOTEL have basically a single setting with a myriad of sub characters and stories, sometimes colliding and moving along the plot.
  9. The criss-crossing in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN can be seen first visually in the opposing direction the two main characters' walk. We only see their feet at this point so I will say that the white shoes (Bruno) always walks to the left (both outside AND inside the train), while the black shoes (Guy) only walks to the right. We must deduce that they will eventually meet or bump into each other. The criss-crossing can also be seen in the train tracks as we focus on the two main paths that cross, then separate. The POV camera shot let's us see the train as a character that picks the path to the right, showing three or four more criss-crossing tracks below. As we go over them, we feel the sense of the upcoming conflicts. Inside the train, I personally love the literal point of showing the crossing of both Bruno's, then Guy's legs as each man sits down. This of course leads to their feet bumping into each other and ultimately, their unintentional and misfortunate connection. The element of contrast is throughout this film as well. First the obvious white and expensive shoes lets us know that Bruno is wealthy, in contrast with Guy’s shoes which are black, and average. Same basic idea with their luggage. There’s a bit of a twist here as well when we will learn that it is Guy who is famous, and Bruno who is a loser loner. When Bruno says to Guy, “I admire people who do things”, we must wonder if Bruno does anything at all. Another contrast is that Bruno impulsively talks while Guy just wants to dig into his book. Bruno is forceful in invading Guy's space as he comes closer, creepily revealing he has to wear this tie clip because of his mother, then stating he doesn't talk much. Guy just nervously laughs and dives his nose into his book. The music is grandiose in the beginning, similar to the setting here and the shots of this great train station in the heart of America’s capitol. The music moves to more a frolicking pace when the camera is on Bruno’s shoes, and more an industrial rhythm when showing Guy. Then the music goes to a steady walking pacing rhythm, indicating they are both in sync. with each other a bit here, hinting at their upcoming meeting.
  10. Daily Dose #12 - Notorious Hitchcock touches that are in this scene from NOTORIOUS include the spiraling camera work where we see Grant ultimately upside down, the close up of Ingrid’s face, and the record player conversation as a sort of flashback (giving us information on plot). Devlin is first shown to us in dark shadows, and with the dizziness of the spiraling shot on him, we are clued in that he is complex and we are not sure if we can trust him completely. He is very poised, calm and well-dressed and continues to retain he upper hand, ultimately with the information he has on her. Bergman, on the other hand is a mess; disheveled and still in bed, wearing clothes from the night before, her hair literally falling apart, and she is wrought with a hangover. Her black and white dress also shows us her dual side and we are also unsure if she can be trusted. By the end of the scene, however, we know, as they both are equally facing the camera and now on the same side. The casting of Grant and Bergman is a success as they are both captivating visually on screen and they are both very skilled at the art of acting. They are believable in these roles and the movie would not hold the same tension if they were not. Cary pulls off *flippant* seamlessly (an integral part of Devlin’s nature) and Bergman is great at looking personally tortured while also maintaining her composure (a necessary trait for Alicia).
  11. The opening to MR. AND MRS. SMITH does contain a few elements of the Hitchcock touch, which includes a first person POV shot as well as a tracking shot as we comb over the monumental remnants of former meals, dish after dish in their room that were never cleaned up- or even brought to the kitchen. Like in REBECCA where the narration speaks about never wanting to return to Manderley hinting that something of great importance has happened, here we are back to Hitchcock's visual portrayal of sorts. The music, cuckoo or playful in tone however, sets us up to know that we are not talking about a murder (typical Hitchcock) but of something much less threatening. We learn that the characters are struggling to function and communicate with each other. They both are lazy; she still in bed though obviously awake and he not even taking the time to walk around the couch (twice). He whines when he is asked to sign a work document in pen rather than pencil even after his coworker screams that he could lose his upcoming license over this. They are served meals up in their room indicating they are wealthy, and they resort to little tricks in order to effectively communicate. She peeks through an open eye when the doorbell rings, and when he closes the door hiding, she pops out of bed revealing she has been awake the entire time. I believe the chemistry between Lombard and Montgomery is solid. Their comedic timing is seamless and when they embrace, it is quite believable on screen.
  12. The opening of SHADOW OF A DOUBT first and foremost reminds me of M as we see a number of young children playing unaware of the looming danger above. Hitchcock pans up to the window which appears empty and lonely (much like the windows in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks) in differing odd-angle shots. When we finally see Charlie (my dad’s name just happens to be Charles Spencer! ha), we know immediately he lives perilously and is possibly suicidal. He has money thrown around the room and doesn’t even flinch when the landlord begins to handle it. Like THE KILLERS, he is lying very solemnly in bed, speaking in an almost indiscernible, comatose voice. Unlike THE KILLERS, however, it is day time and Charlie is dressed to the hilt. We are clued-in to the fact that he is dangerous because he is smoking a cigar in bed and day drinking. We instantly see that he is bi-polar when he awakes from this virtual coma and violently throws his glass to the ground, shattering it. It is only when he sees the kids playing below that he is reminded of his sister and her kids, his future prey. This opening scene is reminiscent of film noir in that we have a flashback scene (a front-loaded glimpse into Charlie), expressive use of light and shadow, and an urban setting full of desperation and fatalism. The score enhances the subjective mood of the opening scene, changing gears throughout the changing moods and reflecting the inner mind of Charlie. In fact Charlie doesn’t speak much at all so we get most of this character’s essence through the music. The loud music fits the loud kids playing, the subdued music begins as we enter the quiet room, the short measure of the circus-like music occurring just as we suddenly see the change from desperate Charlie to one of renewed hope in his clever idea of moving on to his next victim- his young niece and nephew, to finally the pounding footsteps in his abandoning this urban setting.
  13. The opening to REBECCA differs a great deal from Hitchcock’s previous films, so much so that it is difficult to find the Hitchcock touch. Instead of a public place, we have a private residence. Instead of flashing lights and fast paced action, we feel like we are slowly going down a dark abandoned rabbit hole. The only thing that seems reminiscent of Hitchcock is the line where the second Mrs. Dewinter states that she could never go back. This tells us immediately that something major has happened here. This is much like the early murder scenario in beginnings of THE LODGER and THE 39 STEPS. It is interesting though that this is said in dialogue in REBECCA rather than shown visually, Hitchcock’s preferred method of story telling. Also the first person POV shot is reminiscent of the opening scene in THE LADY VANISHES. The decrepit mansion acts as a third character in that it is quite present and foreboding; it has a spirit. It keeps us out then drags us in. First we are locked out by the gate, then we are taken through a very dark, long and windy pathway. When we finally come to a stop, there is a petrified and clutching dark tree in the foreground telling us this place has it’s claws in us. As stated above, the affect of the story telling flashback gives us several clues upfront. First that something dire occurred in the house. The fact that the second Mrs. DeWinter is narrating, makes her the survivor. Once again, I see hints of film noir throughout, and I'm wondering if film noir would have even have existed if not for Hitchcock.
  14. Hitchcock opens THE LADY VANISHES with a myriad of images and sound. I love how the very first glimpse of this film is a first person pov. We enter room as we enter the movie. The introduction of characters begins with the older lady who is sweet and calm and appears happy to be traveling somewhere. The score that accompanies this part is also happy, flute-like- child-like. It reminds me of Disney’s score in Pinnochio. As soon as she exits, we see two characters, Caldicott and Charters, who are about to tell us a great deal of background and tone with their body language and side-gossip conversations. Just as they close the door following the lady’s exit (as to not let in the cold) chaos suddenly erupts. Two minor characters, possibly pursers, burst in carrying loads and loads of luggage. The sound is loud and chaotic. They are arguing about something and just then the cuckoo clock goes off with a repeated annoying sound (like the horn of a car alarm). We are about to learn that the train will be postponed due to an avalanche and the innkeeper almost insights the crowd, announcing they better get on with their hotel reservations or else. Then the three ladies walk in leisurely looking calm and confident in the situation as they have “ins” with the innkeeper and appear to be ongoing VIP-ers. I find it interesting that we first have a single character (the older lady) introduced, then two (Caldicott and Charters), then the three ladies. I noticed the ladies are the only ones in the room not wearing hats just as Caldicott and Charters presume that these three women are “American”. Caldicott and Charters are both out of place and also essentially placed in the scene. They are not only totally dissed as the hotel owner brisks past them to greet the three lovely young women, it is hinted that they are homosexual, which was not commonly socially accepted at that time. They function, however, as a bridge to all three separate introductions of characters. As mentioned before, we are initially placed as 1st person in the first shot so it feels as if we are not only in the train station with these people, but we also might be about to board this train as well. As we witness Iris’s (the star’s) entrance, she mentions to the innkeeper about their previous encounter about a week ago. We know they know each other. She corrects him in his annunciation of “avalanche” so she appears to be the more intelligent of the two and has the upper-hand. She not only gets the most sought-after-room, she also expects casually that supper will be brought up to them. Most important, however, is that the fact that she is leading the way up the stairs. She not only knows the way to the room without help, but her dominance is expressed with her placement at the “top”, even above the owner.
  15. The opening scene in THE 39 STEPS is like previous Hitchcock films in that we see fragments or parts of things that give us clues to the character or plot. For example, we see the flashing show lights in THE LODGER that say “To-night Golden Curls” and here we see a pan of very similar show lights that say “Musical”. It is also like THE PLEASURE GARDEN in that the setting is a music -type performance-based hall, complete with a crowd of people focusing on an entertainer of sorts. What is absent here is a blonde female character, and an obvious threat. There is chaos in sound however; people talking over each other, interrupting and heckling Mr. Memory and vice versa, and even each other. It is clear there is not a great deal of respect for Mr. Memory as he seems to have failed in building a rapport with his audience. Compared with other Hitchcock films, I agree with Rothman’s assessment that Hannay is confident, happy, normal and in control of himself reflecting a more innocent character from the start. He remains calm and smiling even through the repeated interruption of his comment/participation. It is only in the first few seconds before we see his face that he is a bit mysterious, with varying points of view (low/high angle shots) and partial views of him from behind. Hitchcock is taking his time a bit more in introducing the character which builds intrigue, enticing us to want to take a closer look at him. Elements described by Phillips as the Hitchcock touch that are seen here are the ordinary characters in a public setting, and this normalcy element makes the film relatable.

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