Barbara_C

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  1. I think it is a departure from Cary Grant’s star persona to play a darker character like Devlin. If played by a lesser known actor, I think we’d be convinced Devlin wasn’t good at all based upon the opening scene. The tension that Hitchcock has created in casting Grant is that we believe, as the star, Grant has to be playing the hero – but he is not acting like a hero should; he is manipulative, without empathy and acting just a bit menacing toward Bergman’s character to create an uncomfortable edge for the audience watching.
  2. 1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? Unlike Hitchcock’s British silent or sound period, this film does not open in a public space filled with a bustle of active and unsuspecting people going about their normal business. Instead it opens with an off-screen female narrator introducing a reclusive location, Manderley, which at first appears grand, but on closer inspection is a ruin. The narrator’s voice is measured and dreamy; there is no exciting action about to be introduced here and no humor, just a mystery of why Manderley is in the shape it’s in. The next scene takes us to another isolated locale in the South of France where we are finally introduced to the two principle human characters (if one agrees with Finler that Manderley is actually a leading character in the film, which I do). Here we are introduced to a man who appears ready to jump off the cliff and a young woman yelling for him to “stop!” Both appear shaken by their interaction – and as soon as they have met, they part again, creating that Hitchcock tension we love so much. We want to know what happens next. 2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? Regardless of the opening scenes being a departure from Hitchcock’s British period, we still have the master at work, drawing us into the drama with POV technique, the use of “average citizens” in extraordinary circumstances (Joan Fontaine’s character calling for Max de Winter to “Stop!” because she senses he is about to commit suicide), and the laying down of key characterizations for the drama right away – Max as a tortured soul, the young woman (future Mrs. De Winter #2) as an insecure and naïve waif, and Manderley as a place of dark, foreboding secrets. The combination of characters is intriguing, and the Hitchcock touch of pulling us into the story is still there, despite a slower paced introduction. 3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? The fact that the grand house has a name and is reverently described by the female narrator creates the impression that Manderley plays a character role in the story about to unfold. The cinematic introduction that accompanies the narrator’s voice also effectively sets Manderley up as a character. At first Manderley appears beautiful and full of life with windows lit. But as we are drawn in closer by the camera, we can see that it was only an illusion of the moonlight and slowly it is revealed that there is a darker side to Manderley; it is truly just a ruin. I find the flashback structure and voiceover narration enhance my desire to know what happened to this once beautiful place. Immediately I want to know the narrator’s connection to the grand house, how and why the house was reduced to ruins, and why wasn’t it lovingly restored if it is so reverently introduced to us?
  3. 1. Using specific examples, describe how Hitchcock opens The Lady Vanishes. What tone, mood, or atmosphere is Hitchcock establishing for the audience very early on in this picture? Pay particular attention to the music. Hitchcock created a relaxed, unsuspecting atmosphere (again) to introduce his characters in a public place. Folk music is playing in the background as Ms. Froy comes down the stairs and stops to get a stamp for her letter from the front desk. Caldicott and Charters handle the hotel door for Ms Froy, closing it against the gusty wind, before sitting down with the other characters waiting for the train. Iris Henderson and her girlfriends enter the scene with fanfare and disruption of the peaceful scene; all eyes are on them as they receive special attention of the hotel manager as returning guests. At this point the atmosphere is lighthearted, humorous chaos as the various characters deal with the announced delay in the train’s arrival and work to situate themselves with a room at the hotel. 2. Discuss the characters of Caldicott and Charters in this scene. What do the performances of Caldicott and Charters add to this scene. Caldicott and Charters add humor and a stabilizing effect to the scene, behaving very British and preoccupied by their own sphere of interest (cricket). Although they too are impacted by the situation of the train’s delay, they expect to receive special treatment by the hotel manager (who finally outlined in English how to obtain a room), only to discover the warm greeting was for the three women entering the hotel lobby behind them. This of course allowed them to make catty observations about the women and give us an opportunity as the audience to size-up the women for ourselves. 3. From their doorway entrance to their staircase exit, describe how Hitchcock uses dialogue, camera movement, and the placement of characters in the frame to establish Iris (Margaret Lockwood) as the star of this scene. Up until the entrance of Iris and her friends, the scenes of the hotel lobby were in long views, treating all of the characters in the scene as equal. The background music was a lively folk tune and the guests were placidly waiting in the hotel lobby. Then the arguing of two porters carrying the baggage and skis of the Iris Henderson party enter the scene, drowning out the folk music and introducing an element of disruption and chaos. The attention is then focused on the hotel doorway where three women are entering and get a close-up treatment by the camera. The dialogue of the three women with the hotel manager (who was delighted to see them) established that these are witty, wealthy and worldly women with a penchant for the finer things in life (e.g. champagne). These are not average travelers, demonstrated by the fact that the hotel manager abandons his desk of other guests and personally escorts the three newcomers to their rooms.
  4. 1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific. Alice’s selective-hearing (or point of view listening) allows us to realize that she is preoccupied with the murder. The word “knife”, for instance, is repeated frequently and penetrates louder and more distinctly from unintelligible gossiping of a female customer until Alice is overcome with anxiety/panic, causing her to throw the knife. Hitchcock also powerfully used silence - the phone booth scene - to capture Alice's effort to clear her head and tamp-down her rising anxiety. 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. Hitchcock uses a close-up of Alice’s facial expressions to provide insight and empathy into her emotional state as the word “knife” is repeatedly mentioned, and she is ironically asked by her father to cut the loaf of bread. As she reluctantly picks up the knife with shaky hands, the work “knife” grows louder in volume, more distinct from what else is being said, and sharper in tone until the final “KNIFE!” is practically shouted and the knife goes flying out of her hand in a sudden reflex motion. 3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? I think advances in recording sound and the complete musical scoring of films is the cause for subjective sound being infrequently utilized today. Musical scores and special effect sounds are now integral in creating a lot of the emotional context for films, and it is usually done very well with often lasting effects. The scoring of Jaws is a prime example; many of us opted for swimming in pools vs. in the ocean the summer that movie first came out...
  5. 1) Based upon the opening scene, it appears character will be highly important to the film, but plot will matter as well. Hitchcock’s introduction of his characters in The Man Who Knew Too Much makes us wonder and care about who they are, what will happen to them and why they were brought together in the opening scene to set up the story-line (aka the plot). Hitchcock draws the audience in to care about the characters (e.g. scuttled ski jump to avert danger on the slopes for a dog and girl), but also makes the audience curious (a brief look of recognition quickly masked between Abbott and Bernard) that pulls the audience forward to know “something is up” – there is more to the story, perhaps even sinister, developing. 2) We learn quite a few things about Abbott in the opening scene: a) he appears to be good-natured, friendly and a likable fellow, able to shake off being knocked down with humor, his accent is not British, making him different than the other characters, and c) there is more to him than meets the eye – he has a connection with the skier who crashed into the crowd, reveled briefly via a suppressed look of recognition. The effect of Hitchcock’s introduction of Abbott as a likable man creates added tension to the story, because we are not supposed to like villains, and we want to like Abbott. 3) The common ground for the opening scenes of Hitchcock’s silent films in Daily Doses last week and The Man Who Knew Too Much this week is in the setting. All three of them take place in public settings where one would have a sense of normalcy and safety; nothing out of the ordinary should happen in these places (a theater show in The Pleasure Garden, a busy public street in the Lodger or on the ski slopes of St. Moritz in The Man Who Knew Too Much) … but yet it does! For me, the obvious difference between the two Daily Doses is that The Man Who Knew Too Much has the benefit of sound/dialogue helping to establish the characters and the audience’s interest in the plot, whereas The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger as silent films did not. Visually, Hitchcock used similar techniques of starting his film with an overview of the crowds before moving in on specific characters with close-ups.

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