drmichaelbowman

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  1. Unlike the other scenes we’ve watched so far, there were no crowds of people. Instead, instead of people, we see “crowds of landscape” before isolating on one house.The music is not as eerie as the accompanying visual suggest. In some parts, it’s almost whimsical. It provides quite a contrast for the menacing music as Laurence Oliver is perched on the cliff above the ocean. One touch I noticed is the use of sound as the female character yells “stop” during the closeup of the man approaching the edge of the cliff. It’s reminiscent of last week’s film where the train whistle replaced the woman’s scream. I can’t help but thinking about the opening scene in Citizen Kane after watching the opening scene. The Manderly house is reminiscent of Xanadu in Kane. In the Hitchcock film, like Welles’ Kane, the house seems to be representative of some type of decline that has befallen those who live in the home. The narration provides some type of haunting vision of things that were once good but now and depressing.
  2. After watching this clip several times, I am struck by these things. The scene is like watching a stage play. The music, the character interaction, blocking, movement, etc. reminded of a stage play instead of a movie set. Additionally, the movement of everyone at the beginning of the scene looked more like choreography and moving in rhythm to the music. It was almost like watching a ballet or synchronized swimming.
  3. 1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? Again, Hitchcock utilizes crowds of people before isolating one or two characters in the film. I think this is especially significant for the 39 Steps because the main character appears to be an ordinary person without any connections to sinister activities. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? It seems like the other characters in the clips we've watched up to this point had a secret, or was involved in a nefarious activity. Donat seems like a regular guy who just stopped into a music hall for a night of harmless entertainment, unsuspecting of the misdeeds that are about to take place. 3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? This scene is reminiscent of the Pleasure Garden clip. In both cases, the audience and performers are engaged with each other. The enjoyable interaction between entertainers and audiences seems to serve as a contrast between action that occurs later in the film that is more sinister.
  4. 1. Based on these opening scene, what do you anticipate is going to be more important in this film--the characters or the plot? (It is fine to make an informed guess about the 2nd question if you haven't seen the film yet). It is difficult to separate the characters from the plot. I think Lorre’s character is so strong and critical to the plot that it is difficult to separate them both. However, if I had to choose, I would have to say the character is the most important in this film. Based on what we’ve learned so far in this module and Lorre’s performance in his early films, it appears that Lorre will be the focal point in this film. 2. What do you learn about Abbott (Peter Lorre) in his brief scene? How might this introduction affect your view of the character Abbott later in the film? In that one brief interaction between Lorre and the man in the jersey, it appears that Lorre has something to hide. Perhaps, he’s not the jovial person he appears to be while brushing the snow from his coat. Perhaps the man in the jersey will be the target of Lorre later in the film. Something is going on behind Lorre’s smile. 3. We saw two opening scenes from Hitchcock's silent films in the Daily Doses last week (The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger). How is this opening both similar and different from those two films' opening scenes. Each scene involves large crowds before finally isolating on a few main characters. Additionally, there is an event that occurs in each scene that proves to be consequential later in the film.
  5. 1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific. To me, the significant use of sound (or lack of sound) is when Alice enters the phone booth. When the phone booth door shuts, there is complete silence. It’s just Alice and her thoughts. It appears that Alice has to make a decision that involves the police. As Alice leaves the booth, the sound returns, focuses on the droning voice of the customer that ultimately represents Alice’s subconscious about the killing involving a knife. 2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. The customer’s voice basically becomes the soundtrack to Alice’s subconscious. It’s as if Alice is considering using the knife as weapon for a crime. Repeated use of the word “knife” reinforces her decision as she holds it in an aggressive manner. As the customer’s voice shouts “KNIFE,” Alice is startled back to reality, throwing the potential weapon aside. 3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? Many young filmmakers I work with are obsessed with the “visual.” At this stage in their development they don’t understand how sound augments stories in a way visuals cannot.
  6. 1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene? Each dolly shot heightens the anticipation for the audience. Something is about to happen, but what? The scene where the two boys approach the older man, the viewer believes there is about to be some sort of confrontation. When the girl approaches the two boys, the viewer believes there is going to be another confrontation. 2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? As mentioned above, the POV shot heightens the tension visually without the benefit of words. As Hitchcock alluded to in today’s video, it’s better to show someone cry instead of having them say “I’m sad.” As the character approach each other with the POV dolly/tracking shot, the scene is speaking volumes without the use of words. 3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples. First, I noticed that Hitchcock likes to use close-ups, allow the face to express various emotions. Next, I noticed the framing and composition of shots, using doorways, mirrors, and even people to isolate parts of the scene that are important to the story.
  7. I like the way Hitchcock isolates the characters by framing them within a mirror. This not only requires the audience to focus on the characters contained within the mirror but it indicates that the rival has become fixated on the action contained in the mirror despite the frenetic activity that is taking place within the rest of the room. By isolating on the man and woman in the chair, the rival becomes distorted in his thinking (as indicated by the elongated piano keys), until he reaches a fever pitch.
  8. 1. Compare the opening of The Lodger to the opening of The Pleasure Garden - what similarities and differences do you see between the two films? Both openings include crowds before the film finally focuses on an individual. I think that is part of the storytelling techniques Hitchcock uses throughout his films. An average person is plucked from the masses. Then the average person experiences extraordinary circumstances. 2. Identify elements of the "Hitchcock style" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. Even if you are not sure if it is the "Hitchcock style," what images or techniques stand out in your mind as powerful storytelling? Or images that provide an excess of emotion? Within both clips, there are scenes that connects people with people with machinery. In the opening shot of the please garden, the girls descending the spiral staircase looks like part of a moving mechanics cal part. Likewise the newspaper printing scene that focus on moving mechanical parts. Both scenes remind of clips within Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. Each of those films have similar scenes that show the mechanization of society by integrating machines and people. 3. Even though this is a "silent" film, the opening image is one of a woman screaming. What do you notice in how Hitchcock frames that particular shot that makes it work in a silent film even though no audible scream that can be heard. And what other screams like that come to mind from Hitchcock's later work? Of course, the first scream that comes to mind is Janet Leigh in Psycho. The framing of the face is claustrophobic in both films and reflects the intensity of the panic, horror, and fear of the person.
  9. 1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. Though I’m not familiar with this film, the clip suggests that one ordinary individual is about to encounter some extraordinary circumstances, a theme consistent with Hitchcock’s later films. The scene where the two men steal the items from the young woman’s purse foreshadows something significant. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, or approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career? There are several elements and approaches that stood out in this scene. Observation seems to be a consistent theme is Hitchcock films. The scene where the audience members were watching the chorus girls reminded me of the scenes in Rear Window that shows James Stewart observing his neighbors in the adjacent building. The composition of shots is another element that stood out. The shot from the rafters in the dance hall, the spiral staircase, the tracking shot of the audience suggest these scenes were well crafted in advance through storyboards and artistic design. Finally, it seems attractive women with blond hair seem to play a significant role in Hitchcock films (Janet Leigh, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly). The blond dance hall girl seemed consistent with other actress in Hitchcock films. 3. Since this is a silent film, do you feel there were any limitations on these opening scenes due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue? No limitations due to lack of dialogue. This film came at a time when the language of film was still being written. Film directors like D. W. Griffith and several Russian filmmakers were developing innovative editing techniques essential to film storytelling. A good director like Hitchcock can rely on the juxtaposition and pace of images to tell stories and create suspense without the benefit of sound.
  10. drmichaelbowman

    Daily Dose of Doozy #13: Conceptual Parody: Woody Allen

    1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody? To begin with, the humor of the scene is predicated by Allen’s dialogue. Ordering an inordinate amount of food for a rebel army from a restaurant is absurd. With this in mind, Bananas operates as a parody by lampooning war and armed rebellion. The visual of restaurant workers bringing in wheel barrows of cole slaw and thousands of sack lunches prepared for the rebels makes the scene work as a slapstick. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven't seen either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. last week's Daily Dose from The Great Race. I disagree that the scene from Take The Money and Run captures Sennet’s style. Again, the majority of the is predicated on dialague with the visuals of thousand of lunch sacks and wheel barrows of cole slaw as the payoff. In my opinion, this scene from Allen’s movie better reflects the slapstick from the early days of silent movies.
  11. Describe specifically how this scene looks and feels like a "live action" cartoon. Jack Lemmon’s character looks like Snidely Whiplash and Tony Curtis’s personae could be Dudley Do-Right. Also, the huge arrow that shoots a hole in the balloon looks very cartoonish. In what ways does this scene function as an "homage" to earlier slapstick comedies? The scene is very visual. I watched the scene with the sound turned down and knew exactly what was happening because of the visuals. How does Blake Edwards depict The Great Leslie (Curtis) as the "definitive hero" and Professor Fate (Lemmon) as the "definitive villain?" Tony Curtis is handsome, wears white, and is adored by women. He can escape all perilous situations (such as escaping a straight jacket while hanging upside down from a balloon with a hole in it) By contrast, Lemmon is wearing all back, has an “evil mustache,” and is aided by a dimwitted sidekick.
  12. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? (You can include discussion of performance, costume, props, set design, sound design) There are two gags that work because of a lack of visual and the use of sound effects. The first is Clouseau using the stick to tear the pool table top. The camera establishes Clouseau, the table, the ball, and the cue stick before zooming into Clouseau. When Clouseau strikes the ball, we don’t see the tear but hear the fabric ripping. The second is when Clouseau is leaving the room at the end of the clip. He exits on the wrong side of the door and runs into the wall. Again, we don’t see him running into the wall but hear the sound of him crashing into the wall. The use of sound and lack of visuals allows viewers to create our own visual comedy mentally. 2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character? Of course, Peter Sellers is an outstanding comedic performer. His facial expression, physical movements, and humorous accents makes Clouseau a great character. But to me, the contrast between Clouseau’s outragous character and the subdued reactions of the actors in the same scene make the situations funnier. George Sanders is a great dramatic actor. It is Sander’s ability to “play it straight” against the bumbling Clouseau that heightens the comedy. 3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement? It is the blend of comedy and drama in the Pink Panther films that make the Clouseau character work. The Keystone Kops were cartoonish in their films. While Clouseau is a bit outrageous, the Pink Panther films could easily be turned into a drama (unlike the Keystone Cop films) had Sellers decided to play it straight without the laughs.
  13. 1. What do you think the addition of color adds to this scene and its gags? Honestly, I don’t think color adds anything to the gags. Funny is funny whether its color or black and white. 2. What are some of the techniques that Vincente Minnelli uses in this scene to make it more cinematic than a TV show such as I Love Lucy? Consider, for example, camera angles, depth of focus, or editing strategy. Desi and Lucy pioneered many techniques that are still used today (using a 3-camera set-up to film the I Love Lucy Show before a live audience, retaining the rights of each episode that could be re-run later, building their own Desilu Studio). The production costs and time schedule of shooting a 30 minute show before a live audience that would fill an entire television season limited opportunities for lighting, editing, blocking etc. By contrast, Minnelli could be more creative with lighting that highlighted Lucy’s good looks and red hair, special lightning and rain effects, mud puddles, The cinematographer could create better mood lighting. The film had a more cinematic look than the TV show. 3. What are some of Lucille Ball's contributions to the history of slapstick comedy, and how does Minnelli use her physical comedy in this clip? The gags and bits used in this clip could have easily appeared in a Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy film. One of Lucy’s greatest assets as a performer was her physicality. In this film, she falls down, lands in mud, etc. to get laughs. Think back to some of her greatest bits on her TV show (the candy conveyor belt, stomping grapes, etc.) and you realize what a great physical comedienne she was.
  14. 1.As you carefully watch the scene, what do you learn about the character of Hulot (Jacques Tati) as he walks up to his apartment? There are several things that you can learn about his character based on this scene. First, his character seems to lead a rather mundane and routine existence. He must climb up and down the stairs in the same pattern each and everyday. This must be a tedious process. He also lives an isolated existence. His apartment is located apart from other tenants in the building. 2.How is the building used to support Tati's physical comedy? The composition of the shot of Tati climbing the stairs on his way to his apartment reminds me of many of the scenes in Keaton’s films. Keaton’s cinematographer used the geometry of a building to focus viewer attention on Keaton’s movement. The same can be said with the shot used on Mon Oncle. We know that Tait is ascending and descending the stairs but do not see him throughout the entire process. The humor comes from seeing glimpses of Tati at various stages of climbing the stairs. There is no editing that would detract from the humor. The shot composition and lack of editing is a great piece of visual storytelling and adds greatly to the humor.
  15. 1. How would you compare Abbott and Costello's style of verbal slapstick in this clip with Groucho and Chico's style from Daily Dose #6? Like Groucho and Chico, the genius of Abbott and Costello is the timing and cadence in the delivery of their lines. I assume they honed these skills through hundreds of performances in live theater. They can take ordinary lines that on paper are not particularly funny and deliver them in such a way that makes them humorous. I remember Jerry Lewis talking about the genius of Dean Martin’s skill as a straight man. Without the timing and delivery of a good straight man, the payoff of the joke is lost. Abbott is a great straight man for Costello. 2. Wes Gehring's observation about the "polish" of Abbott and Costello's comedy routines is also a criticism of today's comedians that seem to lack "taste [and] timing." Even though it is a general comment, do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Gehring's lament about contemporary comedy. I wholeheartedly agree with Gehring’s assessment about today’s comedy and comedians. The lack of contemporary comedic skill is due to a variety of factors. First, Abbott and Costello, as well as the Marx Bros., spent hundreds of hours performing their routines before life audiences. They could toss or refine bits that didn’t work. One of the reasons that the Marx Bros. were so successful in films was that MGM’s Irving Thalburg allowed the brothers to test their material before live audiences. They would take the best material from the live performances and put them in their films. Today’s performers do not work on their material the same way. Another difference is the “routine.” Comedians used to work on “routines” that relied on timing and delivery to work. Today’s comedians can only come up with verbal jabs and crude scenarios and call it funny. Finally, the Marx Bros. and Abbott and Costello learned to work as a unit. Their cohesiveness as a comedy was critical to their success. We see similar comedy success in TV series like Seinfeld, MASH, The Big Bang Theory where the ensemble works together to achieve great performances. 3. For those of you more familiar with the overall film career of Abbott and Costello (beyond this brief clip), what do you think is their biggest contribution to visual and/or verbal slapstick? On the one hand, they were another link in the chain of comics that relied on teamwork to be successful (Martin and Lewis, Bob and Ray, etc.) However, that teamwork and contributions of the straight man may not have been recognized by the general audience, by heaping too much praise on the funny man (Costello) without acknowledging Abbott’s contribution.

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