Marianne

Hitchcock Lecture Videos

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The lecture videos are informative and I'm glad they're part of the 50 Years of Hitchcock course. The set reminds me of PBS talk shows: I don't watch Charlie Rose, but he comes to mind! The black background is more appropriate, however, for Hitchcock (and for film noir).

 

Thank you to Dr. Edwards and to Dr. Gehring for giving us their time and expertise.

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I just listened/watched the video in which Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gehring discuss the auteur theory as it relates to Alfred Hitchcock. Dr. Gehring made an interesting comment about resurrecting other directors by trying to call them auteurs (forgive me, Dr. Gehring, if I have not paraphrased correctly). Dr. Gehring never mentioned which directors he was referring to and I would really like to know who these directors are. I’ll make a few guesses (based on having taken the Ouch! A Salute to Slapstick course last year): Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.

 

In any case, could Dr. Gehring be prevailed upon to identify the directors he would like to call auteurs? Thanks!

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I liked when Dr. Edwards' pointed out an opportunity to watch the upcoming Hitchcock films with the sound off... to see how it does/doesn't affect your understanding of the story. I'm certain it would be difficult to follow today's movies with their rapid-fire, close-up imagery without a strong storyline and/or audible dialogue to go with it. But, then, that does highlight Hitchcock's storytelling strength. For him, silence seems to be golden. :-)

 

Side note: I also liked how Hitchcock (in his interview) noted that the glass ceiling was the visual version of sound effects. As the director, he could have filmed the scene differently, with the actors simply looking up at the ceiling (solid, not glass) watching the light fixture shake, then cut to above-stairs footsteps pacing, cut back to the people in the room below... and call it done. The audience still would have understood what was going on. But a glass ceiling... I like that he threw in that bit of directorial, engineering, and artistic fun.

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Who are the great directors that aren't auteurs? I've never heard anyone say, "This guy isn't an auteur, but he sure is a good director."

 

A guess:

 

1) Ford

2) Welles

3) Curtiz

4) Wellman

5) Wise

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Lecture Video for today: Every Screening Is a New Experience: Very good advice from Drs. Edwards and Gehring. For instance, I first saw Psycho when I was a teenager with my friends. We were scared by the film, of course, and we helped each other be even more scared. But I have seen the film many times since then, and I am always amazed at how much there is to the film besides being scared by its subject matter (yes, Psycho still scares me a bit!).

 

I also found it interesting to hear about the demands of writing and creativity. July hasn't even begun yet and I have already bored a couple of friends with talk about Hitchcock. Alas, not everyone is a fan, I guess, which makes this forum all the more important.

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In the third video lecture, Prof Edwards mentions a quotation from Gottleib (?) that said something like "Hitchcock remained a silent film maker at heart throughout his career." I hope that paraphrasing is close enough. I was wondering if anyone has thoughts on this subject. I understand the concept of telling a story with images rather than words, but certainly the words are important in his films after the advent of sound. Part of my reason for bringing this up is that I watched Easy Virtue last night, which I thought was well acted and delivered an emotional payoff at the end. It definitely included several creative visual techniques, but if ever a picture cried out for words, this is it. I think even Hitchcock would agree since in additional to intertitles, he films the court reporter's written notes, and also includes close ups of letters and telegrams between various characters. And he holds these shots for long enough that we can read entire letters from beginning to end. Obviously Easy Virtue is a story that Hitchcock thought was worth telling, but I wouldn't say it lends itself to pure visuals.

 

These questions led me to think that a few other films that seem dependent on words. Lifeboat and Rope both come to mind. Given the confined sets of these films is it possible to tell a story without words in these cases? I would describe both of these films as being very "talky." I guess my bigger question is what the Gottleib quotation really means. Just wondering if anyone else has thought about this.

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i agree with that, many films have long stretches of silence. North by Northwest with Cary Grant running through the corn field. Suspicion with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine first meeting on the train is silent, Sabateour- the ending on the statue of liberty is silent. I also liked Hitch's comment in one of the videos where he says. If a person is verbally happy he shouldn't be visually happy or vise versa- it's over doing it- I think that's why his films work and many films overdo it. He used his silent roots often and effectively, much like Charlie Chaplin did when he started doing talkies and through out his career

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Hello Morrison

 

Many movie theorists and directors deplored the arrival of sound, since for them cinema was basically telling stories using visual means. They were enough to create impacting images. When I watch a movie by Murnau, Eisenstein,  Keaton, and many others, I would agree with them. 

 

I also believe Hitchcock was one of these directors, and this passage from the book by Francois Truffaut on Hitch  seems to confirm it. Here is what Hitch says on the subject:

 

"The silent pictures were the purest form of cinema; the only thing they lacked was the sound of people talking and the noises. But this slight imperfection did not warrant the major changs that sound brought in. In Many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema. They are mostly what I call ‘photographs of people talking.’ When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try first to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between… To me, one of the cardinal sins for a scriptwriter, when he runs into some difficulty, is to say ‘We can cover that by a line of dialogue.’ Dialogue should simply be a sound among sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

 

In the third video lecture, Prof Edwards mentions a quotation from Gottleib (?) that said something like "Hitchcock remained a silent film maker at heart throughout his career." I hope that paraphrasing is close enough. I was wondering if anyone has thoughts on this subject. I understand the concept of telling a story with images rather than words, but certainly the words are important in his films after the advent of sound. Part of my reason for bringing this up is that I watched Easy Virtue last night, which I thought was well acted and delivered an emotional payoff at the end. It definitely included several creative visual techniques, but if ever a picture cried out for words, this is it. I think even Hitchcock would agree since in additional to intertitles, he films the court reporter's written notes, and also includes close ups of letters and telegrams between various characters. And he holds these shots for long enough that we can read entire letters from beginning to end. Obviously Easy Virtue is a story that Hitchcock thought was worth telling, but I wouldn't say it lends itself to pure visuals.

 

These questions led me to think that a few other films that seem dependent on words. Lifeboat and Rope both come to mind. Given the confined sets of these films is it possible to tell a story without words in these cases? I would describe both of these films as being very "talky." I guess my bigger question is what the Gottleib quotation really means. Just wondering if anyone else has thought about this.

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I guess my bigger question is what the Gottleib quotation really means. Just wondering if anyone else has thought about this.

 

I think the idea is that Hitchcock honed his talent in the silent era, finding creative ways to tell stories visually when sound wasn't part of the equation, and then didn't give this up once synchronized sound recording arrived on the scene.  He didn't abandon his visual flair once dialogue and sound effects came into play.  His shots were meticulously planned out and whenever he could he used inventive photography to tell his story.

 

For a quick hypothetical, Hitch wouldn't use, say, internal monologue dubbed over a scene to tell audiences what a character was thinking, if he could show subjective shots of what the character is looking at (a glance over here, a glance over there) and a shot of their facial expression, and let the audience see the thought process.  He'd find visual ways (even if it's words on a sign or something) to get the point across without using dialogue.

 

In that respect, Hitchcock remained a "silent film director at heart".  He didn't let sound spoil his visual sensibility.

 

And this quote is terrific:

 

"...In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema. They are mostly what I call ‘photographs of people talking.’ When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try first to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between…”

 

Hitchcock sees cinema as an art, something that requires more craft than just setting up a microphone and rolling a camera.  When sound films came onto the scene, the novelty of sound and dialogue overshadowed the "art" of cinema that had developed over many years of silent moviemaking.

 

Besides all this, the technical limitations of early sound films (bulkier cameras, temperamental microphones, and whatnot) brought the visual mastery of late silent films a couple steps backward.  The early talkie period was an awkward transitional time for filmmaking, and it would be a few years before sound films caught back up to the visual innovations established in the late silent period.

 

I can't say how Hitchcock weathered the storm, specifically, but I just mean that sound films were a whole new beast, one which both allowed for and required new approaches to filmmaking.  But Hitchcock came out on the other side with his silent screen sensibilities intact.

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Wow! You guys never cease to amaze me.

 

These are some thoughtful and detailed responses to help out a fellow student.

 

Thank you all who answered! You are what make these TCM courses so special.

 

Keep up the excellent posts! I enjoy reading them so much.

 

Best, Prof. Edwards

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I would certainly view Chaplin and Welles as "auteurs"; and from what I know of Keaton and Llloyd (which is not vast knowledge), it would apply to them as well.

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i agree with that, many films have long stretches of silence. North by Northwest with Cary Grant running through the corn field. Suspicion with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine first meeting on the train is silent, Sabateour- the ending on the statue of liberty is silent. I also liked Hitch's comment in one of the videos where he says. If a person is verbally happy he shouldn't be visually happy or vise versa- it's over doing it- I think that's why his films work and many films overdo it. He used his silent roots often and effectively, much like Charlie Chaplin did when he started doing talkies and through out his career

 

I really enjoyed hearing Hitchcock's comment about not repeating the visual with the verbal, too.

 

One of the first things I learned when I entered the wonderful world of advertising (my career)... was how words and images work together to tell the full story. As a copywriter working with art directors, we carefully craft ads that don't say the same thing twice. If the image speaks volumes on its own, I don't repeat it in the copy (and copy is generally kept very short as it is)... and if I happen to write a great headline (?), the artist will select a photo that supports it but doesn't say it all over again.

 

Here's an example off the top of my head (and likely not a great one, but....): Let's say a client wants to showcase their strength in a certain area of their business.

 

Preferred ad: The artist chooses an image of a fortress/tower. And the writer creates a headline such as "Always ready." [<<Creates (hopefully) an emotional response that inspires the reader to want to be part of it (whatever the product/service is).]

 

It would NOT be advisable to do it this way: Image of the product/people performing service with headline that says: "Our xx is powerful.” [<<Copy is nothing but a label on the image here, which leaves the reader thinking, "So what?", and then requires more explanation in body copy to differentiate it from competitors and make the reader want to take any action other than moving on.]

 

- - -

 

Anyway… as I said, I liked hearing that Hitch applied the same technique! Maybe we (creative team) even got that idea from him! :-)

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I just listened/watched the video in which Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gehring discuss the auteur theory as it relates to Alfred Hitchcock. Dr. Gehring made an interesting comment about resurrecting other directors by trying to call them auteurs (forgive me, Dr. Gehring, if I have not paraphrased correctly). Dr. Gehring never mentioned which directors he was referring to and I would really like to know who these directors are. I’ll make a few guesses (based on having taken the Ouch! A Salute to Slapstick course last year): Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.

 

In any case, could Dr. Gehring be prevailed upon to identify the directors he would like to call auteurs? Thanks!

Here is the response I got from Dr. Gehring:

 

I was thinking of Leo McCarey and Robert Wise. Besides enjoying their work,  I was tired of them being neglected as auteurs. The left handed "praise" in situations like that is the directors were "craftsmen." Most auteurs get there by having a set visual style and working largely in one genre. Both Wise and McCarey worked in several genres and did not have a one dramatic look to their films. However, each had ongoing themes to all their movies. Thus, I did books on both directors to make that case. The former text was for the Indiana Historical Society Press, and the latter biography was for Scarecrow Press. Regardless, I'm finding that many of my students think an auteur has to largely have a set look, like a Tim Burton. And it goes so much deeper. It's not unlike when I teach film theory. It's so simple to teach formalism, from freeze frames to montage versus getting across the art of realism. Regardless, I hope that helps. 

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This has been an interesting experience so far.  I am learning a lot about film making more than in other courses.  I find my self watching other shows or movies and thinking ok that is what Hitch would have done or not done.  Even a PBS documentary caught my eye with some of the editing.  I was interested in the comment about Psycho.  I first saw this or saw part of this movie when I was about 10.  My mother was a huge Hitchcock fan and the movie had just come out.  We were on vacation and thus no baby sitter.  I am still amazed even today that she even thought to take me to that movie. I did not last past the second murder. I have seen it once since then but have never had the nerve to try again.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can watch it now with a better understanding of his methods.  I might add that my mother was the personification of Miss Manners, but she loved mysteries.  

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Here is the response I got from Dr. Gehring:

 

I was thinking of Leo McCarey and Robert Wise. Besides enjoying their work,  I was tired of them being neglected as auteurs. The left handed "praise" in situations like that is the directors were "craftsmen." Most auteurs get there by having a set visual style and working largely in one genre. Both Wise and McCarey worked in several genres and did not have a one dramatic look to their films. However, each had ongoing themes to all their movies. Thus, I did books on both directors to make that case. The former text was for the Indiana Historical Society Press, and the latter biography was for Scarecrow Press. Regardless, I'm finding that many of my students think an auteur has to largely have a set look, like a Tim Burton. And it goes so much deeper. It's not unlike when I teach film theory. It's so simple to teach formalism, from freeze frames to montage versus getting across the art of realism. Regardless, I hope that helps. 

 

Thank you so much for getting back to me with Dr. Gehring's response! And thanks for all the insights via the lecture videos. They make the lecture notes so much easier to digest.

 

Case in point: I just took (and passed) the quiz for Week 1!

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In the third video lecture, Prof Edwards mentions a quotation from Gottleib (?) that said something like "Hitchcock remained a silent film maker at heart throughout his career." I hope that paraphrasing is close enough. I was wondering if anyone has thoughts on this subject. I understand the concept of telling a story with images rather than words, but certainly the words are important in his films after the advent of sound. Part of my reason for bringing this up is that I watched Easy Virtue last night, which I thought was well acted and delivered an emotional payoff at the end. It definitely included several creative visual techniques, but if ever a picture cried out for words, this is it. I think even Hitchcock would agree since in additional to intertitles, he films the court reporter's written notes, and also includes close ups of letters and telegrams between various characters. And he holds these shots for long enough that we can read entire letters from beginning to end. Obviously Easy Virtue is a story that Hitchcock thought was worth telling, but I wouldn't say it lends itself to pure visuals.

 

These questions led me to think that a few other films that seem dependent on words. Lifeboat and Rope both come to mind. Given the confined sets of these films is it possible to tell a story without words in these cases? I would describe both of these films as being very "talky." I guess my bigger question is what the Gottleib quotation really means. Just wondering if anyone else has thought about this.

When I heard this quote in the lecture, I agreed with it. Especially after taking time to absorb the idea. While I agree with you that words and dialogue can be important to a film, I would argue that Hitchcock's reputation was built more on visuals than dialogue. I confess I haven't seen Easy Virtue yet, so I can't speak to that one. I think you make a good point about the "words" themselves being significant, but it sounds as if it is the image of the words that you are describing, rather than the spoken word?

 

For myself, when I think back on a Hitchcock film, I do think in terms of the shots. Even Lifeboat -- I couldn't quote dialogue from it the way that I could with His Girl Friday, for example. But the visual of the woman with the baby, the group physically attacking Slezak -- these images really stand out for me, and contain more power and resonance than any of the lines we hear.

 

Thanks for posting this comment, because it really made me think more on how Hitchcock's films have made an impact for me!

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When I heard this quote in the lecture, I agreed with it. Especially after taking time to absorb the idea. While I agree with you that words and dialogue can be important to a film, I would argue that Hitchcock's reputation was built more on visuals than dialogue. I confess I haven't seen Easy Virtue yet, so I can't speak to that one. I think you make a good point about the "words" themselves being significant, but it sounds as if it is the image of the words that you are describing, rather than the spoken word?

 

For myself, when I think back on a Hitchcock film, I do think in terms of the shots. Even Lifeboat -- I couldn't quote dialogue from it the way that I could with His Girl Friday, for example. But the visual of the woman with the baby, the group physically attacking Slezak -- these images really stand out for me, and contain more power and resonance than any of the lines we hear.

 

Thanks for posting this comment, because it really made me think more on how Hitchcock's films have made an impact for me!

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses! I agree that when I think of a Hitchcock film I think of the signature visuals.

 

But...just to play devil's advocate, isn't that the nature of the medium? Don't we think of most really terrific films in terms of the visuals?

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It's a good point. And would make a great classroom debate topic!

 

For me, certain films like His Girl Friday, Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, Sweet Smell of Success, Casablanca, The Lion in Winter, all have strong and important and brilliant visuals, but are all more quotable than any Hitchcock film, and have essential scripts. So for those films, I really do ruminate on the dialogue more than the visuals. I do think it is a question of degrees. Just comparatively speaking.

 

 

 

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses! I agree that when I think of a Hitchcock film I think of the signature visuals.

 

But...just to play devil's advocate, isn't that the nature of the medium? Don't we think of most really terrific films in terms of the visuals?

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Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses! I agree that when I think of a Hitchcock film I think of the signature visuals.

 

But...just to play devil's advocate, isn't that the nature of the medium? Don't we think of most really terrific films in terms of the visuals?

I agree with you that movies words and action mean a lot. But in Hitchcock films it is all vision for me. And then the words.

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Sometimes I think of a particular director and it's quite hard to put into words what I feel, as in a subtle, deep, psychological feeling. Movies that comes to mind that make feel THINK as well as feel intensely are sometimes ones that scare the "bejeezes" out of me but most of the time they're films that are complex, well-directed, well-written, and that I can watch over and over. There are many films in this category for me and they include (but are definitely NOT limited to, just the ones I can think of in [giving myself one minutes] no particular order:

 

The Departed and almost every Scorsese film I've ever seen

Rear Window, Vertigo, and almost every Hitchcock film I've ever seen

The Godfather parts 1 & 2, but definitely NOT 3!

Star Wars IV only

 

There are films that make me think about them for hours after my first viewing and it's not always visuals. Frequently, it's dialogue, use of music, and other factors. (The ONLY thing I liked about the recent Disney live Alice in Wonderland sequel was the costumes and f/x). 

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In today's Lecture Video British Sound Period - Part 1: Blackmail, Dr. Gehring and Dr. Edward discuss the interesting location shots in Blackmail, in particular the scenes of the blackmailer in the British Museum. I noticed the scene when the blackmailer is climbing down a rope in the part of the museum with the Egyptian artifacts. I wondered if the giant mask next to the rope was real or a movie set piece because the eyes seemed to follow the blackmailer as he descends the rope. (Or maybe my imagination is running away with me and succumbing to the power of Hitchcock's suggestion!)

 

A technical note: I noticed last week that the action of the videos and the sound didn't seem synchronized exactly. This week, the video stops and starts, but the lecture participants' voices proceed normally.

 

Anyone else having technical problems with the videos?

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A technical note: I noticed last week that the action of the videos and the sound didn't seem synchronized exactly. This week, the video stops and starts, but the lecture participants' voices proceed normally.

 

Anyone else having technical problems with the videos?

 

I had that problem, too, on my mobile device. I attributed it to being on the ferry as I was commuting to work. On my laptop, it played normally.

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In today's Lecture Video British Sound Period - Part 1: Blackmail, Dr. Gehring and Dr. Edward discuss the interesting location shots in Blackmail, in particular the scenes of the blackmailer in the British Museum. I noticed the scene when the blackmailer is climbing down a rope in the part of the museum with the Egyptian artifacts. I wondered if the giant mask next to the rope was real or a movie set piece because the eyes seemed to follow the blackmailer as he descends the rope. (Or maybe my imagination is running away with me and succumbing to the power of Hitchcock's suggestion!)

 

 

Hitch couldn't film in the actual British Museum. (Some reports claim that he was denied permission. Others that there simply wasn't enough light for filming. (Perhaps he was denied permission to use lights there.)) He used photographs and special effects trickery to make it seem like the players were in the Museum. So, it may have been a replica or a photograph of the real thing, but it certainly wasn't a genuine ancient giant mask.

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Today's lecture video (British Sound Period, Part 3: The 39 Steps) really has me curious about The 39 Steps. Dr. Gehring talked a little bit about how the film almost seems like a screwball comedy at times!

 

So I'm starting to picture It Happened One Night according to Hitchcock. The Daily Dose reinforces the humor for me. The spectators in the music hall were funny right from the start. I'm really looking forward to seeing the film.

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I had that problem, too, on my mobile device. I attributed it to being on the ferry as I was commuting to work. On my laptop, it played normally.

 

I'm still having synchronization problems, but the audio is the most important part and listening is just fine.

 

The Daily Dose clips work just fine, oddly enough.

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