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About zcamenker

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  1. I could definitely see Hitch working with directors like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and David Fincher. Even though they are all very different and quirky/unique in some ways, I think Hitch would LIKE what they bring to the table. He also would love working with some of their constant collaborators like cinematographer Bob Richardson, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and musicians Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross. The creativity and stylistic approach they bring to the table would probably impress Hitch a lot. It's really hard to think of writers because so few films today have screenplays akin to Hitch's, especially his many films that lack dialogue. As we said, he was a silent filmmaker at heart, so I doubt he could find an easy replacement to today's standards since dialogue is now key. One person who he would definitely NOT collaborate with would be Aaron Sorkin. Though he is a true genius, he is, as Kate Winslet said after making STEVE JOBS, crazy for writing so much dialogue! For actors, the list could go on and on and I actually think Hitch would enjoy working with many modern performers. Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington, Mark Ruffalo, and Michael Keaton are some leading men that come to mind while blondes like Charlize Theron, January Jones, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Rosamund Pike, and Jennifer Lawrence also strike me. He would probably find some great work for supporting actors and actresses too. Christoph Waltz and Michelle Williams are some who immediately come to mind. If only these collabs could happen, just think what we'd have in our grasps!!!
  2. I watched you twice on TCM with Ben Mankiewicz and agree with you that ROPE is one of Hitch's best films. I myself find it one of his most underrated and VERTIGO one of his most overrated. What are your feelings toward VERTIGO being consistently ranked as Hitch's best film?
  3. It's been a long time since I've seen MARNIE and I must say that, based on Dr. Edwards' praise for it and that intensely captivating opening scene, I look forward to seeing it again. While my memory points to some agreement with Dr. Gehring in that not all the pieces in this film work for me, I do think the overall feel of the film continues to show Hitch's success, even in his mid 60's. Just Bernard Herrmann's score and Tippi Hedren's look do that alone, not to mention the other moving pieces that make it an intriguing film. Herrmann's score here almost serves as a buildup to the revelation of what we will later learn is the true Marnie; the classic Hitchcock blonde with deeper problems than we are initially led to believe. Herrmann's subtle undertones to start point to something suspicious, but once the dye is washed from Marnie's hair to reveal Tippi Hedren, that subtlety is completely gone and rarely returns. If anything, the opening shows us that our eponymous protagonist has a lot to hide and that she manipulates her way through getting what she wants. Based on the multiple identity cards and expensive items housed in nice suitcases, we know that there is more to Marnie than meets the eye. We know very little, but we at least know there is a sense of suspicion to come. As for our director's cameo, I find it one of his most curious, especially considering that he places himself toward the very beginning and looks at the camera. It's almost as if he is acknowledging that, despite the lack of success of his later years, there is still a Hitchcock touch to this film and he approves!
  4. In a way, the Saul Bass opening credit sequence and first scene of PSYCHO further expose us, as viewers in the Hitchcock audience, to the voyeurism that encompassed a significant part of his later career. The blinds, much like the blinds in REAR WINDOW for example, serve as a way for the audience to become peeping Toms ourselves. One may think that there is no better example of a peeping Tom than Jimmy Stewart's L.B. Jeffries in REAR WINDOW, but I personally think that Norman Bates is THE peeping Tom in the Hitchcock canon. As Drs. Gehring and Edwards said in the video, the scene where Bates peeps through into Marion's room not long before the shower sequence is key to understanding this idea of voyeurism. To me, that is also the second most signature scene to that film behind the obvious shower sequence. As noted, the production code was being pushed significantly at this time and PSYCHO further elevates the risque nature of Hitchcock and voyeurism by pushing code. It was ultimately to Hitch's advantage as it drew audiences in and one could say that Hitch being a voyeur paid off with the success of this timeless, edge of your seat classic. From Bass' intensely intriguing opening to Herrmann's immediately hooking violin-based horrific score to every moment in between, this is a film that can't NOT be enjoyed!
  5. I am going to use this space for a twofold response today. I am going to start with some thoughts regarding the innovative and provocative opening sequence designed by Saul Bass, then move into why I believe it is important to debunk the fact that VERTIGO is Hitchcock's masterpiece. First and foremost, having seen the film nearly a decade ago for the first time and not having watched it since, I do admit a slight bias for my feelings after the first time I viewed it. Next, I am not a film scholar nor expert by any means, so I do not expect anyone who reads this to side with me on what I say as if I am some sort of authority. In short, I am merely stating an opinion that I have and that is not the one answer to how to respond to this film. Perhaps my thoughts will change after I watch it again next week, but for now, I will respond from memories I have of the film years ago and studies I've made of it since. But first, Saul Bass... One thing that really, really works for this film is the brilliant opening sequence designed by Saul Bass. Not only does it unify so many parts that encompass the complexities of a film, but it also reminds us that, as Dr. Edwards has said, Hitch was a silent filmmaker at heart. Here you have the beginnings of a story unfolding, a sense of deep psychological torment as the camera begins with a pan on the eyes of a woman, eventually taking us into her complex mind filled with twists and turns in the style of Lissajous. These vivid and unique images, in addition to the emotionally symphonic sounds and underscores that the great Bernard Herrmann's score conveys, show us that the story will be a psychological thriller with a deeply emotional mood and complex atmosphere. I remember reading into the film's multifaceted plot line just from these credits when I first watched it. I don't think that one single image can be seen as powerful here simply because the whole sequence is so complex and unusual. Without a clear image of what each squiggle, twist, and turn represent, I do not feel I can evaluate the power of the imagery. The pan in and out of the woman's eyes, however, is among the most powerful as it takes us into her psyche, exposing us to the ensuing story of thrill and torment. As I said above, Bass and Herrmann's collaboration works super well because of Herrmann's choices to underscore a symphonic and emotional score. Couple those emotions with Bass' storytelling technique of torment through the Lissajous, you have what becomes a complex story. Speaking of complex stories, a large part of why I fail to understand VERTIGO's stance as the greatest Hitchcock film has to do with the script. As a whole, I find the script is significantly lacking in substance, character development, and understandable conclusion. One may think that this is because I dislike ambiguity, but in fact, I do like it. I can deal with obscurities but not ones that are as complex as this. The ambiguity is not the real problem here. The problem is the lack of fluidity to the characters. We don't get to know Scottie the way we get to know L.B. Jeffries in REAR WINDOW (think of that outstanding opening sequence we watched yesterday that, with NO WORDS tells us what Jeff does for a living and how he got hurt...brilliant, am I right?). While we know of Scottie's challenges at work and his task at hand, we do not know what has spawned his desire to obsess over the complex Kim Novak character. We don't have a clear picture of him at all. And that is because the script lacks the substance of other Hitch films that naturally and gently expose us to the characters' often shady pasts. One may also think that I don't like Hitchcock's lack of dialogue. That is something I also enjoy as my two favorite Hitch films, REAR WINDOW and PSYCHO, both have extensive periods with no dialogue. What doesn't work as well for VERTIGO is that the lack of dialogue does not come with those REAR WINDOW-esque openings that expose us to the backstory. The real backstory is lost here, which is why to many, it becomes too dream-like. It is easy, as Wes Gehring said, to confuse VERTIGO as a dream and not reality. Above all things, I just remember thinking that VERTIGO does not compare to other films that have held #1 status. There are certainly things to like about it aside from the title sequence. Martin Scorsese's point about the car scene was a good one. That has some major intrigue but it slowly dwindles as boredom sets in. The location filming is wonderful and Hitch brilliantly uses it to build some type of development, albeit minimal in comparison to his other films. But when I think of other films that have held #1 or Top 10 slots like GONE WITH THE WIND, THE GODFATHER, or CITIZEN KANE, I think of innovation. I think of things the film did that hadn't been done before, or simply not as well. For GONE WITH THE WIND, those innovations are the scope of the Burning of Atlanta, an immense amount of extras, production design that was revolutionary, and an epic film like none seen before. For THE GODFATHER, those innovations are masterful storytelling, intense and powerful music at the baptism juxtaposed with the shooting of the five families, and a shift from location in the US and Italy. For CITIZEN KANE, those are the incredible camera shots, the framing of the narrative over decades, and the ability of so many neophytes and theatre, not film, professionals to come together to make a revolutionary picture and to play characters who age twice their real age. While I understand why these films have faced criticism and have been deemed overrated in their own ways, I just do not see VERTIGO comparing. It is too simple in comparison. And I can deal with simple, too. But if it's simple, it also has to have added layers: strong character development, great performances (I love Stewart but this is not even one of his Top 5), a unified technical experience (VERTIGO does come close there), and overall fluidity. VERTIGO just lacks in one too many of these and it's simply not Hitchcock at his best! Think of what we've seen so far. Does it compare to the intrigue of THE 39 STEPS? The suspense of REBECCA or SHADOW OF A DOUBT? The cinematic nature and extraordinary set up of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and REAR WINDOW? It is less intriguing, less suspenseful, and way less cinematic. Top 50 on major lists? Maybe. Top 100? Sure. Top 1-10? No way. Again, this is just my opinion. I apologize for my wordiness as I usually keep my comments on the forums briefer and to the point. I just thought this may start some good chat and expose others to the flip side rather than the often overused praise that makes it out to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films of all time. In reality, it is the pariah among many lists where it ranks in the top 10, but again, that is just what I think!
  6. It seems as though Hitch is trying to establish that everything in this picture WILL be seen through the rear window, almost like it is outside world storytelling from the inside. Hitch may also be aiming to convey to the audience that, while Jeff is the one who is going to be looking out the rear window, THEY are the ones who will see and notice everything thanks to the way Hitch crafts the camerawork with his cinematographer. Really, the opening gives the audience a vantage point that is established for the remainder of the film. As has been stated before, Hitch was often a silent filmmaker at heart. What impresses me most about the 50's era for him is how often he used no sound for lengthy periods in his films but instead relied on music and visuals. The visual design of Jeff's apartment tells us that, as he is housebound, it is due to an accident he sustained while photographing. We see through this visual display that he has had a highly successful career as a photographer and has demonstrated "derring do" in his choices. No matter how many times I watch this opening, I feel as though I am spying on other peoples' lives, dropping into them uninvited but interested to stay. While the opening doesn't quite get to the "voyeur" level for me, it does elicit that idea that I am quietly looking into strangers lives. This film to me is Hitch's finest and a true masterpiece in cinema. It is definitely his most cinematic overall. Despite constrictions into one room for roughly the whole shoot, he uses his scenic design very well by exposing the audience to the larger picture of the courtyard and the smaller picture of the individual apartments and the people who occupy them. His mood is captured beautifully by both the masterful cinematography and the playful music, which elicits excitement, curiosity, and tension. The way he uses his characters is great too and the actors give off some of the best facial expressions in Hitchcock movie-dom. A truly great piece!
  7. I would say that this opening drifts away significantly from other ones we've seen in class and that I've seen over the years. The fact that it is a screwball comedy shows from the beginning and the Hitchcockian touches, aside from visual and aesthetic pieces (sets, costumes, etc.), are largely absent. I suppose since our focus here is on the visual collaborations that it is a noteworthy piece to examine. What strikes me aside from the disarrayed bedroom and set that is typical to a screwball comedy is the delightfully light musical score by Edward Ward. Not only does it capture your attention immediately, but it helps to underscore the lighthearted comic nature of Montgomery and Lombard's performances.
  8. It's been many years since I've seen SHADOW OF A DOUBT and all I remember from my viewing of it was walking away with a mix of emotions, thinking it captured my attention throughout. Based on the opening clip for today's daily dose, I look forward to watching it again! The fact that the opening clip is a prelude to the main plot line shows, and not in a bad way. Unlike some films that shift location/story/focus from beginning to middle to end, SHADOW OF A DOUBT introduces us to the villain that we will follow throughout the course of the film. We learn, through some amazing introductory motifs by Hitchcock, that Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie is a menacing, troubled man. While we don't learn HOW or WHY he became that way, we immediately pick up on his flaws as he lies in the bed. The exposure to motifs of film noir by Hitch is brilliant. The one that stands out especially is the closing and reopening of the shades, something we see many times in film noir and even into later 20th century detection films. CHINATOWN always comes immediately to mind as a film that focuses heavily on light v. dark with blinds/shades. Speaking of lying on the bed, the parallels seen between this film and THE KILLERS are plentiful. I may have even picked up on it without the mention from Dr. Edwards. Just as Burt Lancaster's pained and tormented character of the Swede conveys trouble, Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie does too. He knows that his mischief has led him to danger and the two men after him, like the two men after Lancaster, deeply worry him. Tiomkin's music helps immensely to underscore the tension that Uncle Charlie is feeling. Like many of Hitch's composers, who he often listed second to last on the opening credits (a rarity in those days but demonstrative of the fact he relied HEAVILY on his musicians), Tiomkin does not disappoint with his focus on rising and falling music as the actions both build and settle. As the tension rises, the music does too and as a sense of normalcy seems to be in place, the music settles. Brilliant. Now I'm chomping at the bit to watch this film again since it's been so long!!!
  9. 2. Identify elements of the "Hitchcock style" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. Even if you are not sure if it is the "Hitchcock style," what images or techniques stand out in your mind as powerful storytelling? Or images that provide an excess of emotion? It is a well-known fact that Hitchcock was invested in emotional storytelling. I often think of his greatest achievements (PSYCHO and REAR WINDOW always come to mind) as being filled with emotion rather than excessive dialogue. In the absence of sound during this early period, I can see where Hitchcock may have gotten his inspiration to continue relying so much on feeling rather than words. The opening scream is a definite example of Hitchcock's powerful storytelling and the style of horror that would so often correspond with the emotions his characters evoked on screen. That, coupled with the reactions from the pedestrians as they hear of this murder, closely mirrors much of what you see with Hitchcock, even in his later years. The opening sequence of VERTIGO, for example (a Saul Bass collaboration I believe) shows facial expressions of Jimmy Stewart and nothing more. From that opening, the audience can see that the forthcoming picture, one of Hitchcock's films with the least amount of dialogue, will be laden with psychological thrill. I think of Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD saying, "We didn't need dialogue, we had faces!" as I watch this opening to THE LODGER. The excess of emotion is crucial to silent film storytelling but it became crucial for Hitch as he navigated ways to display themes of suspense such as psychological thrill, horror, and terror. He didn't need words, he had music and actors with great expressions!
  10. 1. Do you see the beginnings of the "Hitchcock touch" in this sequence? Please provide specific examples. Definitely. Two of the elements that stood out the most to me were the emphasis on the young blonde girl and the darkness of the exterior shots. These pieces are crucial to later Hitchcock films and I think the separation of light vs. dark is a key element for his depiction of good and evil. To see that light vs. dark may have been used in THE PLEASURE GARDEN is intriguing, even if it is just a happy coincidence. 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 that there are pieces that will later become crucial to Hitchcock, but I do think it is difficult to assess from a sequence as brief as this. Since Hitch was just starting his career in film, it is certain that he was experimenting with themes, approaches, and elements that he may have potentially used years later. The pieces I mentioned above about the blonde girl and the light vs. dark motif may be examples of how he chose elements that interested him and that he would use in years to come. 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? Not especially. If you think of other Hitchcock films in later years, there are often long stretches with no dialogue but heavy music or sound effects. I think Hitch continued to do that to focus heavily on the actor's facial expressions. Here, that is not as much of a focus, but you can still gather a lot from their facial expressions without dialogue.
  11. I agree with you that the film seems to be reflecting hardboiled dialogue with a touch of parody. I can't help but picture the two men as mimicking the toughness of Humphrey Bogart and the humor/mystery of someone like Sydney Greenstreet or Peter Lorre. I feel like they're almost mocking them in an intentional way, but then again, that may just be the nature of a "B" picture. This movie screams "B" picture because of its reliance on hardboiled dialogue, but also stereotypes of film noir like the train and the cutting from places fast. The only problem is you can see how poorly constructed the cuts of the first scenes are. Definitely low budget. This was probably the only Daily Dose clip that made me not want to see the film!
  12. The scene remains largely unfocused on Kirk Douglas' character, Walter while it highlights the relationship between Van Heflin's Sam and Barbara Stanwyck's Martha. This seems intentional and having not seen the film, I'm sure it foreshadows quite a bit about the ultimately strange relationships between the three of them. The staging, something I thought was done in a clever and thoughtful manner, was directed toward a hyperfocus on Heflin and Stanwyck with only a small focus on Douglas, whose facial expressions are priceless. Despite the background nature of Douglas' Walter, it still allows the character to draw attention because of these emotions. If there was one thing that Kirk Douglas did superior to all others, it was intensely convey his own thoughts and emotions in a riveting, passionate manner; never too over-the-top like Heston, but always much more powerful than subdued noir actors like Robert Mitchum. Here, director Lewis Milestone seems to allow for Douglas' powerful expressions to be highlighted and to show his passion and desire, or lack thereof, despite the camera's focus on the other two characters. This is a significant feat in and of itself (for Milestone and Douglas) as it is challenging to draw such significant attention to the more "minor details" while focused on other equally passionate and intriguing characters.
  13. I definitely agree that Hitchcock is a "special case" in the film noir canon. Though many of his films including Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train do carry many noir characteristics, I don't think that he himself can be fully considered a noir filmmaker. Hitchcock was always referred to as "The Master of Suspense," and I think that is what each and everyone of his films does in some way. No one of his movies possess the same kind of characteristics, but neither do all films noir. Instead, they carry a generally "noir" feature that corresponds to their own genre or, in many cases, subgenre. For example, a film noir like The Maltese Falcon is a crime mystery whereas a film noir like Mildred Pierce is a crime drama. Though these two are very similar, they are not the same and neither are Hitchcock's suspense films. My point is exactly this: if Hitchcock falls into any style or genre it would be "suspense." Under each of his suspense films are different subgenres. While Strangers on a Train may be a film noir, Rear Window is more of a thriller. Because Hitchcock occasionally uses noir as a subgenre but often uses other subgenres below the overlying "suspense" genre, he is consequently an exception, or "special case," to the film noir genre itself. As you can tell, I am a huge fan of Hitchcock and find that his types of films could be classified just as much as films noir could be!
  14. One interesting thought that I had while the credits were rolling was this: What does the man say to the police officer who points him in the direction toward the Homicide Division? It may be that the man, later said to be Frank Bigelow, says exactly what he tells the Head of the Homicide Division: "I'd like to report a murder." But....what if he actually said something else like, "I was murdered." My thought is that the police officer would have generated a larger reaction, but I could be wrong. What we see here in film noir, like many of the existential and hard-boiled stories that the lecture and readings reference, is a sense of nothingness or at least ambiguity. In not knowing exactly what is said, we are not only unsure, but also made to think it may not be important. This, to me, further signifies the striking relationship between existentialism and noir as well as hard-boiled fiction and noir.
  15. It seems that this opening sequence suggests a theme from the get-go that will be pertinent to the entire film. Being "caged" from the outside world is most likely the central theme of the film, hence the title. Between the opening taking place in a car, caged from the outside, the women entering the prison, caged from the entrance, and the women looking out past the closed gate, caged from the real world, it seems that the thought of not being exposed to the real world and society is the central part of the film itself. Judging from the names in the credits and the characters appearing in the first two minutes, it looks like this is an all women's cast, save maybe some male prison guards or drivers who don't receive screen credit. With that in mind, it intrigues me to see what the structure of the "noir" picture does: with no "tough guy," or PI of the like, I wonder if the construction of the noir does justice to the genre? Interested to see!
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