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Everything posted by dan_quiterio

  1. Some have mentioned the Coen Brothers, and I agree that they would be an excellent match, as writers and editors. Along the same lines as the Coens, what about Noah Hawley, who brilliantly adapted their Fargo to the small screen? The series has the right amount of intrigue, well-drawn characters, atmosphere, and, well, murder, as any Hitchcock film. In the previous thread in which we were asked to name modern-day films that have the Hitchcock touch, I mentioned Polanski's The Ghost Writer (2010). One of the elements of that film that stood out to me as particularly Hitchcockian was Alexandre Desplat's beautiful and haunting score. He's also my favorite film composer, so I'd like to also throw his name into the hat of potential collaborators. And how about Dan Gilroy as a writing collaborator, off of the strength of his dark and twisted Nightcrawler (2014)? George Clooney would make for a great Hitchcock leading man. He is the modern-day Cary Grant, after all. Someone else mentioned Scarlett Johansson, and I agree that she has the makings of a great Hitchcock leading lady (she's got a great mysterious quality), as does Naomi Watts for her ability to really tap into human emotion.
  2. Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer (2010) very much reminds me of a Hitchcock film. It's been a long time since I've seen it. I honestly don't remember the finer points, just that I walked out of the theatre and thought to myself, "Hitch would have made this film if he were alive today." Another is Chris Nolan's debut feature, Following (1998), which has all the moodiness and suspense of a Hitchcock thriller.
  3. There are certainly similarities between the opening of Frenzy and The Lodger--the establishing of place, the public crowds, and the finding of a female corpse. However, there are also differences. Whereas The Lodger took a more serious tone in its opening scene, there's a hint of cheekiness in Frenzy's, which is clear in the juxtaposition of the man pontificating about how London's waters will be cleaned and the body floating in the very same waters. Also, whereas The Lodger leveraged quick cuts, there are few in Frenzy. The camerawork in the latter is more slowly paced and less frenetic. In both films, however, Hitchcock's touches are clear, as previously stated--the establishing of place, the public crowds, the dead body (typically a woman), and a bit of dark humor are commonly found in many of Hitch's works. After watching and analyzing several of Hitchcock's opening scenes, it seems to me that he placed a premium on establishing setting (London in Frenzy, Phoenix in Psycho, the apartment building and Jeff's apartment in Rear Window, train tracks in Strangers on a Train) and diving right into the action. There's no point in dragging your feet when there's a story to tell.
  4. The opening sequence of Marnie is certainly a compelling one. I'm drawn to films that can convey information effectively with limited or no dialogue, and this sequence does that well. Marnie appears to be somewhat meticulous and calculated. She knows what objects she needs, and she calmly and precisely chooses and places them. She's all about preparation. Anything that doesn't factor into her plans, she tosses aside. Her actions are nicely complemented by Bernard Herrmann's sweeping and evocative score, giving me a sense of mystery, crescendoing to a big reveal when we first see Marnie's face. Hitch's cameo is an interesting one. He breaks the fourth wall by taking a very quick look into the camera. I imagine that's to heighten the intrigue. If Hitch is willing to address us personally, we better pay attention to what's to come.
  5. I agree with Prof. Edwards's assessment that the opening scene of The Birds feels more like a rom-com than a horror film. The chance meeting of a man and a woman under false pretenses, the casual flirting between the two, the on-the-nose symbolism of love birds, the lightness to the interaction between Melanie and the pet shop employee--they all lend themselves to a light, fun film. In this scene, we learn that Melanie has a sense of humor. She decides to play along when Mitch mistakes her for an employee. She's quite smitten with him and is curious to see how far she can go. Mitch doesn't seem to believe her--she's clearly no expert in birds--but he keeps the charade going because something about her intrigues him. In truth, Melanie knows that Mitch knows she's lying, but they let the encounter play out. It's their way of flirting. The sound design in the scene is composed of various bird calls. We immediately hear seagulls, which transports us to a city by the water. So now we know the place. With the cloud of birds flying overhead and the numerous caged birds in the store, it's quite apparent that their importance cannot be understated (and, well, the movie is called The Birds). In Hitch's cameo, he is scene walking out of the pet store with his two dogs. The pair is of particular note, as we're soon introduced to two love birds--literally and figuratively.
  6. Psycho is the first Hitchcock film I saw, and it's my favorite. One large reason for that is Bernard Herrmann's frantic and stress-inducing score. The use of strings performed almost violently convey a stabbing sensation. It immediately thrusts the audience into a state of anxiety, setting up the right tone for what's to come. Saul Bass's opening title design works in concert with the score in influencing this sensation. The lines swiping in and out--from side to side and up and down--are analogous to violent swipes of a knife. I can't speak to Hitchcock's use of a specific date and time for the opening scene, but that's something I like to do, myself, in my own writing. I feel that offering specificity adds a layer of interest. It helps to lay a stake in what is meant to be a remembered scene in which some crucial piece of information is offered. The choice to enter the hotel room through the window blinds is a genius one. This element of voyeurism is a motif in Psycho, more famously paid off with Norman's peeping on Marion in her hotel room. It's also reminiscent of the central theme of Rear Window. The opening scene establishes Marion as the main character because the audience is immediately thrown into her story. She's the "other" woman who tells Sam that their affair needs to end. Of course, it can't just end there. We expect to see it play out with Marion at the center, navigating a difficult and rocky road. Her emotional journey is the one that's the most interesting to watch.
  7. Despite minimal action, this scene is quite revealing. It requires the dialogue to do the talking, so to speak, and we learn about both characters--Eve, in particular. She's aware of Roger's true identify, but rather than report him or fear him, she's intrigued by danger and literally flirts with it. She plays off Roger, played by Cary Grant, who we generally know to be suave, charming, and debonair. Knowing Cary, we expect him to welcome her advances, and he does. The soundscape sets the mood and atmosphere with a soft, romantic score, and the pattering of the train running over the tracks. The highlight of the scene for me is when Roger takes out his matchbook to light Eve's cigarette. It happens slowly and sensually. She holds his hand and seductively blows out the match. This relationship is just getting fired up...
  8. Watching and listening to the title sequence of Vertigo, I'm left with a moody, haunting feeling. Something certainly goes awry in this film. There's danger and discomfort. This is perhaps most apparent to me in the visual of the extreme close-up of the eye as the frame tints red, the film's title emerges from the eye, and Herrmann's fright-inducing score hits a climax. There's something uncomfortable about an eye; pair that with the color of danger and you have me prepared to watch a film that I'll be thinking about for a long time--for better or worse.
  9. Rear Window's opening sequence is one that introduces the audience to the physical world of L.B. Jefferies--his neighborhood and neighbors, his career, and the scorching heat, all of which play crucial parts throughout the film. We learn so much in just the first few minutes without any dialogue. I believe the POV of the opening shot to be ours, the audience's. As viewers of a film, we're naturally acting as voyeurs. In this instance, Hitchcock exploits that notion and takes us a step further by enabling us to take a peek into the world of the film while the main character is sleeping. We'll take in as much as we can before he wakes up and the POV shifts. As we look around, we learn that Jeff is an action sports photographer who was likely injured while on the job. His broken bones are complemented by the broken camera, photos of crashed cars and explosions--scenes that are as far from docile as could be. Jeff is a man on the move (just not while he's in his wheelchair--though his mind runs 100 mph while he sits stationary). He's also done some fashion photography, which perhaps implies a bit of a softer side. As we peer into others' apartments, I'm certainly left with a feeling of guilt for perhaps seeing too much--though there isn't yet much to see. Still, I'm invading others' personal lives--but as Hitch, himself, implied, that's human nature. Each neighbor has a story to tell, and with a small taste, I'm interested in each. (As a side note, it's criminal that the film's art direction did not receive an Oscar nomination--let alone a win.)
  10. I remember watching this opening scene as part of the 2015 film noir course. Such a fascinating study! There are several ways Hitch demonstrates the metaphor of criss-crossing, including the positioning of the camera when we see each man exiting his car (on the right side for Bruno, and on the left for Guy), the alternating direction of each man's steps, the criss-crossed rails, and in Bruno crossing his legs on the train. (If it weren't so common in the day, I'd even suggest the cross dissolves during the opening credits would be a contribution to the metaphor.) Guy and Bruno's differences are illustrated clearly. Whereas Guy is conservatively dressed in a sweater and basic, black shoes, Bruno prefers louder, more ostentatious clothing (his whimsical tie and tie bar, his saddle shoes, and his pinstripe suit). Guy is taciturn and prefers not to be bothered, while Bruno is talkative and brash (he takes Guy's hand with both of his hands in order to force a shake). Upon rewatching the opening sequence with particular attention placed on Tiomkin's score, it seems to me that it starts off without lending itself to any specific mood. I closed my eyes and opened my ears, and at the very beginning, the score sounds sweeping and almost epic--a good fit for a classic drama or romantic film. It starts to make an impact on me during the scenes of the men getting out of their cars and the cuts of the men walking opposite each other. At these points, the music is more pointed, conveying a more looming feeling, as if something dramatic or surprising is about to unfold. And of course, there's that final note that hits just as the two men's feet touch, kicking off (no pun intended) an unlikely partnership.
  11. There's something about watching Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman on screen that makes me feel warm inside. This scene in Notorious is no exception. The two characters portrayed by these acting heavyweights are depicted in contrasting ways--Alicia's hangover and sequined blouse convey a party girl, while Devlin's tailored suit indicates a man of business and class. Alicia is washed in light; what we see is what we get. Devlin, however, first appears in shadow--a classic Hitchcock "touch" that signifies a mysterious figure, perhaps with a secret. (The POV shot of Devlin spinning is another Hitchcock "touch" that potentially speaks to both characters: Alicia's hung-over frame of mind and Devlin's mysterious nature that could throw both characters' lives off-kilter.) The only thing that could potentially bring these two very different figures together is a job. While this scene depicts Grant as a debonair, sophisticated gent (true to his Hollywood persona), it does the opposite for Bergman, whose star persona was that of class, strength, and vulnerability--all at once. Alicia, however, appears unconcerned about sophistication and is weak in her love of drink.
  12. The Hitchcock touch that stood out to me most was the pushing in of the camera on Lombard in bed, which is often done to increase tension and suspense--though it was not used to the same effect in this scene. Aside from that, nothing about this scene feels very "Hitchcock" to me. It features wealthy individuals--as is depicted by their servants, lavish furniture, ornate dish-ware, and Lombard's silk nightgown--as well as a soft, airy score and plenty of light with minimal shadow. There isn't a hint of nefarious activity. In regards to the casting, it's difficult making a judgment on Lombard and Montgomery's chemistry in just a few minutes, but on the surface, they appear to gel well together.
  13. The first thing that stands out to me in this opening scene of Shadow of a Doubt is the juxtaposition of the playing children in broad daylight (set to an upbeat score) with the dark, brooding atmosphere of the boarding house room in which Charlie is lying on his bed, clothed in shadow (there never was a noir element more prominent than shadow). Similar to the opening of The Killers, Charlie is resting and appears defeated, just waiting to be caught by his predators. He's a man with a past. Upon realizing the two men have "nothing on me," he musters the audacity to march out of the building--accompanied by Tiomkin's provocative score that crescendos as he approaches imminent danger--and merely walk past the two men. Charlie is bold and brash. He knows he's wanted, but he won't go down that easily.
  14. With the ethereal voiceover and images of a winding road through an iron gate, the opening of Rebecca is in contrast to the opening scenes of several of Hitchcock's British films. Whereas many of the previous films feature a frenetic pace and tone, Rebecca is soft and calm. Still, the opening features classic elements of the Hitchcock touch: an anxious feeling of distress and danger with the crashing waves and de Winter straddling the edge of the cliff; the innocent ingenue in the second Mrs. de Winter; and a brooding atmosphere in the dark, moody appearance of Manderley, which is itself a character in the scene through its imposing form and the voiceover's recollection of its influence in days past.
  15. The opening scene of The Lady Vanishes is unlike most of the opening scenes we've seen. Although it similarly starts in a public location, it establishes the film as a comedy with quirky characters. This is clear in the light, upbeat music; cuckoo clock (perhaps symbolizing the "cuckoo" nature of some of the characters and situations we're in for); and the funny "straight-man" characters of Caldicott and Charters, who add a fun, humorous commentary on the wealthy American women and their experiences in Hungary (the bit about the Hungarian Rhapsody as the country's national anthem is pretty funny). Amidst an onslaught of minor characters, Iris is established as the scene's star. She commands the camera as it follows Iris and her friends across the room. The hotel proprietor is familiar with them and waits on them with eagerness, conveying that they are guests of importance, likely with deep pockets (which is clear in their food and drink order [a magnum of champagne] and manner of speech [avalanche]). Meanwhile, the other characters are huddled together in a large mass watching on in bewilderment while the glamorous ladies take the stage.
  16. The opening of The 39 Steps bares both similarities and differences to the openings of others of Hitchcock's British films. For example, it's similar to The Pleasure Garden in its setting of a theatre with on-stage talent, and it's similar to The Lodger in that both films feature a lit-up sign early on to establish the location ("To-Night Golden Curls" in The Lodger, and "Music Hall" in The 39 Steps). And while the tone is light (similar to the tone of The Man Who Knew Too Much), it is in contrast to the grim tone in The Lodger and does not begin with a crime (The Lodger, The Pleasure Garden) or with a character in harm's way (The Man Who Knew Too Much). I don't know that I totally agree with Rothman's assessment that Hitch is focused on introducing a more innocent character in The 39 Steps. Though we later know Hannay to be innocent, we are first introduced to his back and feet, and don't see his face for a few minutes. The fact that his face is deliberately out of view for so long feels brooding. In regards to the Hitchcock touch, as described by Phillips, the opening scene of The 39 Steps fits the bill in that it depicts an ordinary, seemingly innocent locale. Other than that, we'd have to watch the full film to understand the circumstances of the characters and to know how elements from the opening scene come to matter (or not).
  17. I've seen this film years ago, and unfortunately don't remember much. Based on this opening scene--and what I know about Hitchcock's preferences--I'll assume that the film will be more character based than plot based. In these short two minutes, we're already introduced to some key characters, yet plot details are scarce. One of the more interesting characters is Abbott, who is easy-going and fun-loving, as depicted in his brief appearance in this scene. Based on his few lines, we know that he's new to the English language, but don't know much more. Upon seeing the skier, he takes a quick beat, leading the audience to believe that something is off. I expect the two characters to meet again--perhaps in a less humorous scenario. A similarity between this scene and the opening scenes of The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger is that in all three, females are either victimized or placed in harm's way in another way--either by being robbed (The Pleasure Garden), murdered (The Lodger), or nearly struck by a speeding skier (The Man Who Knew Too Much). (Interestingly, all three films feature curly-haired blondes.) However, the three scenes are distinct in their locales and tone. Whereas The Pleasure Garden includes moments of fun and sinister activity, The Lodger is frightful and The Man Who Knew Too Much is light hearted.
  18. The use of sound is brilliantly used as a device to gain aural insights into Alice's mindset. It's clear in Ondra's performance that the character is filled with trepidation. She's skittish and paranoid. The use of sound helps to give her worried state greater depth. Examples of this include her isolated hearing of the word "knife" repeatedly from another character, and the pronounced bell at the very end of the scene, which signifies that something is amiss. In the shot in which the knife flies out of Alice's hand, the knife is initially relatively still as Alice appears to examine it with care, but as the word "KNIFE!" is loudly exclaimed, the calmness is drastically interrupted and the knife--meant to innocently cut a slice of bread--is violently tossed. It becomes a weapon ("Might have cut somebody with that"). Similar to modern horror movies where a music track suddenly crescendos to strike fear in the audience, the exclamation of "KNIFE!" strikes fear into both Alice and the audience. As sound is now commonplace--and long has been--it's difficult to take what audiences are used to and find new, unexpected ways to present it in order to garner a reaction. During the early sound days, sound was a novelty. It was new and unexpected on its own. Perhaps that's why we don't see subjective sound used as much in modern cinema. Rather, we resort to visual tricks (film is a visual medium, after all) and special effects to dazzle and excite us--to show us things we've never seen. Modern technology for picture and effects enables this, and perhaps technology for sound hasn't changed as regularly.
  19. I enjoy watching the POV dolly shots in this scene. They heighten the tension between characters, which I'm sure was, at least in part, Hitchcock's intention. Watching a person moving slowly toward you--her eyes locked on yours--conveys a feeling of a predator stalking her prey. It allows the viewer to be placed squarely in the action, helping him to become more deeply engaged with the characters' emotions. Commonalities between this scene and scenes in other Hitchcock films, like The Ring, include the use of montage and superimposed images, in particular the record player and dancing feet. Those images, when placed over the stern woman speaking, provide the viewer with a sense of what action the student took to upset her. In both the case of Downhill and The Ring, those images symbolize some aspect of debauchery that ultimately lead to a despicable act.
  20. Hitch's German Expressionist influence is felt strongly in this scene. The moment that sticks out in my head (no pun intended) as the most prominent is the superimposition of the spinning record player over the protagonist's forehead, indicating the flurry of rage whirling around in his head as he witnesses his wife's supposed infatuation with his opponent. Also, the distorted/elongated images of the dancers and piano keys demonstrate a dream-like state in which the protagonist envisions his wife cheating on him--something he can't stop thinking about, even while the manager is speaking to him (the image of the wife and opponent superimposed on the shot of the manager speaking). This further helps to heighten the stakes between the two men--it's not just a boxing match they have on their hands; it's a personal struggle with a love on the line. The relatively quick cuts during the dance sequence help to convey a frenetic pace, which mirrors the movement and light debauchery taking place in the room.
  21. Hitch certainly had a penchant for victimizing pretty, blonde women. They're prominent in both The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger. I can understand why Hitchcock considers this his first film that employs his signature style. The dark, moody cinematography; dramatic and frightening score (fun fact: I saw this film in a theatre performed with a live band); and frenetic performances evoke feelings of trauma and suspense, as if something's lurking around the corner and no one's safe. The opening shot of the victim screaming is set at a diagonal, perhaps meant to convey a sense of disorder. It's reminiscent of the harsh and bold shots of Marion Crane and Melanie Daniels as they are attacked by a knife-wielding madman in Psycho and a swarm of laser-focused birds in The Birds, respectively.
  22. I've been a fan of Hitchcock for years, but I've never seen The Pleasure Garden. It's interesting to look back at the first scene of his first film to see how his voice has evolved over his 50 years in the director's chair. This opening sequence does contain some elements that we'll come to know across many of Hitch's later works--the leggy blonde, the shady characters up to no good, the opening shot of the stairs that may symbolize a life that spirals out of control. There's a certain element of moodiness that's undercut by a dry joke (about the woman's curl) and relatively upbeat music. I didn't miss spoken dialogue, as the scene plays fine without the need for it, but I'd be curious to watch the entire film to see whether I'd feel the same by the end.
  23. In just the first four minutes of Criss Cross, the audience is given several clues that it is about to embark on a great noir ride, among them are an urban setting (LA, one of the three big "noir cities") at night, hard-boiled dialogue, a tough dame, and clear indication through Steve and Anna's dialogue that something is off kilter, among others. There's trouble brewing, and the men are embroiled in it just as much as the women. It's hard to believe this is the end of the Daily Doses. They've been a regular part of my routine for weeks, offering a daily tidbit about some aspect of film noir that has only--and will continue to--enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of noir. Each was like a puzzle piece, focusing on elements like lighting, music, camerawork, performances, etc. Now that I have all of those pieces, I'll be able to put them together with each film I watch, opening new windows for understanding and appreciating the depth and substance of noir. Thanks, Prof. Edwards, for an amazing ride! I tip my fedora to you.
  24. It's interesting to see how the scene's intensity sort of deconstructs at the end: the music is turned off and the shades are lifted, spilling light into the room. In a sort of film noir meta way, you can clearly see how Munsey uses light and music to affect mood, just as the noir filmmakers of the time did. Certainly, the music, particularly as the volume of the record player is raised, helps to add a sense of urgency and dread to what is already a gloomy situation. By assaulting Louis's senses in multiple ways (his ears hearing the music, his eyes adjusting to the dimly lit room, his sense of touch assaulted by a physical beating), Munsey--and Dassin--are having a similar effect on the audience. Our guard is up and our sense of comfort is firmly forgotten.
  25. The note below about what the scene might be like without the swinging lamp is worth exploring. Even without the curator's note, it's obvious that the light is being used to create an effect of anxiety and terror in this scene. So what might the scene look like without it? Would it be as terrifying? I don't think it would be. Mind you, I still wouldn't want to be in Steve's position--especially with a fist and a broken bottle in my face--but the light certainly amplifies the threat against him. There's plenty scary about the unknown, and when large, brutish figures (they're standing over Steve, while he's sitting) are partly or wholly hidden in the shadows, you don't quite know what you're dealing with. Dark alleys are far scarier than well-lit ones.

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