Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #1: Spiralling into View: The Pleasure Garden (1925)

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Yes I see the touch.

 

It starts with voyeurism. Women coming down stairs and the angle is looking up at them, so there's a clear shot of their legs, foreshadowing what we are about to see and first making the film viewer a voyeur of the women. Then there is the front row of mostly men watching the women dancing, heightened by the man using binoculars panning up to one dancers figure, and later through the monocle.This voyeurism is seen in his movies like Rear Window and Psycho (I wouldn't be surprised if it's in most of his movies). 

 

When they track across the mostly men in the audience, the viewer is giving insight into the psychology of the characters through their facial expressions and body language. We see how each individual mans feels about this act of voyeurism. The track shot ends with a nice comical moment of a woman sleeping in juxtaposition to the men.

 

Then there's the attractive blonds using sex to manipulate a man, when the old guy goes to talk to the show girl. This also sets up a funny moment when she gives him the lock of fake hair. Eva Marie Saint's character did this to Cary Grant's in North by Northwest. In both film the man is arguably much too old for the younger woman. 

 

Finally we see the two thugs and in insert shot on the woman's purse. Like in a lot of Hitchcock's movies the viewer of the film knows something bad is going to happen to a character, but the character does not know, which builds suspense. 

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Notes on Opening Scene of the pleasure garden.

 

1: Yes there was very definite signs of ‘Hitchcock’s Touch’ in the scene:

-  The visual humour. No sync-dialogue, so all humour must be ’shown’ rather than ‘spoken’. I’ve seen that in a few of his films.

- The evident superiority and (occasional sexual) power the women have over the men. The man who remarks about her ‘curl’ is reduced to childish coyness  end she goes on to gently rebuke him - much as a teacher rebukes an errant pupil. This reminds me of Grace Kelly’s attitude to Stewart in their scenes together in Rear Window. 

- Again to quote from Rear Window, the male voyeurism of the theatre audience and the POV shots.

 

2: Yes I would largely agree. The observational humour, the shot choices, even some of the imaginative use of framing such as the first 2 shots featuring the staircase and the stage in this clip may hint at Hitchcock’s future use and exploration of ground-breaking framing and filming techniques - such as the famous reverse-dolly shot from Vertigo.

 

3: There may have been. As there is no way for the actors to express emotion audibly, such as the scene with the girl searching for her letter of introduction. In this scene, she and many other actors here, are having to emote with their facial expressons - which can lead to an over-acted feel.

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The first motif I noticed was the use of voyeurism, which Hitchcock also used effectively in the film Psycho, with Anthony Perkins spying on Janet Leigh through the hole in the wall in the very famous shower sequence, and using the camera to simulate monocles and binoculars in The Pleasure Garden.  Hitchcock conveys the idea of voyeurism as well in The Pleasure Garden by framing the opening scene with the black bars on the sides of the film.  This motif tends to objectify women, showing them as defenseless victims in a world dominated by men.  In both Psycho and The Pleasure Garden, it seems that Hitchcock explored the awkward dynamic of the male/female interaction.  Norman is clearly very nervous and unsure of himself when talking with Marion, just as the patron at the club is very awkward while talking with the dancer, with both men failing at engaging in any meaningful dialogue--Norman speaking about birds' appetites, and the patron complimenting the dancer's looks and hair, respectively.  However, also in both films, Hitchcock seems to include very strong willed women who seemingly break the stereotypical social expectations of women during the respective time period when each film was shot.  In Hitchcock's later works, he seems to return to the victim motif (most notably women?), but in almost every case the aggressor meets his reward.

Some other voyeuristic stuff: Watch the opening of Shadow of a Doubt, which allows us to peek in at Uncle Charlie in his hotel room (the camera sneaks in under the shade, as I recall); the opening of Psycho, which zooms in from a wide shot of Phoenix in mid-afternoon to a hotel window, then--again, under the shade--to a shot of Janet Leigh and John Gavin in a stunningly intimate scene. And of course Rear Window is just one extended voyeuristic spree!

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Wow, I found myself completely engaged in this film. When the clip ended I was upset. I wanted to see what happened. Would she get her letter of introduction?! It had so much movement of the characters, lots of story lines, great film shots, for eg. the showgirls stepping down the spiral staircase.

I just loved it!

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Absolutely, for example, I see (sic) voyeurism as a vehicle which results in "us" seeing what the voyeur (Hitchcock) wants us to see...which is to see through their eyes. Once the binoculars are in place, you are transformed into that person...seeking...viewing. You want to see what they see...it transports you.

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? Yes, the blonde of course...calm, cool, collected.

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? For its time, it was not limiting. The viewers were still trying to understand the concept of movies, including complex story lines.

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I want to see more of The Pleasure Garden!

 

1. I have seen many Hitchcock films but have never analyzed them in an academic manner so bear with me. I don't know what film historians define as the "Hitchcock Touch" but I always associate it with an awareness of the presence of the camera in his films, and also with a dark sense of humour that grounds the narrative in reality, usually in the most bizarre of circumstances. The Pleasure Garden always seems to keep you guessing Hitchcock's intent and offers up little visual surprises that make you aware of the camera: after the women descend the spiral staircase, the camera does not follow them to an expected frontal view of the stage, but instead looks on from the wings; the interplay of different lenses (blurry naked eye, monocle, and binocular) and focal points make you aware of and experience the voyeuristic nature of the show. The gleefulness of these voyeurs, however, is checked with humour: a woman sleeps out of boredom, over-exuberance causes a man's foot to be stomped on, and the surprise of the fake curl of blonde hair.

2. I have never studied Hitchcock so I defer to the expertise of the authors.

3. I adore silent films and believe Hitchcock was born to direct them!

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1. Beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence are explored in the opening scene's strong narrative theme of voyeurism; an audience watching another audience, and witnessing the reaction of characters who are affected by this voyeurism. Other Hitchcock-touch are the stairs, sexual appeal of women, and the obsession or fetish towards a human object (like the curl of the dancer).

 

2. I definitely agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto that Hitchcock expanded his techniques and elements, in the thirty years of his career, to different levels of sophistication and professionalism as a filmmaker and artist. 

3. Some limitations on these opening scenes could be the presentation of a character in obvious ways, like his/her name and social status, like the dancer and the man in the audience. Perhaps to Hitchcock, the "narrative and spoken cards" were time consuming and tedious, regardless of being significant narrative components, I think Hitchcock relied more on the visual narrative and development of a story. 

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 


I believe I do see a few examples of his absolute command of the intricacy of human perception and the use of visual image distortions to give audiences the same sensory experience as though they could be in the movie themselves. Like the first scene with the blurry image before it becomes clear with the field glasses. 


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? 


Indeed, it contains elements and resources we would later perfect throughout his filmography. The perception, I mentioned before and a sense of voyeurism that he would later use.


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?


I don't really think that the absence of continuous dialogue limits this film, on the contrary, as I heard Hitchcock himself explaining on an interview, he did try to tell always the whole story visually and refrain from using dialogue to explain one situation. He always wanted the audience to figure it out and to feel it, sometimes when the real characters wouldn't even be aware of what was happening. Nevertheless, I do feel that he has to use exaggerated gimmicks to get the effects he wants, like when he highlights the purse that the men would steal from. I think that as technology improved, he could use better camera angles and shots.


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Wow, I found myself completely engaged in this film. When the clip ended I was upset. I wanted to see what happened. Would she get her letter of introduction?! It had so much movement of the characters, lots of story lines, great film shots, for eg. the showgirls stepping down the spiral staircase.

I just loved it!

I agree, 

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The "Hitchcock touch" is prevalent in this beginning scene of his first film. His touch is voyeuristic bordering on lecherous of the female form,  humorous with delightful juxtaposition, and focusing the camera on the small almost inconspicuous elements of a scene. The slips the dancers wear as costumes are so sheer that at first you wonder if some of them are topless as the bound down the stairs. The camera pans longingly up legs and to the dark eyes, blonde hair with a particularly long curl, and smile of the main dancer. The stage manager puff deeply on his cigar in front of a "No Smoking" sign. When complemented by the old businessman about her curl, the main dancer nonchalantly pulls the curl off and presents it to him. The camera provides the voyeuristic eye of the pickpocket directly on the woman's purse outside the theater. This is very much an example of the "Hitchcock touch" in that he provides the audience information that the character on the screen is not aware. We know the woman is going to be robbed, but she is completely unaware until she is unable to provide the reference letter now missing from her purse. 


This sequence definitely contains the element of classic Hitchcock themes. The backstage view, the charicature of the boorish man harassing the beautiful women who may be at peril. The humor of the foibles of the human condition, and mischief with dark undertones that fly beneath the character's on-screen recongnition, but clearly evident to the moviegoer. 


As the film clip of the Hitchcock interview reveals, before becoming a film director Hitch was responsible for advertising design and the words that appear with the ad's graphics. Hitch skillfully applied that expertise into title cards that didn't interrupt the movie's flow as much as it set up a shot or provided context to a reaction. 


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The main thing that comes to mind while watching this scene is definitely the voyeurism, a issue heavily applied in many of his films, most notably I think in Psycho and Rear Window. Also the focus he gives on the purse shortly before the men steal it seemed very hitchcockian to me, he allows us to know where to focus so we can be aware that something bad is going to happen.

 

Personally I prefer talking movies and sometimes can find it harder to enjoy and get 100% absorbed in silent movies, but Hitchcock doesn't seem to find a problem creating a kind of suspense in his silent works, since he usually prefer creating the mood through the camera more than in dialogues.

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Very reminiscent of Hitchcock, there is the whole part of Hitchcock that he is so famous for..."the icy blonde".  Patsy Brand, played by Virginia Valli, epitomizes the dialog when she meets the man with the monocle shows similarities to "North by Northwest" between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, with her leading most of it, in the lunch car on the train.

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The first thing that struck me was how similar in style the spiral staircase scene was to the scene in Psycho where Norman attacks the detective, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) and he falls backward down the stairs.  In The Pleasure Garden, the legs are juxtaposed in a unique camera angle to give the scene a downward motion. A definite Hitchcock touch making the scenes in both movies that much more memorable. 

 

I don't think the lack of dialogue due to the silent film presents any limitations. Actors used facial expressions, particularly their eyes, to communicate that "all is not what it seems..." - a typical Hitchcock theme.

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The Daily Doses and the discussion about them was one of my favorite parts in both previous courses and I already think this is going to be the case here too!

 

I'm not very familiar with Hitchcock's British films, especially the first, silent ones, but in this very first scene of his very first film I think there is a Hitchcock touch, especially in the opening stairs sequence. The whole is scene is humorous yet disturbing, subtle yet suggesting, weird combinations that made a trademark of Hitch's long and distinguished career that had just started.

 

The rapid cuts referred by Spoto was the first thing that came to my mind as "Hitchockian" when I was watching the scene. However, there are more. Hitchock's self-contradictory view of sex and seduction is certainly there as we see well-dressed, serious-looking men behaving like a bunch of teenagers watching the lightly dressed girls dancing. And then, hilarity and levity are followed by a much more serious sequence until the scene comes to an end.

 

Hitchcock generally used dialogue very deftly in his sound films, but I don't think there are much that could be changed if this particular scene contained dialogue. As is most often the case with silent films, dialogue could just help the director express his ideas more clearly, yet its absence leaves the viewer to use his imagination about what could be said and how the scene could unfold.

I have seen a few of his early films especially later sound ones like "The 39 Steps", and you are right, it will be good to watch this very first film completely.

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Wow, so many good answers, from what I've seen so far.

 

Questions 1 & 2:  In addition to the staircase thing, I'll add that some elements of Hitchcock include

 

  -- people at performances in a theater (behavior in the public sphere)

  -- lasciviousness

  -- women with snappy lines & confidence

  -- crime & criminal intent

  -- dramatic irony (audience knowing something a character doesn't)

 

Question 3:  I do find myself curious at what the pickpocket and his crony are saying, but mostly no, no dialogue screaming for clarity without a title card.

 

Interesting how the players are named on the title cards.  If that's what that was.  I don't remember seeing that before.  Was that a convention in silent film?

 

and did you realize it's using the actors name, not the characters?  I wasn't sure until I went over to YouTube and checked out the film which was a restore one.  Not sure the original you can watch.  I don't think using the actors actual names was a standard at the time but maybe an issue with the restore. 

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The first thing that struck me was how similar in style the spiral staircase scene was to the scene in Psycho where Norman attacks the detective, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) and he falls backward down the stairs.  In The Pleasure Garden, the legs are juxtaposed in a unique camera angle to give the scene a downward motion. A definite Hitchcock touch making the scenes in both movies that much more memorable. 

 

I don't think the lack of dialogue due to the silent film presents any limitations. Actors used facial expressions, particularly their eyes, to communicate that "all is not what it seems..." - a typical Hitchcock theme.

The interaction the blonde Patsy Brand had with the spectator with the monocle the dialog and the action still came through very well, and gives an idea of how Hitchcock will do his sound films when they come.

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and did you realize it's using the actors name, not the characters?  I wasn't sure until I went over to YouTube and checked out the film which was a restore one.  Not sure the original you can watch.  I don't think using the actors actual names was a standard at the time but maybe an issue with the restore. 

Actually, I have seen a lot with the names of the actors put at the end of the cue card.

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. -- Yes, I can see the beginnings - In the character of the background actors; they are each different and provide a story of their own even in the brief glimpse of them. No one is on screen for mere filler... they are people inhabiting the world we see,


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? -- I agree with their assessment. Though Hitchcock is just starting out, he has an eye for what works for him and he presents it; some things are standard for the film of this style, but his presentation of the people, the action and the his amazing control of light is seen.


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. The best dialogue is often exchanged with a glance, a smirk and the wave of a hand.


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My favorite part of these courses (my third) are the Daily Doses, where I continue to learn from so many members sharing their thoughts and ideas. There is not much to add- everyone has covered the discussion starters fully, I believe. There are many mentions of point-of-view shot and to that, I would just add that I immediately thought of the scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945) and his great use of this technique in the scene near the end when we see the action from directly behind the gun. Definitely, a Hitchcock touch.

Good to be back and see familiar names.

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  1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 

 

Icy blond, specific close up (reminiscent of films like Strangers on a Train and Shadow of a Doubt.) 

 

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? 

 

Hitchcock didn't have the same control he would later have on his films but that doesn't mean his signature could not be born and nurtured. There are many elements I see that make me think of later Hitchcock films. The man watching the chorus girl and viewing the girls from off stage give me a sense of voyeurism popular in some of Hitchcock's best 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?

 

While there is a lot of memorable dialogue in Hitchcock films over the years it is the shared looks, moments of silence and music that have truly stood out. Maybe it his work in silent film that helped him latch on to the importance of those moments. 

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Actually, I have seen a lot with the names of the actors put at the end of the cue card.

 

note to self...must watch  more silent films!  :) thanks. I didn't realize they were doing it as a standard way to do the cue cards.

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1. I definitely see his touch, from the spiral stairs sequence (though this time its symbolism is slightly different - not so much troubling), to the camera shifts or the sexual tension (legs frame, body language of the male character, etc.). I was particularly surprised by the early use of the shots where Hitchcock frames the eyes/face of the actor/actress in the center of the scene, usually in a close up. This (close-up of eyes), together with his visual humor (the first 18-20 secs of the clip are a master piece) makes me see a hint of surrealism in the sequence (maybe it's just because I'm a ·surreal fan!).


 


2. Totally agree – I think this question is quite connected with the previous one.


 


3. I don't think so – the acting, farming, set, and THE MUSIC is saying everything. Actually, I came to think that maybe it is through directing silent movies that he became so obsessed by details on the sets (I could spend hours looking at one frame, seeing what he's placed on the scene). I truly love the moment where he shows Mr. Hamilton smoking a cigar in front of a non-smoking sign and what it looks like a peephole to me. Brilliant way of showing the theater manager.


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There are definitely hints of the Hitchcock Touch here with the blond, the use of binoculars (especially how it shows a blurry shot first then a clear shot through the binoculars), and of course the stairs. I also noticed a bit of Hitchcock humor with the removable curl.

 

Since Hitchcock often has long sequences of no dialogue and just music, the fact that this is silent did not limit it in the least.

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1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. 

There are obvious beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence of The Pleasure Garden. Flashy women and a steady shot shows the beginning of Hitchcock's obsession with his leading ladies and his one point camera motions. Just like the ladies descending the staircase - viewers are uncertain which path Hitchcock will take them. Are they running to hit the stage or are they fleeing from something? Also, the idea of circus music also sets the tone for the sequence. Hitchcock uses music to set the tone, not to fit a characters action per say. In the next shot, viewers finally see that the dancers are running on stage for a dance number. This shot also introduces Hitchcock's legendary downward shot. I am sure there is a name for this specific shot, but I will have to learn about that as the course progresses. Finally, my favorite shot that shows the "Hitchcock touch" is when the camera goes blurry in order to show the older gentleman's perspective through his failing eyesight. This tiny yet monumental shot seems like to me quintessential Hitchcock. No matter what film I have seen or what I have read on him, Hitchcock seems like one that was never afraid to use different effects to tell a story. It is like how he used Computer Graphics in Vertigo, Hitchcock was always an innovator. I'm sure someone on here knows, but was this effect (the blurry shot) used before The Pleasure Garden?

 

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?

I completely agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto assessments that this sequence contains elements, themes, and approaches that we will see throughout Hitchcock's 50-year career. I would elaborate more, but I feel the previous replies and Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto's words are enough.

 

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?

Obviously, there are many limitations on all silent films due to the lack of synchronous spoken dialogue. However, as I mentioned in my answer to the first question, Hitchcock takes silence as a way to describe the tone of the scene. Hitchcock also brilliantly uses music to describe the tone as well. For example, he creates a happy yet troublesome tone with the carnival music in the first few shots of The Pleasure Garden. When the dancers are moving onto the stage, the music is joyous, but when the camera focuses in on the wandering eyes of the audience, the same music has a different tone.

 

I am super excited to discuss Hitchcock films with fellow movie lovers and cannot wait to see what the program has in store! :)

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1. I do see beginning occurrences of the Hitchcock touch in the clip. For example, you take the quote “I had to meet you because I was charmed by that lovely curly hair”, and the second that dialogue intertitle card appears, ominous music begins to play, delivering the message to the audience that he may not have the best of intentions. To which the dancer replies with handing her hair extension to the man, along with a witty comeback. I think the fact that this is his first film and he takes something that sounds innocent and juxtaposes it against the score to create a different atmosphere is an early indication of the Hitchcock touch (as well as the comeback from the dancer).

 

2. I do agree with Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto’s assessments that this clip contains many elements, themes, and approaches used by Hitchcock. One example being the use of editing techniques to show the binoculars being used in the clip as if we are the observer in the scene itself (like in Rear Window).
 
3. I don’t feel there were limitations due to lack of spoken dialogue. I feel Hitchcock does a really great job of delivering the story with the resources he has (facial expressions, changes in music, etc…). Dialogue in my opinion would enhance the way the story is delivered, but in by no means hinders it.

 

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