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jyfwan

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  1. Lloyd's humor is just as significant as Chaplin's and Keaton's in the silents and the visual gags. Although, I think his voice became another element for his character, "The Boy", and did not detract from it, when he transferred into the 'talkies'. Chaplin did not give a "speaking" voice to his "Tramp" but instead, only uttered symbolic "sounds" (i.e. "Modern Times"). While Keaton's talking characters seemed very different (i.e. not as "stony-faced" and less memorable) from his silent one.
  2. Keaton's humor relied on 'stony-faced' reaction and deadly stunts. His liability insurance's costs for doing his own stunts must have been astronomical. Keaton's humor is very different from Chaplin's but just as important, and overwhelmingly funny. I enjoy both comics for their differences in visual humor.
  3. Chaplin's ability to add pathos to his "Tramp" character gave a dimension that immortalized him. I always found watching Chaplin's "Tramp" complete enjoyable hilarity and profound enthusiasm.
  4. In Lloyd's "Speedy",1928, several back to back scenes of Lloyd and his girlfriend eating cotton candy and drinking soda, downing large pieces of cake with cocoa and devouring several corn on the cobs concluded with Lloyd (with his back to us) which has him appearing to be convulsing and throwing up his food with his girlfriend patting his back in comfort. But, in actuality, the visual gag is that he is blowing into a 'Test Your Lungs' attraction instead. At another attraction to 'hit the cans' to win a doll for his girlfriend, Lloyd accidentally pushes a passerby's food into the passerby's face as he extended his arm to throw the ball. The infuriated passerby grabs the ball out of Lloyd's hand and throws it at Lloyd and as Lloyd ducks, the ball hits all the cans. The visual gag ended with Lloyd's girlfriend receiving the doll for the attraction owner believed that Lloyd threw the ball. Also, the setting of Coney Island amusement park with many park goers helped portray a fun and frivolous environment which anticipated the visual gags to come. Lloyd does seem to convey a more "real" or "freer" "exaggeration and stylization" compared to that of Chaplin and Keaton. Perhaps its Lloyd's honest reaction (instead of Keaton's "stony faced" reaction) of bewilderment or fear to whatever happens and/or his normal movements (instead of Chaplin's ballet-like dance movements). The contribution of Lloyd is that he took the visual gag a few steps further and reacted 'normally' at all times.
  5. For Buster Keaton's "One Week", 1920, all the elements (set design, costume, prop, camera placement, acting) helped to make this gag effective as visual comedy. Set design showed the ill-designed self-built home for Keaton and his wife as over powering and unpredictable. The costume and props showed ordinary people using items in daily situations that lead to endless accidents. Keaton's non-reaction (i.e. "stone-faced") to the accidents that beset his character heightens the visual antics. Camera placement in "full-figure framing" captured the entire visual humor without distraction. Also, the very playful music added to the anticipatory doom and gloom for Keaton's character. Keaton's comedy is of the ordinary little guy (i.e. accident prone) beset by the uncontrollable environment and/or objects and how he reacts to them. While Chaplin's "Tramp" is the author and resolver of the shenanigans that abound. Keaton's characters socially comment in that they seem to always positively resolve whatever plight they 'fall into' (i.e. 'its bigger than you and me'). His visual gags include unwieldy forces such as mother nature and deadly situations such as falling buildings. Keaton's characters, usually the little ordinary guy, will overcome any situation.
  6. Canby is right about something missing in today's visual comedies compared to that of the silent classics. In the silent classics, the "full-figure framing" increases the comic tension (as to what will happen next), and elicits one's complete focus or concentration on the gag(s). Whereas, today's comic visuals have many distractions such as cutaways that may dissipate the focus from the build up to the gag(s). In Chaplin's "A Dog's Life", 1918, everything (i.e. set design, costume, props, etc.) counted in the visual comedy. The set design of the 'home' of the Chaplin's "Tramp" helped him in escaping the police. Chaplin's "Tramp" dressed in over sized shoes, tight jacket, unkempt bowler hat and loose pants gave a hobo downtrodden effect. Props such as the dog (or cane in other films) are usually used as devices to aid or add to the visual comedy. In this film, Chaplin's "Tramp" acting as 'not doing anything' like stealing and eating the cakes increases the hilarity of the moment. Also, the accompanying music is another element that heightens the comic visual. The contribution that "A Dog's Life", 1918, makes to the history of slapstick comedy is immeasurable and original. It continues to influence countless future comedians.
  7. I do positively agree with Agee and Youngson's statements that the silent films from 1912 to 1930 constituted "comedy's greatest era" or its "golden age". This is mainly because the visual treatments of gags without sound and in "full-figure framing" view (with no cut away or very few) tends to elicit and encourage solely true personal (i.e. 'unspoiled') reaction from the viewer(s). With the advent of sound and close-ups or special effects, the viewer(s) may be led to a gag's meaning or influenced by. The film's narrator was correct as well that the "gags were completely visual" in the silent era. Visual gags have not disappeared. They are currently used in combination with sound, etc. For example, in the film, (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963), all the greedy characters are looking for the buried treasure under a giant "w", the viewer sees the visual as palm trees shaped as a "W". But, the greedy characters don't notice this because they are running around under these palm trees like a chicken without its head. Documentaries, compilation films and essays such as "The Golden Age of Comedy", 1957, encourage future audiences to review the silents for the origins of slapstick and how well it was developed and done.
  8. The opening scene of Criss Cross (1949) exemplifies the noir style via documentary realism ((the aerial night view of the city), night shooting, the dramatic and stirring music, and the angled and skewed compositions) and substance via the lovers' (Steve/Burt Lancaster and Anna/Yvonne De Carlo) formalistic discussion with each other in the parking lot which is desperate, and highlights their troubled pass with each other. While the argument between the husband/Dan Duryea and his wife, Anna is grounded in realism with suppressed anger and hatred. The husband distrusts his wife and takes his jealousy and anger out on the headwaiter/Vincent Renno. Studying 32 daily doses across nine weeks definitely helped me to understand the style and substance of Film Noir films. The doses picked emphasized or explained the points to be learned and were wonderful examples to view. Committing to a dose a day kept me active in the coursework and on track with the lessons. Thanks very much for the innovative idea!
  9. In Brute Force (1947), when the Wagner music is at its dramatic peak, or, turned up in volume, Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn) increases his severe beatings of prison newspaper reporter Louis (Sam Levene). As the Wagner music is turned up in volume, we also see pictures of objects (i.e. plants and photo of Captian Munsey) in the room as Captain Munsey with the rubber pipe in hand goes toward the prisoner. These objects in the room are the only other witnesses to the horrific beating of prison newspaper reporter Louis by the hands (and rubber pipe) of the cruel and sadistic Captain Munsey. At the beginning of the scene and up to when Captain Munsey dismisses the guard from the room before the beating begins, everything is grounded in realism, as-is, and not exaggerated. When the guard has left, it becomes formalistic and surreal with many shadows, Captain Munsey bringing out his rubber pipe preparing for the beating to ensue, and, the music adding intensity, horror and suspense. A noir motif or Existential one of hopelessness and despair is conveyed each time the prison newspaper reporter Louis eyes the rubber pipe that Captain Munsey places on the table or is holding in his hand. Louis is resigned to the beating that will follow.
  10. In Anthony Mann's Desperate (1947), the savage beating of the unwilling driver Steve (Steve Brodie) by the thugs of boss Walt (Raymond Burr) was accentuated by the swinging ceiling light bulb. The faster it swung, the beating was more savage and intense. As the ceiling light bulb slowed down, the beating slowed and stopped as boss Walt commenced verbal threats against Steve's newly married Bride. The beating also felt claustrophobic from the overwhelming darkness and shadows to the glancing beams of light emanating from the swinging ceiling light bulb. The scene's tension is heightened many fold when we are looking from boss Walt's point of view. For boss Walt does not show much emotion (perhaps a brief smile or smirk) and focuses very intently on Steve when he speaks to or looks at him. When we are looking from Steve's point of view, we feel relief that he is still alive from the beating and that he is still defying boss Walt even though it seems like a lost cause.
  11. The "unnamed city" in this film noir, The Asphalt Jungle (1950) is a 'character' which encourages crimes to be committed. Its stark and bleak setting with deserted ruins invites doom and desolation. The film is aptly named to imply uncivilized, unlawfulness and a violent struggle for survival such as in a jungle but made of brick and mortar instead of trees and plants. Documentary realism is evident in the beginning of the scene as the patrol car drives through the empty district while a lone man is sighted walking among the ruins or buildings in the early morning hours. Music is an element adding suspense and danger until the unknown man gets to the Cafe. The scene becomes formalistic and surrealistic once inside the Cafe with the man behind the counter, Gus (James Whitmore), instantly taking the gun given to him by the entering customer, Dix (Sterling Hayden) and hides it in the cashier machine. Then, Gus turns up the music as two policemen enter to arrest Dix and threaten to search the Cafe for a gun. The Cafe has the feel of loneliness and isolation as shown in Edward Hopper's painting the Nighthawks. Also, the Cafe camera shots are unconventional and at angles with skewed compositions and diagonal lines especially with Gus in the foreground, who seemingly dominates or controls the scene with the policemen. The opening scenes are an interesting choice for a "heist film" for they introduce a heist which probably was committed by Dix, the man who entered the Cafe and gave his gun to the owner, Gus. Dix doesn't say much in the line-up at the police station, but, his wordless stare at the witness (Frank Cady) so unnerves the witness that he emphatically denies that Dix is the culprit. It probably didn't help that the police description about Dix was read out loud to the witness saying that he was originally arrested for illegal procession of a firearm and then in and out of jail several times for the last several years which indicates that he is a hardened criminal. Dix appears to be fearless with nerves of steel as well as menacing and threatening in a subtle way.
  12. The Miles Davis' score in the film noir, Elevator To The Gallows (1958) via the wailing and crying of the horn to add tension and an intensity or 'heightened' passion to the already passionate scene between the lovers Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maurice Ronet) who are emoting to each other on the telephone. Louis Malle's stark and bleak visual design consisting mostly of grays with some black and white is made starker and bleaker by Miles Davis' wailing horn and adds a feeling of loneliness bordering on despair. The "idioms of jazz" resonate very well with the style and substance of film noir because it could create an added layer to, or, intensify the feelings of what is portrayed in the scene such as isolation, vulnerability, or, depravity. It could also be another element or 'character' in the scene but, speaks in musical notes. Since the style and substance of film noirs usually leads to doom and destruction, the unconventionality of the "idioms of jazz" would aid in achieving this effect very well.
  13. The opening scene in Beware, My Lovely (1952) shows noir elements such as documentary realism in the on location shot of the Salvation Army playing in public and when the handyman Howard (Robert Ryan) is running through the train stock yard to catch a train; use of music only as an emphasis to heighten the suspense or tension when things go wrong—until Howard finds the body, one hears only the usual sounds of the Salvation Army music playing, doors opening and closing (i.e. regular sounds of objects used or moved; the 'silence' also makes it suspenseful); Howard, the handyman, is careful about his work, putting the cleaning things back in their place, and meticulous with keeping track of his duties by checking them off of a list – this psychology does not seem to be that of a murderer, but, he panics and runs when he finds a body in the cleaning closet. The scene opening with the Salvation Army band playing and its prominent sign displayed seems to be some sort of 'wake up call' to something (we do not know about yet) for this small quiet town. Also, the town does not seem to be busy nor are there many people about for the holiday season as the Salvation Army's sign is asking for donations for 'Christmas Cheer'. Some of the typical 1950s film noir themes revealed are: the social classes of rich vs poor and working class vs upper class; and, Howard, an outsider or loner type, possibly insane or misunderstood, running from being accused or convicted of the murder of his employer.
  14. There is evidence of lampooning in the opening scene in The Narrow Margin (1952), such as when the two detectives just got off of the train from Los Angeles and is now taking a train returning to Los Angeles in one hour; the dialogue between the two detectives are too tongue in cheek, sarcastic and glib (i.e. Your cigar is "dead", or, What kind of a dame would marry a hood?); and, one of the detectives keeps on trying to light his cigar and after its third lighting, he glibly says, "I'm think of changing brands, somethin' with a self starter on it.". This reminds me of the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons' glib dialogue and its snappy delivery, from Warner Bros during WWII, although not as zany. Some of the film noir elements in this opening scene that may be similar variations to ones we encountered in other noir films from the mid to late 1940s are: the high energy of the roaring of the train with its lights and tooting of the horn threatening to de-rail as it is traveling to its destination which is similar to La Bete Humaine (although La Bete Humaine is from 1938); documentary realism from the traveling train, 'Chicago Yard Limit' sign as the train enters the station, and train announcements when the train arrives similar to Out of the Past (1947), or, Border Incident (1949); the use of the sounds of the train, people, cars, etc. instead of music for realism like in the The Killers (1946); studio look of RKO, "...nearly everything was composed of rich, India-ink blacks and silvery highlights..." similar to Out of the Past (1947).
  15. In Kansas City Confidential (1952), time is an element of suspense and used in the planning of the bank robbery. Also, time seemed to speed up the pacing of the scene. Some film noir elements used in this opening scene are: documentary realism (style) with the preface and location shot of Kansas City which makes it official and real; music (style) used to emphasize time and timing which also adds suspense; and, the 'silence' (i.e. no dialogue) has us focus closely on the man observing the bank and we see how methodical, detailed and calm he is in the planning of the bank robbery. He must have been planning the heist for sometime now for he already has a street diagram of the location from which he is observing and has checked off his observations five times now. We don't know why he is planning the heist yet, but, it does not seem to be only for the money since he is well attired, groomed, has an expensive watch and his room seems spacious and well decorated. Besides the criminal element, a heist or bank robbery would be a good subject for film noir. We would see how involved the planning for the heist is, what the obstacles are, what the stakes are, and what motivates the people committing the heist and may sympathize with him/her. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway is a good example of a heist story and has some film noir elements even if its in color (such as angular shots, music to emphasize a character trait and suspense, and social commentary about the wealthy and working class). Faye Dunaway as Vicki Anderson is an independent insurance investigator hired to solve the perfect heist from a bank and to re-cover over $2 million stolen. Steve McQueen is Thomas Crown, a Millionaire businessman-sportsman who committed this perfect crime as a game. This film questioned the conventions of the time - to perform your job's duties without question, or, to follow one's own ideas and desires (i.e. society vs. individualism).
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