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About LingeringScholar

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    Advanced Member
  • Birthday 09/04/1979

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    Virginia, USA
  • Interests
    Film studies, cultural studies, literary studies, pulp fiction, superheroes, film noir, science fiction, and fantasy.
  1. In Hitchcock's earlier films especially, he liked to open on public places with people spectating. in Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, 39 Steps, and more, the audience or crowd witnessing a show or spectacle was a kind of forced recognition of culture's tendency toward corporate voyeurism. He lays this foundation before examining a theater goer or motel keepers' penchant for peeping. In Frenzy, Hitchcock takes the public voyeurism to his grandest level yet. Before we even get to the politician speaking to the crowd, we open on a helicopter shot of London with a London seal on the screen, like one we might find on a postcard in tourists shops. Before he begins examining the public's fascination with murders, he sets up the idea of filmgoers as tourists, touring the film's universe and plot for all of its promised thrills and escapism. The set up makes the doctor's comment later in the film more poignant, when he says that serial sex murders are good for tourism, that people expect to see London littlered with the bodies of prostitutes.
  2. Like many who suffer trauma during childhood, Marnie is psychologically and emotionally stunted in many ways, stuck within the unresolved trauma. Marnie is still in many ways a little girl. Long before we find out she goes by the girlish nickname "Marnie," Hitchcock shows her approaching her escape like a little girl playing dressup. She is playing pretend, deciding which name/social security card should she be today She is playing dress up, neatly packing some clothes in a pink case, while the clothes she's finished (bored?) with are piled carelessly in the other. She wears white cotton gloves like a little girl on Sunday morning. And Hedren displays emotions ranging from girlish satisfaction, when we first see her face beneath her blond hair, to a girlish deviousness when she spots the floor grate and decides to drop the key in. As Dr. Edwards pointed out in the lecture video, Hitchcock is referencing many of his old films in an attempt to tease the audience into false predictions about the plot. The bag with the money and the hair dye circling down the drain evokes Psycho, a woman changes her appearance/identity as in Vertigo, and the floor grate harkens back to Strangers on a Train. He also does something he has never done in one of his cameos. He looks into the camera. He looks back down that hall at us as he might someone who was standing there and caught his attention. The moment is uncomfortable, for we've been following Marnie and watching her, and for an instant, Hitchcock watches us watch his character. In a subtle way, he is letting on that he knows what the audience must be thinking about this or that reference and that he placed them there deliberately.
  3. The film begins with juxtapositions long before the two leads juxtapose each other in a romantic comedy sense. We first see cars and people cooperating at a stoplight. There is a sense of order as the mass of people moves together at an assigned time and an assigned direction. Then as Miss Daniels looks up to the birds in the sky, amassing in a chaotic swarm. Even the soundtrack features the sounds of the birds mixed with the order inducing bells and horns of the crosswalk. Part of the bird call soundtrack features a whistling sound, particularly just before a young boy whistles at Miss Daniels. This is the first hint of chaos among the people below, and it is contextualized within an attraction between male and female. Hitchcock walking out of the shop with his two terriers bridges these two themes of chaos v order and coupling. His two dogs (a couple) are on leashes, controlled and low to the ground. The romantic comedy-esque banter between Miss Daniels and Mr. Brenner further links the balance of order and chaos with romantic attraction. In true screwball comedy style, their playful conversation has a double meaning. Mr. Brenner is in search of lovebirds, but not too "demonstrative." The birds in the shop must be kept in separate cages (ordered) to "protect the species." And they talk of the moulting season as though it were mating season. The emerging theme is that romantic relationships can cause chaos. Mr. Brenner and Miss Daniels themselves are of different social "species," and Brenner's mother warns him of falling for her type. It's also not until their romance begins, as she steers the boat toward the dock where he awaits her in a flirtatious gaze, that nature (the birds) that the seagull scratches her forehead. Nature is devolving into chaos when the romantic relationship of the leads threatens their own social balance. When Miss Daniels is at Mr. Brenner's house for dinner, the finches swarm their living room, as they speak together alone at the birthday party, seagulls swarm the children, and so on.
  4. The lines Saul Bass uses in the title design evoke the image of the strings from Bernard Herman's score. As the score plays on with its high notes and quick tempo, the lines themselves move on the screen at a similar pace. They change direction and are even bisected at times to resemble sound waves. Along with the score, they are quick and unpredictable, building tension in the viewer. The lines also evoke the image of blinds on a window, which establishes the voyeur theme before the first shot of the film. Then in the first scene, the camera moves beneath the blinds of the window into the room with Marion and Sam. We're voyeurs looking in on Marion's secret life, just as Norman will look in on her preparing to shower later in the film. By providing the time and day in the first shot, Hitchcock treats the story, from the very beginning, as a murder investigation, documenting specifics. Though the audience doesn't yet know who will be murdered, they empathize with Marion as their protagonist. Though the camera spies on both her and Sam, she is the one who shows agency and is presented with a problem. She resists Sam's temptation to remain in the room longer and even states that this will be the last time they meet so secretly. She is the one lying down while Sam stands over her. And when he lies down to kiss her they move from side to side, restless, just as Marion is struggling inwardly with how to proceed with their relationship.
  5. I like the way Hitchcock uses the level of closeups to build intimacy between the two characters in this scene. To begin, we switch back and forth from shots of Thornhill to shots of Kendall at a comfortable distance, taking in the table top before them. Once she reveals that she has tipped the waiter to seat him with her, the camera moves into medium closeups of the actors, from the shoulders up. The position changes once more after the closeup of the matchbook reading "R.O.T.," Thornhill's initials, he says. At this point, we no longer see Eve Kendall from the front. We see her from the side, framed to the right, with an empty distance leading off to Thornhill who is off-screen. The different angle, showing only one side of her face as she fixates on the matchbook, clues the audience in visually to the fact that she is not completely who she claims to be either. After the closeups with the two build a rapport, we now see that the distance of a mystery still lies between them.
  6. Bass' title design and Herman's score are choreographed better here than in most modern programs for screen savers and such that sync sound and images automatically. When a new, more complicated spiral design appears, another layer of circular melody sounds. Some may argue that the focus on pieces of the woman's face is objectification, but the overall effect of the sound/visual syncopation, the extreme closeups of the woman's face, and the steady zoom on the camera is more complicated than objectification. It is desire for intimacy, ever thwarted so that it becomes an obsession, which is the central theme of the film. Objectification is present in the film. Elster treats Scottie as an object to dispose of his wife, and Scottie treats Judy as an object for the resurrection of Madelyn. To stop there, though is a shallow reading of both the title sequence and the film that follows. The camera in the opening sequence, like Scottie making Judy over, does not zero in on one part of the woman's face to objectify or serve as a metonymy (substitute of the part for the whole). The camera zooms in on separate parts of the woman's face seeking an entrance. Like Scottie later in the film, it craves intimacy and connection, to be let inside of the illusory woman who takes shape before him. Because she is an illusion, he cannot gain intimacy or connect. Whether Madelyn becoming Carlotta or Judy becoming Madelyn, the woman he falls into obsession over is in a state of untouchable flux, never solidifying because the end of the transition doesn't exist. When Scottie has Madelyn's confessed love for him at the mission, "Carlotta" steals her away from him. When he has transformed Judy into Madelyn in her apartment, the reality is too good to be true and he finally sees the truth of the scheme by considering her perspective instead of his own (What would make her allow him to remake her so, unless it had all been an elaborate plot?) Likewise, the camera in the opening sequence seeks intimacy and entry with the woman's face. But it is stopped by the closed mouth, by the cheek, by the nose. Not until the camera attempts her eye (her perspective) does it gain entry. But then, just as Scottie holding Madelyn at last in Judy's apartment only to piece together the lie of it all, the opening sequence camera passes through the eye into a void or further complicated spirals without connection. In the end, it must retreat and escape through the same perspective, foreshadowing the film to follow.
  7. The opening shots present Jeff's perspective to us in that we see Jeff's world. We see the players in his world in their respective apartments. Then we see Jeff himself, allowing us not only to peer through his point of view, but to peer at him as he peers at others. The fact that we learn so much about his situation with no dialogue affirms our place as spectators into his life, as he gazes at the inhabitants of the other apartments. We learn of the summer heat. We learn his accident was due to his action photography. We even learn how he sees the feminine life, long before Grace Kelly appears on screen. He has framed the negative of the photo for the fashion magazine. The women was a subject to him, and in the context of someone he'd bring into his life, framed in his home, she is a negative image. In fact, we see throughout the film that Jeff is far more eager to engage with the subjects across the courtyard, entering their homes with his lens, rather than the two women who enter his own home with their whole selves.
  8. I'd like to go even more basic than the criss crossing of paths and look at the basic theme of motion in this film. We start with both men's shoes walking, eventually crossing paths on the train. The train itself is on fixed paths throughout the film. It drives from Metcalf, to Arlington, to Washington. A direct line of destination becomes the back and forth of the tennis matches, with the audience's heads emphasizing the motion. And then finally to the spinning carousel at the climax of the film. The fate of Guy and Bruno has gone from crossing paths on a one way train, to a back and forth throughout the film as Bruno attempts to manipulate and cause trouble for Guy, then they meet for the last time on a carousel that spins around, with no destination but to pass by its starting point again. With what Guy and Bruno have on each other, they are caught in a cycle too. There's no happy end at which they can meet. The whole cycle has to break down, as the carousel does, for there to be resolution.
  9. In Notorious, I'm beginning to see a complimentary nature across all of the production design to the script and the portrayals in a Hitchcock film. For example, Hitchcock's German Expressionism influence is still present in this film, though it's been tightened up to speak to predetermined fate. Instead of the large and skewed archways of Rebecca, we see a predominance of larger than life doorways with straight, immovable columns on either side. Hitchcock even begins and ends the movie in with such shots: the reporter looking through the open door at the judge's bench and Alex walking back into the open door of his house to face his own sentence. The image crops up elsewhere as well but is also echoed in the dialogue. Devlin tells Alicia a number of times to keep herself "straight," and she asks what his "angle" his after the canted angle of the daily dose scene. Such angles and the twisting from parallel frames signifies times of choice that will set them on their paths and determine their fate. The costume design plays into the theme of lines as well. At the party and through to morning, Alicia wears a shirt with black horizontal stripes, making her look like a prisoner. In a way, she is, being watched so closely by the feds. Horizontal stripes are also present in the window blinds Devlin looks through in the agent's office as the others look toward Alicia, come to tell them of Alex's proposal. Because of his pride and need to test Alicia, he is trapped now into condoning her marriage.
  10. The opening shot of this film tells us a great deal about the couple, and juxtaposed with the final shot, it speaks to their character progression. The camera opens while panning over the breakfast and dinner dishes of the last three days encircling David, hunched on the floor playing solitaire. The dishes are delicate and noisy. He steps carefully around them while answering the door. The dishes represent his wife's affections, rules, and "screwball" nature. She is delicate, and he must step around her cautiously. or pay the consequences. A number of times throughout the film she picks up and shatters glasses or pitchers when he has failed to "step with care." The final scene shows how their dynamic has changed, though. David is no longer stepping around her. He takes charge by strapping her into the skis and pushing her back on the chair. She protests, but likes the change in their dynamic, making sure to keep her foot fastened. Much can be read into the final shot of the skis crossing each other, but in light of the "stepping with care" theme, we can see the skis as large and clumsy. They are the antithesis of stepping lightly, and she crosses them, further complicating their ability to navigate space. The couple isn't reclaiming their old relationship, with it's rules and hoops. They've entered into a new territory in which David fighting for her will sometimes mean "fighting" her directly rather than try to assuage and appease. Whether the new relationship will last is up to each viewer, but Hitchcock has told a solid story of character and relationship progression and used visuals masterfully to indicate the development.
  11. As far as film noir tropes go, Hitchcock opens this scene with a canted angle of the children playing, and then a canted, closeup establishing shot of the boarding house. He cuts to Charlie on the bed, and the visuals tell us he is a man in despair, trapped in a corner. The shadows of the curtains appear as bars across his face and the bed he is lying on, as though he is already in prison. The room itself is small and cell like, with a sink visible just beyond the bed. The two detectives are closing in on Charlie, just as Hitchcock did with the camera, from the street, to the building, to his room. The next sequence of shots continues the closing in theme too, but now through blocking and mise en scene rather than camera work. Charlie lies on the bed at the bottom of the frame, and Mrs. Martin stands at the door beyond him, but also above, forming the compositional triangle. When she sees the money on the floor, she approaches the bed in the same triangle placement while Charlie remains still. The effect is like a simultaneous camera zoom and dolly back, like in Orson Wells' Citizen Kane or Hitchcock's own Vertigo, but here the actors are moving instead of the camera. The effect is suffocating and slightly dizzying. Then, determined to break out of his trap, Charlie "breaks" a glass and opens the shade. He even leaves the door to his room open as he leaves. Like a formalist film noir director, Hitchcock shows us the despair and inner turmoil of Charlie through expressive visuals, keeping dialogue to a peripheral minimum.
  12. In the opening to Rebecca, Hitchcock not only establishes the estate house Manderley as a character, but in accordance with another Gothic trope, he establishes nature as a character too. There are overwhelming and inescapable natural forces tied to the house. In Mrs. de Winter's dream nature has overgrown and reclaimed portions of the estate, and the fade to the powerful waves below the cliffs transitions us to the beginning of the fateful story in France. Nature, fate, and perhaps Manderley itself is always upon Maxim's heels, even while vacationing on the continent. As Mrs. de Winter says, they can never go back to Manderley, but nor can they escape it. It's a different opening from Hitchcock's usual introductions directly on a public place of spectacle, even though the hotel lobby soon follows. His use of a moving camera around a miniature is reminiscent of the opening to The Lady Vanishes, taking in the town and avalanche before remaining stationary in the inn. I imagine part of this change is to properly set up the gothic story, which is better served by beginning on a somewhat supernatural/dream scene. I also guess it assuaged Selznick greatly to open the film on direct quotes and scenes from the book. As a side note, Dr. Gehring expressed his unease in the lecture video with how Maxim treats the second Mrs. de Winter like a child. While I understand how this aspect will distress modern sensibilities, the behavior makes perfect sense with Maxim's character motivations. His experience of the full flowering of femininity in Rebecca had been negative and traumatic. She was beautiful and clever, but also unfaithful, spiteful, and cruel. It's natural that he should next fall for someone who represents youth, innocence, and naivete instead. And it's obvious why he would desire to keep her that way by calling her kid and instructing her like a father. Conversely, Joan Fontaine's character has somewhat recently lost her father when she first meets Maxim. Her father was eccentric, and she was devoted to him, and now finds those same traits in the fatherly Maxim. So, again, while it might be an uncomfortable relationship to watch for modern viewers, the psychology behind the character motivations is well thought out and intriguing, another element of the Hitchcock touch.
  13. Accompanying the humor of Caldicott and Charters reaction to their situation, and to Iris Henderson's preferential treatment, is, I think, a slight commentary on Western elitism in Britain and America. I don't believe Hitchcock was trying to make a political or social statement, but rather to call out an obliviousness and a "surely, not me!" attitude these characters have regarding inconvenience, trouble, and danger. His British audience was likely to identify with Caldicott and Charters and perhaps even with Iris. And we know Hitchcock liked to set his stories of murder and suspense on people's vacation and in public, well known sites to provide a false sense of security before tearing it down. I think the characters in The Lady Vanishes serve as an encouragement and a snickering wink at the audience's own sense of, "that would never happen to me." And Hitchcock uses it to his advantage for building suspense. Visually, Caldicott and Charters sit on the outside of the crowd of passengers. They do not understand the language, so they do now follow the crowd up to the desk for a room. And when they do understand the situation, they still do not join the crowd but circle around to the side of the desk to look for the cricket scores. They do not identify with "these people." Surely they will still get a room, "they're British!" Iris and her friends enter the hotel and are privileged above the crowd. They walk around in front of and then ascend above the crowd on the stairs. They receive the treatment Caldicott and Charters act as though is due to them, adding to the comedy but also to the delicate, illusory nature of their "we're special" outlook. Ultimately the audience will also find their sense of security an illusion when the entirety of the main cast is held up in a train car and fired upon.
  14. I'm trying to dig into this common theme of a stage of sorts and spectators at the opening of so many Hitchcock films. I think it has to do with more than his entrenched theme of voyeurism. I believe it's about misdirection. In The 39 Steps, for example, we follow Hannay into the theater but are not really introduced to him. The first person we are introduced to is Mr. Memory. The announcer literally introduces us to him, and we are even made to feel sorry for the poor man on stage as the people mock him. Then we root for him when he begins to show his talent and win them over. While we are bonding with Mr. Memory, though, we are introduced to Mr. Hannay, who will be our protagonist, without even knowing it. He politely asks his question a number of times, not minding that he is shouted over. His question reveals that he is from Canada. By the time the crowds rush out of the theater and the lady in distress asks to accompany him, we feel safe with him. We are already invested in him as a character. But our connection to Mr. Memory is not abandoned. When he reemerges in the end, the exposition we've already gained on him makes the improbable MacGuffin probable. And we even maintain our sympathy for him as he recounts the government secrets he's memorized, eager to please with his ability right up to his dying breath. By opening on a stage or spectacle, Hitchcock orients the entire film (all of the characters) to watch and care about one thing or person. We do too, until we find he has subtly ingratiated us to the real protagonist. Because of the order of our investment, we can empathize with the protagonist's care for the MacGuffin, even while primarily caring about the character's development and wellbeing along the way.
  15. The plot takes off here with little to no exposition. Abbot is the only character that portrays some depth, drawing the audience in with good natured patience and humor, then turning suddenly cold while gazing at the skier before slipping back into good humor. He exhibits layers and charisma. The audience wants to spend time with his character, for good or for bad. On the other end if the spectrum is the protagonist, Bob, who is the epitome of two dimensional, societal manners. Luis and Betty fall somewhere in between, though closer to Bob than Abbot. The plot, then will have to take center stage since the protagonist is an everyman through which the audience can live vicariously. They must have a strong and dominant plot, then, to vicariously live. Like Pleasure Garden and The Lodger, The Man Who Knew Too Much opens on a crowd of spectators. The illusion of the stage (the chorus girls, the murder witness, or the ski jumper) is broken when one from the audience makes individual and personal contact with the spectacle. The old man finds the dancer's on stage persona is fake. The man imitating the Avenger with his collar up finds that the murder witness, when he upsets her, is a real human with human emotions and not just a source of scandalous news. And Betty breaks the illusion of the ski jumper transcending average human limitations by standing in his way, placing his and her life in danger. Hitchcock's themes of mob mentality and voyeurism are already well established in these three early films.
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