cbrashears

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Everything posted by cbrashears

  1. In this opening scene, Hitchcock is still focusing the audience's attention on public, recognizable places and landmarks. He chooses to reveal the first murdered victim not in some dark back alleyway, but in one of the most visible places in London, the river Thames (over which the audience has just flown in opening title sequence). Of course, I love the irony of the politician's speech of promises to clean up the city and the river, only to have a (naked) dead body discovered just meters away. Thematically, this film is not a departure from his other films dealing with murder. Visually, with the cuffs of production codes removed, he's able to explore a more graphic approach to revealing information to the audience.
  2. I think the sound score was most striking, especially after a lack of music was pointed out. I've seen this film numerous times, and I guess I never caught on to it. During the playful romantic banter between Hedren and Taylor, chirping birds are heard throughout. This is interesting to me, as you can still make out the dialogue between the two main characters, but the bird sounds are quite noticeable. But these birds are chirping almost playfully, happily, reinforcing the romance budding between Hedren and Taylor. This is different than the squawking heard from the massive flock of birds Hedren sees before she enters the shop. While it may be a minor observation, I think it's also interesting that after entering the shop, Hedren is asking for a bird that will talk (Myna). She's told she will have to teach it to talk (i.e., to be more "human-like"). This is ironic that by the film's end the birds are dominating the humans, and not the other way around.
  3. "Don't be so modest" is my favorite line from this clip, spoken by Eve after she reveals to Roger she knows his true identity (and that he's wanted for murder). What fascinating to me about this scene is how captivating the actors are; two people on a train with little action - but a lot is going on. Eve is presented as a confident character (chin up, staring Roger in the eyes), while Roger is at first presented as a hidden figure, eyes masked behind his sunglasses. As the shots volley back and forth between them as their dialogue continues, the framing becomes tighter and tighter. The characters become more familiar with each other (and more comfortable), and the audience feels less like we are listening in on a conversation (as with the beginning of the scene), and more like we are part of the conversation (by the end of the scene).
  4. This is one of my favorite opening sequences out of all of Hitchcock's films (maybe even out of all films period). There's something about the flashiness of Bruno's shoes that catches the eye more than Guy's, and Hitchcock chooses to focus first on Bruno's arrival rather than Guy's; this introduces the audience to Bruno as the "instigator." Whereas normally, we tend to see the protagonist introduced first, then the antagonist enters to create conflict. Here, we see the antagonist first (although we don't realize this until a few moments later). I also think it's interesting visually that in the shot of Bruno's shoes passing through the train car we see more variety of shoes of the other passengers, including one that is wearing similar shoes to Bruno. This is opposed to the shot of Guy's shoes passing through the same car, but the other passenger's shoes are plain, basically the same as his. I think this foreshadows Bruno as being a more "colorful" character than the meekly-portrayed Guy. The musical score is ironically playful, but reinforces the "game-like" quality of the criss-cross murders Bruno eventually envisions. It echoes almost a call-and-response as the shots volley back and forth between the gentleman's shoes.
  5. What I find most striking is that when these two characters are introduced, they are hidden: Bergman's face hidden behind the glass, and Grant hidden in shadow, framed in the doorway. As they become physically closer, Grant approaching her, he comes into the light, and she out from behind the glass. While they exchange dialogue prior to this, it's not until they come close together that they (and the audience) really "see" each other. He is dressed sharp and she unkempt, he trying to revive her from her previous night's drunken stupor. This is almost a foreshadowing of the who's-trying-to-save-who volley that we see throughout the rest of the film.
  6. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I watched this film (as I had seen the remake first years earlier), and agree it's the better film of the two. It certainly seems character-driven in its presentation. Lorre seems jovial and almost care-free upon his introduction, smiling, laughing, and brushing off not only the snow but the whole incident of the errant skier Luis. But when his smile fades as he seems to recognize Luis - and this is a sinister, almost vengeful look - the audience has the information they need to move the story forward. When Lorre turns to smile and wave as he exits, the audience knows they will see him again, even though the action turns to polite banter between Luis, Bob, and Betty.
  7. At this early stage in cinema's use of sound, emphasis was placed on "synchronized sound;" audiences were interested in hearing the words and sound effects that matched the actions or what the characters were saying as they viewed them on screen. In this clip, Hitchcock is taking this effect a step further by focusing on the reaction of a silent Alice to what's being said by a character off-screen. Although we know the female character off-screen is speaking in complete sentences (Hitchcock set this up a few moments before, with her emphasizing the word "knife"), the audience is provided a glimpse into the mind of Alice's selective listening, hearing only the word "knife" as she handles the bread knife. The final "knife" spoken by the off-screen character is louder and more pointed, which shocks Alice back into a reality. She throws the knife, which is accompanied by a quick cut to all the characters in the room. I believe the use of this type of subjective sound is not commonly used in cinema (especially modern cinema) as modern audiences expect the literal. "Inner monologues" or thoughts of characters can just as easily be expressed through visuals as they can be through sound. If this clip were from a modern film, the audience would probably hear the entire conversation by the off-screen character as we see Alice's reaction, not only the word "knife."
  8. This film was released in an era of the static camera; placement was typically at eye level, with little movement, and visual storytelling was limited to wide, medium, and close-up shots. What Hitchcock does with the POV tracking shots (especially when we see Mabel approaching the boys) is more than a close-up of her face - expressing her determination to allege one of the boys - but also creates suspense as the viewer is part of the action as she approaches the boys. We feel as if we are the boys, and are accused ourselves. The suspense created with this shot reminds me of the famous shot from Jaws where we see Chief Brody on the beach, reacting to what he believes is a shark in the water (the camera tracks backwards while zooming in on his face - a technique replicated many times in films thereafter).
  9. I first watched this film last year, and really enjoyed it. I think what is the most striking to me in this clip is the use of the mirror, not only to deliver information to the audience, but metaphorically to reveal a reflection to Jack of things to come. He sees the "better boxer" with his wife, a reflection of what he would most like to be.
  10. Sorry, Chaplin, but Keaton has a slight edge over you in my book. But both are iconic prat men, and thoroughly skilled in the potential of "funny." But I think it's Keaton's use of irony in his physical comedy (and as pointed out by Chris_Coombs, the character is unaware of the danger), that makes Keaton's gags unique. This was a time, of course, before "safety" (or, more accurately, "liability") on set, and were he with us today would never be allowed to do the same (at least not in the same manner). The only one who comes close in our modern day perhaps would be Jackie Chan. Chan is a master of prop stunts and has even performed his stunts with broken bones, casts cleverly covered by costume pieces. In Keaton's films, we're seeing a little more unique placement of the camera than seen in earlier Chaplin and Arbuckle films, which starts to broaden the audience's perspectives of the storytelling beyond a seemingly outside observer.
  11. I teach on commedia (the origin of slapstick), and one thing I point out to my students is the separation of classes between the pranksters and their victims. Chaplin's characters - who initiate the gags - are normally not high on the class or respectability scale. The police (of higher respectability) are the butts of his jokes (but they ultimately get the last laugh). We see this challenge to authority or class in many of his films. Keaton also typically plays the "average Joe," the little guy, or the underdog. In original commedia, the servant Harlequin or Arlecchino would initiate the slapstick aimed toward the higher-classed masters. This is an element that hasn't changed for hundreds of years.
  12. I'm sure we'll get more into this subject as the course progresses, but I find it interesting that in two-person slapstick, a gag is almost always set up by the "straight" character, who winds up as the victim of the prat or joke. This formula is different in one-person gags (such as I'm sure we'll see with Chaplin and Keaton). I also think the unsuspecting nature of the protagonist lends to the comedy. When the water stops, the gardener looks into the nozzle, not back at the hose (where the boy is standing), to figure the problem out. This, in turn, sets up the punchline, when the boy steps off the hose, shooting water into the gardener's face.

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