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Everything posted by riffraf

  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!
  15. The Lodger (1927) opens with a disturbingly intense soundtrack accompanying a graphic of a dark shadowed character and transitions to an extreme close-up of a woman’s face screaming in agony followed with a late-evening riverside view of her lifeless body whereas Frenzy starts us out in broad daylight with a birds-eye view of London, much like a travel log along with a grand musical accompaniment of pomp and circumstance. The obvious differences being day and night and the major similarities, a woman’s body in or near the river Thames of metropolitan London. As mentioned in today’s lecture, we are back to basics for “Hitchcock touches” starting with a large crowd of people (the common people including the “everyman”), dark humor as the politician speaks of cleaning out this river of human refuse when he’s interrupted by a body being discovered floating nearby, and of course the auteur’s cameo. The cameo itself may be homage to the crowd shot used in Strangers on a Train (1951) where Hitchcock, like Robert Walker, is the only person in the crowd not moving. True to Hitchcock’s pattern of using iconic landmarks as backdrops to his stories, for Frenzy his camera follows the Thames river up to and under the historic Tower Bridge as it seems to open over his directing credit, and welcomes home Great Britain’s favorite son, Alfred Hitchcock!
  16. From the opening sequence of Marnie we know her character is young, attractive, in transit, mysterious, incognito, well dressed, uses an assumed identity, and has a lot of cash. Visually she is well posed meaning she carries herself with the ease and confidence of a high fashion runway model. She appears to be very neat, precise and organized in the way she packs her new clothes into the suitcase. We are apparently witnessing a routine (and most likely a crime) she has performed many times over like a skillfully executed covert operation. Hitchcock uses Bernard Herrmann’s score in his usual way by building the suspense within the scene using a slow and low, mellow background soundtrack accompanying wide shots, medium shots and close ups of the action until Marnie, the mystery woman, washes and rinses herself off her former identity. (And I’m counting on my classmates with the musical expertise to give us the breakdown of technically what we are hearing) but as she morphs into her real or new persona, Herrmann’s score builds to a crescendo sounding very much like the track he performed for Kim Novak’s transformation in Vertigo. I believe this is the first time Hitchcock actually looks into the camera during his cameo. Maybe he’s experimenting with a new approach as to how he puts his signature on his films and this is his way of saying, “I’m still here, and this is my new and improved (1964) style!”
  17. I too love to visit iconic film locations! This is how the "Bodgea Bay School House" looked in 2012 as a private residence.
  18. The opening scene in The Birds follows the elements of a romantic comedy rather than a horror film by introducing a beautiful and sophisticated blonde who is initially mistaken for a sales clerk by a very suave and handsome man which leads them into a playful repartee duel regarding love birds. We learn right away that both Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) have a sense of humor, both are somewhat attracted to each other and enjoy toying with one another in a farcical way as they discuss the mating habits of birds. Hitchcock’s sound design introduces us to the birds via their loud and grating cawing before we ever see them on camera. It’s the sound cue of a young boy’s flirtatious whistle that turns Melanie around before entering the store and another sound cue of louder and more pronounced bird sounds as she sees, and the audience sees for the first time a large mass of seagulls circling over Union Square in San Francisco. The mood created from the loud and piercing sounds of the birds is a keen awareness. This is unusual. Have you ever seen so many gulls? Must be a storm at sea that can drive them inland. So within the first few moments of the film, we have been prepared and informed that there is an undercurrent of things being not quite normal. Hitchcock’s cameo exiting the pet store with his two dogs seems very apropos concerning the theme of his film and utilizing the very location his stars will be using to start their relationship. Maybe my imagination but from the over the shoulder shot of Tippi Hedren conversing with the pet store proprietor, her hair seems to be styled very similar to how Kim Novak’s hair was done when she was emulating Carlotta Valdes in Vertigo. On a humorous note on the opening scene it has been pointed out to me that a “people wrangler” (production assistant) in a light colored trench coat can be seen stopping a little old lady from crossing the street to prevent her from being in Tippi Hedren’s crosswalk shot. As many times as I have seen this movie, I never noticed, always being focused on Tippi Hedren, of course.
  19. I believe you are one of the few in our class to pick up on the character's "vulnerability". In preparing for the role of Marion Crane, Janet Leigh had invented a complete life for Marion, as to where she went to school, what church she attended, favorite book, passions, fantasies etc., she knew the character intimately. And she goes on to say her book Psycho - Behind the Scenes of The Classic Thriller, "She isn't a thief by trade, but she is desperately trying to build a life for herself with the man she loves, who is debt-ridden and therefore, unable or unwilling to marry. This is her last chance to grab the brass ring of happiness."
  20. The graphic title design by Saul Bass introduces the themes of Psycho by rapidly dissecting a black screen first with horizontal lines and eventually with vertical lines racing across the screen piecing together credits to become readable and just as quickly breaking them apart, all to the pulsating sound of Bernard Herrmann’s rich musical score. Symbolically showing the audience this is a puzzle told at a fast pace in bit parts and if you are not paying close attention, you will miss out on the overall story. As the titles end and the audience has experienced an exhausting and unnerving stride listening to Bernard Herrmann’s ear piercing score and watching Saul Bass’ chop-chop graphics, we see a panoramic view of Phoenix, Arizona in broad daylight, Friday, December the 11th, at 2:43pm and Hitchcock has easily established the time and place as if you were reading the facts of a crime story in the newspaper. The who, what, where and when of how this crime was executed is what follows. I believe Hitchcock chooses to enter the hotel room through the blinds from the outside, much the same way as he did in Rear Window (1954), making us voyeurs entering, uninvited, a private episode of this couple’s life. This is also very reminiscent of the way Orson Welles’s camera in Citizen Kane (1941) crept along the grounds of Xanadu, eventually creeping over the fence and past the “No Trespassing” sign to expose the life of Charles Foster Kane. For 1959 a woman clad only in undergarments was taboo. In spite of Hitchcock’s pushing the boundaries of censorship, Janet Leigh mentions in her book Psycho –Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller, she didn’t really feel self-conscious because there was less flesh exposed than there would have been if she were in a bathing suit or some décolleté evening gown. Of course a little bit of a different story when we get to the shower scene. All of the dialog and all of the action revolves around Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), her guilt about being there, not being married, feeling cheap and concerned about her future (and thus a motive for the eventual theft). Sam Loomis (John Gavin) as the boyfriend is more concerned about prolonging their tryst. So Janet Leigh is established as the protagonist in this scene and all else is supporting to her character and actions to move the story forward.
  21. I certainly agree! I would also point out as does Michael Caine in his brief commentary played periodically on TCM, "...that we shouldn't get hung up on his looks, because he never did!" A wonderful short tribute on Youtube:
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