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riffraf

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Everything posted by riffraf

  1. Typing this link into your browser & it should bring up the Clockwork Orange - Hogs of the Road clip! Sorry for the confusion.
  2. Absolutely! I too had thoughts about Roger Thornhill, in spite of being on the run and trying to figure out why and how he's where he's at, that maybe his life should be more than dealing with bar tenders, ex wives and taking his mother to the theater. I think it was an eye opener for him. And just take a long look at Eva Marie Saint. I rest my case.
  3. North by Northwest (1959) Assault by bourbon and the ensuing drunk driving scene in Laura's Mercedes. An excellent example of Cary Grant playing an inebriated, innocent, victim in a serious predicament (about to be killed), so serious there are moments of humor in this well edited chase. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IlY5kaZC2N0?list=PLBMXypKe8j52w3wlUoJx8fEizP3-7EF8L" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> In contrast to Malcolm McDowell and his droogs in a stolen Durango 95 playing "Hogs of the Road" in A Clockwork Orange (1971). Lots of similarities yet I think Roger Thornhill caused more damage. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0zmE4o2bnsg?list=PLBMXypKe8j52w3wlUoJx8fEizP3-7EF8L" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  4. Our pre-existing knowledge of the leading stars in North by Northwest functions in a way to fill-in any character references or traits that has yet to be defined within the story. With the persona of Cary Grant who is obviously well mannered, well dressed and extremely handsome comes to this picture with pedigree of likeable film roles such as Houseboat (1958), Monkey Business (1952), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and of course To Catch a Thief (1955) so that by this time he is well known by movie audiences as to the types of rolls he is capable of and maybe more importantly before he even makes an appearance on screen, the audience is more than sympathetic to his character and anxious for him to succeed in whatever situation occurs. Likewise the same pre-existing audience knowledge of a director like Alfred Hitchcock comes with the advantage, or burden of what moviegoers are expecting to see. As side note to this point, I would suggest that this is the very reason a number of audience members and a few of my fellow classmates had difficulty dealing with Vertigo (1958) where not only is our “everyman” James Stewart (Scotty Ferguson) a dark and damaged character, the entire story is one of Hitchcock’s darkest pictures where the audience is left with no one to root for. Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important prop enabling Cary Grant to inject a bit of humor into what had previously been a tense, hide-n-seek scene with the police. As he informs Eva Marie Saint, “that’s his trademark, rot! And the O stands for nothing.” This also gives an additional motivation for the two of them to get closer and make physical contact as he lights her cigarette. Besides, it’s going to be a long night. Hitchcock’s sound design in this scene for the dining car is a soft and mellow music, setting the mood for a romantic dinner accompanied by the muffled sounds of the train tracks. The ambient sounds of the other people in the car and table noises have been conveniently eliminated so that we can concentrate on the more important romance.
  5. John Whitney's book Digital Harmony, a treatise on music, images and computer animation, is a fascinating articulation of his experiments with, and passion for, the combination of music and film.
  6. The opening sequence of Vertigo is a very unique collaboration of sound, filmed images and graphics so tightly integrated to express a sense of impending danger or an unstable situation and yet the haunting music score lulls you into soothing sounds of string instruments only to be hit with crescendos of brass or wind instruments. The audience is being told, “Buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” (And we’re not even in the car yet! The most powerful image in the title sequence for me would be the swirling whirlpool graphic emanating from the close-up of a woman’s eye. The camera is moving to different portions of a woman’s face as the credits appear and fade away. Once the camera begins to zoom in for an even more close-up of the eye, and the light source turns red as the film title Vertigo zooms out towards the audience until it floats away and is replaced by the whirlpool like graphic (Lissajous spirals) until it dominates the screen and we are swept away with Bernard Herrmann’s hypnotic score. Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score could not be more complementary of each other. According to Dan Auiler in his book Vertigo The Making of A Hitchcock Classic, “Bass worked with avant-garde filmmaker John Whitney who’s lifelong interest in creating cinematic visual effects that would match the aural effect of music…this was an effort to make the image itself the music.” What better way to make a film than to have a collaboration of artists each at the top of their game? Again, Dan Auiler on Bernard Herrmann, “Swirling harps and blaring brass provide an aural equivalent to the vertigo effect Hitchcock committed to the screen.” I believe Bernard Herrmann to be unsurpassed as a composer of film scores and his music alone will conjure up visual images that will require an equally gifted filmmaker to complete the set.
  7. A few supplemental notes I would like to add. Being a professional photographer myself I find that Jeff having a framed negative is not out of the ordinary for a professional to display one of his images in a unique way and something he is proud of and I feel very sure it is not of Grace Kelly but from one of his model shoots. On the question of voyeurism, I don’t feel we are invading anyone’s privacy if their windows are open and blinds pulled for anyone to see, the option for privacy is there but ignored. With the exception of the newlyweds (and whatever they were doing) we only see the blinds drawn when something bad is going on out of our view, Miss Lonely Heart about to commit suicide and Lars Thorwald murdering his wife. The rest of the complex doesn’t seem to care what we see. If there were a Top Ten List for Kisses, I would award Grace Kelly with three of them. Though not included in our Rear Window daily dose but following that scene shortly is, for my money, one of the top, best cinematic kisses ever shot! Grace Kelly moving towards the sleeping, wheelchair bound James Stewart, her shadow slowly covering his face as she bows to kiss him in slow motion. Lisa Carol Freemont… I would also rank Grace Kelly’s surprisingly unexpected and very well placed kiss on Cary Grant after he sees her to her room in To Catch a Theif (1955). Fireworks & As long as you’re satisfied…
  8. The opening camera shot in Rear Window, I would describe as pure Hitchcock, fluid camera moves establishing the story’s location (a large bustling city), the local environment (a large tenet building), the immediate environment (James Stewart’s apartment), the weather (summer and extremely hot), the time of day (early morning), the variety of types of neighbors (eclectic) and James Stewart’s “state of being”, which is disabled and the reason why (his daring exploits from being a professional photographer in the middle of the action). In less than three minutes into this film, without any dialogue, the audience is given a wealth of information from which the story can evolve as well as a number of characters that may or may not be important in its’ development. The vantage point expressed in this shot is us, the audience, making us the silent room mates to Jeff, enabling us to view him as he views the world around him. We are all voyeurs. Sight is the most important of the five senses and it is this visual system that allows us to assimilate information from our surroundings which is exactly what Jeff’s character, a professional photographer or voyeur happens to be doing. Alfred Hitchcock has story boarded and composed the sets and framed the story the same as a photographer would. The feeling Hitchcock stirs within his captive audience is “we are all on display”, whether we are conscious of it or not. In Rear Window the circumstances of Jeff the professional voyeur is that in being confined to a wheelchair, he has nothing else to do but look out his window which is limited to viewing nothing, but his neighbors. Adding to the fact it is during an extremely hot summer and everyone’s priority is to keep cool with their windows open and privacy takes a back seat. I am not sure that I can agree with Hitchcock that Rear Window is his most cinematic film, as I would rank it equal to Vertigo (1958) for being visually spectacular. Maybe not a fair comparison since Vertigo had the visual advantage of location shooting (& logistical nightmare) all around the San Francisco peninsula whereas Rear Window was all shot on a sound stage. Apples and oranges? It’s a tough call, but these are probably my two most favorite Hitchcock films.
  9. A few supplemental production notes. According to Farley Granger in his “all about me book”, Include Me Out –My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway, “Bob Walker was a consummate professional, always on time and always creatively well prepared”, with the exception of the first days shoot (their feet exiting the taxis) and they wound up trading shooting times, but no problems. Granger also mentions that Bob Walker confided in him, his despair over losing his wife, Jennifer Jones, to that SOB Selznick, who was twice her age, because he promised to make her a big star, and what a struggle it was to go on without her. This makes me wonder, since Hitchcock at this point was free of the Selznick contract, maybe hiring Robert Walker was a way to needle his former studio boss. Where’s the blonde? Granger goes on to say in his discussions with Hitchcock that the director had wanted to use Grace Kelly as Guy’s love interest but Warners refused. Seeing how both Farley Granger and Robert Walker were MGM contract stars (and costing a lot to borrow), Warners’ wanted one of their own and so Ruth Roman got the part. Says Granger, “Hitch did not like his artistic wishes thwarted. As a result, he was cold and sometimes cruel to Ruth, which was unfair because as a contract player she was just doing what the studio told her to do. But Hitch was right, she was wrong for the part.” So much going on behind the scenes…..
  10. In Strangers on a Train Hitchcock begins his visual metaphor of “criss-crossing” with low-level shots of our two primary stars exiting taxis in a D.C. train station. Both are Diamond cabs but on one, the passenger door opens being hinged on left side, the other one hinged from the right side (otherwise know as a suicide door). The first character’s movements are filmed moving from the right to left of the screen while the second character’s low-level shots are from left to right. The most obvious criss cross shot is the low level shot taken from the train engine point-of-view as it crosses a maze of overlapping train tracks. From this brief scene Hitchcock created a sense of contrast by having Guy (Farley Granger) wearing a common looking darker suit with standard footwear and dark suit case, while Bruno (Robert Walker) is dressed in a well tailored pin-stripe suit with flashy two-tone shoes and a light colored suitcase. From the dialogue it becomes pretty clear that Guy is trying to do some reading on the train and though being recognized as a “sports celebrity”, prefers to be left alone and does nothing to encourage the ensuing conversation. Bruno on the other hand, is fast-talking and invites himself over to Guy’s table. He claims not to talk much but that’s an obvious lie from a pushy and obnoxious character as Guy responds with a sarcastic, “Thanks!” for allowing me to keep reading. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score opens as a grand and rousing piece with the entrance to the train station and the Capitol dome in the background. Once images of the characters feet are introduced, he does an excellent job of matching mood and tone to Robert Burks amazing camera work within a hectic environment. This collaboration creates an atmosphere of an energetic metropolis with people in hurry and lots of activity. It is not until we are on the train that the music moves to a slower pace with hints of possible sinister overtones and then the dialogue begins.
  11. From this early scene in Notorious we once again see fluid camera moves starting with a wide establishing shot dissolving into a close-up of Ingrid Bergman and her seltzer remedy in a room half hidden in shadows. We are given a wonderful point of view shot from Bergman’s perspective of Cary Grant within a tilted camera frame as he moves from the shadow of her doorway until he is towering over her in her bed. These are all standard elements in the “Hitchcock touch” toolbox. Hitchcock photographs Ingrid Bergman in a fairly well lit close-up with only a few shadows around the edge of the frame to capitalize on her on her beautiful face while at the same time establishing her relationship with a terrible hangover. Cary Grant on the other hand, is businesslike, well dressed, and upright and once he symbolically comes out of the shadows in Bergman’s bungalow he “puts his cards on the table” and explains the mission and his proposal for her and the reasons behind them. In the first half of this scene Bergman is framed at bed level, often with her back turned to Grant as she resists his “job offer” and continues to deal with her hangover. Grant is framed in wide to medium, well-lit shots as he presents his case. Bergman, who doesn’t want to listen to her own words against her father, stays in her room within the shadows until she hears herself claiming “love for this country”, only then do we see Grant and Bergman framed together, finally becoming a team. The casting of this film, as mentioned in today’s lecture, is perfection. Who better than Cary Grant to play a tall, dark and handsome man to play a government agent who will fall deeply in love with a female spy he has trained. Likewise Ingrid Bergman is perfect as a European exotic who is just as comfortable being the-girl-next-door who will fall in love with Cary Grant’s character and be willing to do anything to prove her love. This conforms to Bergman’s well-known persona to risk her career for love and have a child out of wedlock. Cary Grant’s character certainly conforms to his persona as the thinking person’s romantic leading man.
  12. In the opening sequence of Mr. And Mrs. Smith we see the “Hitchcock touch” with fluid camera moves, extreme close-ups, all of which are accompanied by a whimsical soundtrack composed to accent or in sync with the images and actions on the screen. I’ve never seen this film other than the this clip but what I conclude about this couple is that they are well to do, based on the elaborate furnishings and wardrobe, furthermore they haven’t left the room for some time and feel no need to pick up the “debris” from their falling out and/or make up period. I gather that the Robert Montgomery character is bored with the situation thus the game of solitaire. Carol Lombard’s character seems to be testing her mates’ willingness to stay in the room until they have “made-up” to her satisfaction. The room is large and well lit and the camera angles are fluid and straightforward with a sprinkling of close-ups. This sequence is typical of a Hitchcock opening by the fact that he gives his audience so much information using the tools (camera movement, compositions, editing, soundtrack and humor) in the most effective way in a very short amount of time. Though this film genre is far off from a tale of mystery and suspense, the technique of story telling is the same. Images are composed and structured to lay out a basic foundation of the story for the audience, introduce them to the characters and hopefully keep them interested and entertained throughout. From this short clip I enjoy the chemistry between Lombard and Montgomery. His character is doing what lots of married men do, and that is catering to his wife’s need to know “how important” she is to him by holding up in their room, avoiding contact with others and putting his job and career on the backburner until she feels their conflict is resolved. I’ve always loved Carol Lombard’s performance in To Have and To Have Not (1939) and both she and Jack Benny were so funny to watch playing off of each other and yet I believe she was so good in that role mainly because she played the part so seriously. It’s a shame she didn’t get more dramatic roles in her short career. I feel Robert Montgomery was well suited for comedy and felt he was playing the straight man in Mr. And Mrs. Smith, much the same way William Powell did for Carol Lombard in My Man Godfrey (1936) though I’m more familiar with his serious roles in They Were Expendable (1945) and as Philip Marlow in Lady in the Lake (1947). I’m looking forward to seeing this for the first time! Should be a hoot!
  13. This particular point-of-view reminded me of another somewhat evil house scene from the eyes of Julie Harris in The Haunting (1963) when she first arrives at Hill House and finds herself drawn this house of dark and mysterious beauty.
  14. The major difference in the opening scene in Rebecca from the previous Hitchcock openings we’ve studied thus far is the way we are introduced to Manderley, the sprawling gothic estate that is as important a character as the film’s two leading roles of Lawrence Oliver and Joan Fontaine. This is also, I believe, the director’s first extensive use of visually using finely crafted miniatures to reinforce the narrative of the story. One other departure for Hitchcock in his approach to Rebecca, is the lack of crowds. Isolation is the key for making this film, a suspenseful, puzzling thriller. The Hitchcock “touch” is augmented by a moody haunting musical score accompanying Joan Fontaine’s ghostly narrative as the audience is led down a fog drenched path to meet the persona of Manderley. The Hitchcock elements of mystery and suspense are well illustrated with the creative lighting effects on the mansion with dispersed moonlight through dark clouds as well as the introduction of Lawrence Oliver precariously standing on the edge of a steep cliff with his look of despair, only to be interrupted by (what else?) an attractive blonde woman. Within this short clip we are aware of the three major characters each with their own emotional dramas in an unsettling environment, leaving the audience with the need for many more questions and hooked on the story for answers. The opening sequence of the house itself lets the audience know right away that this is no ordinary home and though it is told as a dream, it boarders more along the lines of a nightmare, and of course we and the audience want to know why.
  15. In The Lady Vanishes Hitchcock once again opens the scene with a large crowd of people. Though the people gathered within the hotel lobby seem somber in mood, the music soundtrack is more lighthearted. Once the cuckoo clock strikes and the train delay is announced, the mood turns chaotic. The introduction of Caldicott and Charters gives the audience a bit of comic relief at the expense of upper crust British society. Their somewhat stuffy demeanor allows for an easy way to criticize a third world country and culture not up to British standards. Margaret Lockwood is the first of the female trio to be greeted by the hotel manager and shares with him the dominant staging within the camera’s frame. She seems to be the spokesperson for the group and leads them towards the stairs and the camera follows. Since she has the bulk of the dialog, she must be the star of this scene or a character Hitchcock wants us to pay close attention to.
  16. The opening pattern for The 39 Steps fits Hitchcock’s previous British film opening scenes by using a series of quick cuts and close-ups leading the audience to ask themselves who, what, when and where. By limiting the opening scene images in The 39 Steps, Hitchcock creates suspense and mystery enticing the audience to contemplate and resolve. [Being mindful this was made in a time period when audiences were required to think] I would agree with Rothman’s assessment on Hitchcock introducing a more innocent character than previous films even though the hero’s introduction starts off as dark and curious as it did for the serial killer in The Lodger. The tightly cropped and obscured angle of the ticket booth besieged in heavy shadows, has us following a mysterious man in a trench coat, with his face hidden from view and he enters a crowded theater leaving the director’s motive at this point, unknown. The crowd reactions to the introduction of Mr Memory are mocking laughter and British humor, at the same time putting the audience at ease and enjoying a laugh or two before shots are fired and tension taking over. These elements fit well within what is clearly becoming the Hitchcock touch where the innocent man in a very public environment is thrust into circumstances far beyond his control and he must rely on his own wits to not only to survive but also figure out how and why he is even involved.
  17. Based on the opening scene I believe this will be a character driven story seeing how the young girl with the dog, her father and the skier all know each other and obviously the Peter Lorrie character seemed alarmed and concerned upon meeting the skier who had knocked him down. From this scene we learn that Abbott (Peter Lorrie) has a sense of humor, is traveling with a stern faced nurse and had a troubling reaction upon recognizing the skier he just met. Because of his initial jovial persona the audience is bound to be somewhat sympathetic to the Abbott character later in the film, or at least keep an open mind as to motivations. Seems like a nice guy! The opening scenes in The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger both contain images of large groups of spectators. The audience in The Pleasure Garden and the street people, police and reporters in The Lodger, likewise a large group of spectators watching a sporting event in The Man Who Knew Too Much. It’s very possible this is one of the key elements of the “Hitchcock Touch”, to make the audience identify with the crowd of spectators which could very well have been the their experience within the film story and thus drawing us in (and maybe excusing us for being voyeurs). The biggest difference in this opening is the lack of use of extreme close-ups, not that they won’t show up later in the film, but from this clip the tightest shot we see is a medium shot (head and shoulders) of the downhill skier. Could be Hitchcock was enjoying having the wide-open areas to move his cameras around and saving his detailed close-ups for the climax.
  18. Unfortunately the quote option is not functioning for me, at this time but I wanted to acknowledge some wonderful examples posted by my classmates. Quoting classmate dweigum on "Sound technique...the scene in Saving Private Ryan when the protagonist becomes temporarily deaf...making the horror of the battle images even more horrific...". What a great scene with sound for a point-of-view. Quoting classmate Earthshine "Even though Blackmail predates it by more than 30 years, I was reminded of Robert Enrico's 1962 version of the Ambrose Bierce story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", which uses minimal sound as well." An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge can be found on YouTube and is highly recommended. Two excellent examples on the importance of sound fused with the cinema image.
  19. The Blackmail sequence puts the audience into the subjective mind of Alice by using sound in the same way Hitchcock so effectively used his camera by “point of view”. The soundtrack POV is recorded as if Alice is a walking microphone, and we are hearing what she hears. As she approaches the other characters, their voices are louder and more distinct, fading as she walks away. Likewise as she enters the phone booth all outside noises are eliminated. Just as Hitchcock used his camera to guide the viewer visually and focus on exact elements and actions of his choosing, he is using sound as a similar tool. In the scene around the dinner table the sound counterpoints the visual track by garbling the store gossip’s dialog except for the key word “knife”, as the rest is unimportant to the scene. That one word is used to grate the nerves of Alice and builds tension within the scene. Hitchcock sets us up for a shock by starting with close-up view of an unsettled Alice and slowly pans down to the loaf of bread and knife while verbally being pestered with word “knife”, until the frame is filled with a close up of Alice’s hand gripping the knife and the final, high volume, yell of ”KNIFE!” This particular use of sound is probably not used any more because theater owners didn’t want their patrons spilling their drinks and popcorn or wetting themselves during the screening. I’m sure there are laws and conventions preventing such creative film adventures. On a serious note I believe Orson Welles used similar tweaking of the sound track in Citizen Kane that made people fall out of their seats, a high pitched screech from a cockatoo and the starting of the film clip News On The March, the volume was just a little too high.
  20. Good call! And not unlike "this-can't-be happening" feel when James Stewart is falling near the end of Rear Window and again when experiencing sickening symptoms of vertigo while climbing the church bell tower in Vertigo.
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