mtncat

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  1. Easy Rider (1969) MacGuffin - The drug money stashed in the teardrop tank of Captain America's chopper. Doubles - Two bikers... Travelogue - ...off to find America. Murder - Actually three in the final count. Montage Editing - Acid trip in New Orleans. Landmarks - House of Blue Lights. Sophisticated Use of Score - Soundtrack totally establishes social context. Mother Issues (Freud) - "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" This exercise is fun. I'd have to revisit Easy Rider, but I'll bet I'd find a blonde, a mirror, a high angle shot, color filters, etc.
  2. How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to rewatch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison. The opening of The Lodger provides a dead woman immediately. In Frenzy we wait. The initial humor in The Lodger is school-boyish compared to the delicious irony of a politician trumpeting pollution free waterways only to have a corpse float by. And of course, the magnificent dolly shot opening Frenzy could only have been a fantasy in the twenties. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. Public setting, crowd cuts, humor, and Hitch's penchant for the occasional travelogue to name a few. Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50 year career. Hitchcock's openings never fail to draw me into a story, place me in an atmosphere, or instill in me a mood. Other directors' opening scenes often do little more than inform me of who the players are and who gets credit for the production. Hitch is a step-and-a-half ahead. In Frenzy, we've found our way back to jolly old England, sailing through the air over the Thames to Tower Bridge, majestic music blaring. God Save the Queen!
  3. Based on the opening sequence alone, what do you feel you already know about Marnie as a character? In what ways does Hitchcock visually reveal her character through her interaction with objects. Marnie is meticulous. She assembles a fresh identity, each carefully purchased bit of it, into a brightly lined suitcase as she simultaneously discards her previous incarnation piece by piece into a drab brown suitcase. I'm then given that a dark past is spiraling down the drain with her hair dye. She emerges shiny and cleansed. The clues to her former identity are stuck away in a locker, the key to it kicked into a storm sewer. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? Herrmann's undulating figure rises and falls, echoing itself in meter but not in melody. Once played, it sounds hopeful, then again, changed, it's not. Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means? Hitch enters and, for a moment, watches Marnie pass down the hall with all her new paraphernalia. Then he turns and gives us a look, doesn't he? To me he's saying there's more to this than meets the eye.
  4. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) through their interactions in this scene? Melanie, if I may say, resembles an exotic bird herself. She likes the looks of Mitch when he enters the pet shop so she playfully pretends to work there, offering to help him pick out a pair of love birds. It quickly becomes clear to Mitch she knows nothing about birds but he goes along with her charade because he's attracted to her as well. Cute couple being cute. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere? The gulls are restless. They're massing in the western sky and carrying on quite a conversation via the trautonium. The birds are ominous shadows on a bright sunny afternoon. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene. As Melanie turns from watching the gulls to enter the pet store, Hitchcock and his brace of terriers exit the store. One of the dogs pauses and appears to notice the birds gathering as well. The cameo means nothing. Or perhaps it symbolizes mankind's uneasy relationship with nature by his futile attempt to leash it.
  5. mtncat

    Party Girl: The Last Film Noir ?

    I haven't seen Party Girl, but Touch of Evil came out in fall of '58 too and it's in many ways the ultimate Film Noir.
  6. Psycho opens with title design by Saul Bass and music by Bernard Herrmann. This is their third collaboration for Hitchcock, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. How does the graphic design and the score introduce the main themes of this film? The Hitchcock Chord is introduced, dissonant and jarring. Bass' titles come at us in fragments like a disintegrated personality as Herrmann's cellos attack us with minor 2nds like a ravenous shark. (You're welcome John Williams.) As the titles end, we have three shots of Phoenix, Arizona, and a very specific day, date, and time: “FRIDAY, DECEMBER THE ELEVENTH” and “TWO FORTY-THREE P.M.” What is Hitchcock seeking to establish with such specificity? Also, why do you think Hitchcock elects to enter the hotel room through the semi-closed blinds from the outside? Does the meaning of this shot remind of any other Daily Doses (and/or films) we have watched in the 1940s or 1950s? The specific day, date, and time establishes the possibility we're watching a police procedural. Then we come in through the window like we're hanging out with Jeff again in Rear Window. In the remainder of this sequence, we are introduced to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). The scene pushed the boundaries of censorship, especially considering our last Daily Dose for North by Northwest was edited for a line of risqué dialogue. Since this is the opening scene of Psycho, how does the hotel room scene function as a way to establish Marion Crane as a main character? Defend your answer. Marion's the one who wants things to be different than they are. She's the protagonist. She'll probably do something illegal to justify the specificity in the previous question about the day, date, and time.
  7. Everything you've said resonates with me. Live tweeting lousy movies with a snarky crowd can be fun, but I think great films deserve more of my attention. I do, however, review the #Hitchcock50 tweet thread to glean what are some illuminating observations.
  8. Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the Thornhill/Grant line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. Any less elegant couple playing at this level of carnal innuendo would border on porn. There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. The use of a matchbook rather than a lighter in this scene introduces suggestive physical contact. Eve creates sexual tension by steadying Roger's hand as her cigarette is ignited and then draws his hand back toward her lips so she may extinguish the match just as it burns dangerously close to his fingers. Hot stuff. Incidentally, one definition of "rot" in British dictionaries is "to become or cause to become morally corrupt or degenerate". Hitch is having a little fun. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The music is soft, nondescript, and deep in the background, just as it might be in any elevator of the day. The clicking of train wheels running over joints in the tracks is predictable and soothing in its repetitiveness. It all provides a bit of cushion for the clever dialogue.
  9. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," then the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. Fantasy, possibly a dark and uncontrollable fantasy. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The close-up of the woman's eye is shot through a red filter as the movie's title blasts out of her iris 50 seconds in. Simultaneously Herrmann sounds a profound and discordant chord under his undulating nursery rhyme theme. The spiraling hypnotic graphics begin. Absolute perfection. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? See above.
  10. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window? Hitchcock is showing us the extent of Jeff's world. We're introduced to Jeff's point of view without seeing it through his filters. What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? As the camera pans Jeff's apartment and his multitude of starling photographs, we're given to understand he may be a photo-journalist. The shattered box camera in front of an image of a racing car crash suggests his hazardous occupation has probably led to his injury. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? Isn't every movie-goer a voyeur to some degree? The opening scene piques my interest in all of Jeff's neighbors. And in the birds and dogs and cats and gardens in the courtyard. Quite a lot to see here, if you admit to being a bit of a voyeur. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? I do agree. It's another of his travelogues in a way, a very intimate way.
  11. 1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific. Guy and Bruno are filmed at feet level entering the train station as though coming from two different directions. They nearly cross paths at the gate, but remain unaware of one another. The train is then filmed POV from track level traveling through a switchyard where tracks criss-cross and we can't anticipate which ones it'll take. Hitch shows Guy and Bruno taking their seats. One man, then the other, crosses his legs. Oops, contact is made, foot first of course. 2. Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example. Bruno is a flashy dresser with eye-popping two-tone shoes. He's slick, quick, and when he speaks, he clearly has an agenda. Guy is dressed comfortably and carries a pair of tennis rackets in presses which indicates he's more than a casual player. He seems preoccupied but is polite when Bruno comes on to him as an exuberant tennis fan. 3. While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence? After the initial fanfare and the introduction of a theme over the opening credits, the score serves to propel the walking sequences and the switchyard scene in near march cadence. Bruno, or more precisely, Bruno's shoes are given a jauntier melodic treatment than Guy's sensible brogues. The music recedes as as the men sit and the dialogue begins.
  12. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this early scene from the movie? As Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gehring discussed, Hitchcock never forgot a thing he learned. His tracking shot in on Bergman's face as she lay hungover in bed, his use of point-of-view camera angles as Grant approaches her from the doorway, all the interplay between light and shadow: we've seen this scene coming for twenty years. In my opinion Hitchcock has now achieved perfection in black and white. How does Hitchcock choose to light, frame, and photograph his two stars in this scene? What are some of the contrasts that Hitchcock trying to set up between these two characters through art direction, costume, and cinematography? Bergman is disheveled and disoriented. Grant is immaculately dressed, severe, focused. She struggles to pull herself together while he relentlessly prods her to do something she says she doesn't want to do. They're photographed separately, cutting back and forth between frames throughout this exchange, at odds, opponents, disdainful of one another. Then Grant plays the recording of her conversation with her father and Bergman realizes he knows what's in her heart. They arrive together in a door frame as allies. Based on this scene (or the entire film if you have seen it already), reflect on the casting of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Does this scene conform to or challenge their well-known star personas? Hitchcock was able to cast two of the most attractive stars in the history of film. I'd say he was at the top of his game. I think the film ultimately conforms to Bergman and Grant's personas, but the audiences' preconceptions must certainly have been challenged at times.
  13. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc? Hitchcock reveals quite a lot through dolly shots, tracking shots, and extreme attention to detail. He shows us a pair of rich, pampered, self-indulgent slobs who are confined to a room and trapped in a marriage by their insecurities. Not so funny so far. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? I agree it's typical in the respect that he establishes a mood and fleshes out a backstory largely through his use of motion and music. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? I think the casting is probably fine. Lombard and Montgomery are both attractive and visually expressive actors. I have to confess I don't know much about screwball comedies. I twice enjoyed It Happened One Night. Does that count?
  14. 1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. Charlie's got a wad of cash and a lot on his mind. He also has a couple of guys on his tail. Charlie is cunning, he thinks things through. He briefly lets his violent streak get the better of him and smashes a glass against the sink. Then he sets his jaw and sets his course. Charlie's a pretty snappy dresser, I might add. 2. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations) The opening is Hemingway's The Killers for sure. But Charlie isn't the Swede. He's not resigned to his fate and he's not incapacitated by weariness or guilt. On the contrary, Charlie's going to march right through his pursuers and get out of town. I half expected one of those guys to say "Hey, bright boy" as he passed. 3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? Tiomkin's score follows and sometimes anticipates the action perfectly. When the boys in the street are playing ball they're accompanied by an all American waltz. As Charlie makes his decision and then charges past the opposition, Tiompkin builds each scene to a crescendo. When the pursuers start to follow Charlie down the street, they're literally marching to Tiompkin's tune.

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