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About riffraf

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    Houston, Texas
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    Film, photography, movies, history, & movies

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  1. In The Love Parade (1929) the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier) is better understood to be a sophisticated, handsome, humorous and non-threatening ladies man supported by the lavish sets, debonair style of clothing and his light-hearted manner in dealing with an otherwise volatile situation with a jilted lover and her jealous husband. It seems to be a part of the Lubitsch touch to keep just such a scene of anger and high emotions light and entertaining by making Alfred a friend to the audience by having him inform us of what’s happening on screen and offering his interpretations of the other characters, (she’s jealous) and loud banging on the door (it's her husband). By having the sounds of an off screen argument start this scene, tension builds giving the audience a sense of conflict and anger, yet that’s the complete opposite of what Lubitsch stages which is comedy and laughter. Once the compromised wife "shoots herself", the music underscores what appears to be a tense moment as the husband kneels over his “dead” wife and changes from a mood of grief to one of anger, picking up the gun, moving towards the womanizing Alfred and “shooting him", the music intensifies and the camera moves in for a medium shot only to reveal again, the complete opposite of what we were expecting. Instead of death and tragedy we get the Lubitsch touch of comedy and laughter.
  2. In clips from Rose Marie (1936) the interaction between Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy is very reserved and formal yet an obvious flirtation is happening as Sergeant Bruce is pursuing a relationship with Marie and flat out asking her what competition he might have and what might attract her (to a man). So keeping in line with the production code, he is straightforward and open about his intentions all the while being a perfect gentleman. His singing starts to bring her around and allows for some innocent verbal trifling yet no physical contact at all and the conversation is all above board and very proper. These film clips tells us that the relationships of men and women within films of this era are going to be appropriate and suitable per the Hollywood Film Code. The films to follow in this time period could be described, to paraphrase Joel Grey from Cabaret (1972), “In here life is beautiful!” Even the actors, the dialog and the plot are beautiful. Leave your troubles outside!
  3. This clip from The Great Ziegfeld (1937) a very light, happy-go-lucky view of life at time a number of years after the financial crash of 1929 but before the real drama of war in Europe would start in 1939. It is an overly optimistic view from the perspective of upper class, well-to-do theater patrons giving the viewing audience an escape from their everyday problems and a visual idea of how grand and fun life could be, but most likely not so realistic for the average movie audience. Had this been filmed before the motion picture code was enforced, we most likely would have seen more risqué costumes on stage and as mentioned in our daily lecture, an excuse to see the female performers in various phases of undress within (the excuse of) the dressing room. The dialog would probably have been peppered with double entendres and more risqué humor. But we will have to wait another 20-30 years before the code is totally abandoned.
  4. I too have watched Working Her Way Through College (1952) a number of times & up until then I did not realize what a talent Virginia Mayo was, dancing and singing some very complex numbers with the equally talented Gene Nelson. Since then I have connected the dots of her career, a gangster's moll in White Heat, sword & sandal flick The Silver Chalice, westerns Colorado Territory, historical drama Captain Horatio Hornblower and comedies The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, she could do it all with apparent ease.
  5. You will not want to miss Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse's homage to Noir in The Band Wagon (1953)!
  6. With West Side Story (1961) I see an acknowledged classical tale of star-crossed lovers as written by William Shakespeare (and whoever) transposed into a modern setting while still maintaining the themes of young love, family, class, prejudice and dramatic storytelling. While updating of the story for contemporary times broadens its’ cultural appeal, putting it into terms of dance and music makes this all-embracing story one of universal (not the studio) appeal and a cultural icon. I find the movie alluring for repeated viewings because of the multitude of the spectacular achievements in acting, singing, direction, choreography, camerawork, costume design, and so on. This is a fine tuned engine that is running on all cylinders and is a joy to watch. Of course there are the tragic elements of the story but such is life.
  7. So true, and I think The Hot Spot (1990) is a modern Noir masterpiece for Dennis Hopper. As for the Hitchcock touches, Hopper weaves and blends an amazing soundtrack of blues with music composed by Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Jack Nitzsche, and Taj Mahal to emphasize and underscore scenes of tense drama, robbery, adultery, passion, betrayal with an excellent ensemble cast of characters (William Sadler, Jerry Hardin, Barry Corbin, Charles Martin Smith and Jack Nance) in the same sensitive style Hitchcock worked with his collaborators. Don Johnson plays a drifter, fulfilling the “everyman role” and maybe not quite so innocent but more so than others he encounters. Based on the book Hell Hath No Fury, the plot twists and turns with blackmail, obsession and is it really “murder”? Plenty of MacGuffins in this one and Hopper is keen on using his camera and camera movements to set the scene as well as to add information to the story. This takes place in a small Texas town re-enforcing the Hitchcock ideal, how an everyman type character can get caught up in a web of intrigue way over his head in any location large or small. Check it out!
  8. A few more that would have been interesting with the Hitchcock touch during his prime... Bound (1996) Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon Red Rock West (1992) Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) Kevin Spacey, John Cusack Tightrope (1984) Clint Eastwood, Genevieve Bujold Identity (2003) John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet Silent Fall (2000) Richard Dreyfuss, Linda Hamilton, John Lithgow Original Sin (2000) Antonio Banderas, Angelina Jolie The Hot Spot (1990) Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Connelly The Satan Bug (1965) George Maharis, Richard Basehart, Anne Francis
  9. Gotham (1988) with Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen, contains murder mystery, sexy blonde, determined detective, ghosts, plot twists, mistaken identities and more.
  10. Not to be confused with Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956) but Jim McBride's thriller The Wrong Man (1993) with Rosanna Arquette, Kevin Anderson and John Lithgow, contains mistaken identify, innocent man accused of murder, a sexy blonde, exotic locales, stairs, trains, buses, action, chases and an iconic cigarette lighter.
  11. In comparing Vertigo to Laura, you have (eventually) a controlling and obsessive Scotty Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) versus a controlling and obsessive Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) who becomes a murderer. With the women you have Judy/Madeleine (Kim Novak) who is somewhat weak in personal character and easily manipulated by men, and Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) also weak and easily manipulated. I assume the “likable character” being Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) who though, not as educated or prosperous as Lydecker, is handsome, dedicated to his job, in love and without any major flaws. What I think is being overlooked here are two major characters in Vertigo that, in my opinion, are basically flawless and independent of the script and/or actors for better or worse. The city of San Francisco, as mentioned in our lectures and commentaries is in itself a character in this film. Rich in architecture, history, color and culture and an abundantly rich environment, much the same way Mount Rushmore was chosen as a backdrop for scenes in North by Northwest. Imagine had Vertigo been filmed in Anytown, USA, then the character of the city would not have measured up to Hitchcock’s (or our) cinematic expectations. The other character I refer to is Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful soundtrack. His music can stand on its’ own without the film and be just as emotionally moving and a rich listening experience, yet there it is, perfectly in sync with the moving images to the sound of a love theme, the mystery of Carlotta Valdes and the madness and confusion within the state of acrophobia boarding on madness. For those reasons I would find it hard to discount a film for having minor flaws in the script or unlikable characters when it has so much more to offer as cinematic art.
  12. Greetings Mr. Philippe and Professor Edwards, Knowing that the shower scene in Psycho was such an elaborate accomplishment with so many camera set-ups, unique editing cuts and then married so well to the soundtrack, I'm wondering if the edited version of the scene was made first and then given to Bernard Herrmann to score or was there some back-and-forth, "make the image fit the music or more music fit the image"? They are so well synced there must have been some artistic communication between the editor and the composer. Thank you, Ron Ferguson
  13. Apparently an alternate ending was filmed (probably at the insistence of the studio) for those who prefer a "Hollywood ending" or those who prefer their fiction abide by the old production code days of censorship and strict moral ethics when criminal activity and persons less than self righteous are punished before the film ends. https://youtu.be/VJBSSkn0Ldw
  14. I'm in the same boat and unfortunately missed the interview that I was so looking forward to!
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