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DoubleExposures

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  1. I thought The Paradine Case was perfectly fine. I find it to be another Hitchcock film that is panned by people because it's not Hitchcockian. Although, you seem to misinterpret me. If what I described actually is Hitchcock black humor (which it doesn't seem like, but let's assume it is), then it's even worse. There definitely is black humor in it (the potato bag scene), and it was obvious, but I found it disgusting, and a further humiliation of an already dead woman. There is zero respect for women in Frenzy, and it shows. I just recalled another female character, who is presented as a bitchy antagonist to the main character, never relenting. It's a profound summation of Hitchcock's misogyny.
  2. That's a really great reading of the film's context, CinemaInternational. I think, however, that the film was being anticipated all throughout Hitchcock, and that scene was just the culmination of years of wanting to push the boundaries on sex and violence. Another thing I find is, is that the film manages to make both the on-screen and off-screen killings of the women disgusting. I too was smitten with that shot tracking out until halfway through when I realized what it meant, rather than what it was. It meant that a character we can come to care about so much was being callously killed off. And yet, as you suggest, it's better than subjecting us to Hitchcock's perverse sadism. I recognized this contradiction as I was watching it. There is no right way to do the scene, ultimately, because Hitchcock has already demonstrated with that first killing the inhumanity that his camera has in this film, and the vileness of his directorial vision.
  3. The first time I watched Vertigo, I found it slow, and a little dull (as most do at first, or maybe always). I gave it another shot after it was announced at the top of Sight and Sound's film poll, and was glad I did. I rewatched at least part of it again a few years later, enjoyed it more still. This time, having rewatched it this month, I was convinced it was Hitchcock's best film, and one of the richest tragedies I've ever seen. I don't think any other of Hitch's films has the psychological understatement or richness of Vertigo (which isn't saying too much, admittedly). However, watching this time, and asking myself to sympathize with these otherwise unsympathetic characters, it was painful, honestly. They are such damaged human beings, and yet so fully human. I especially appreciate Thief12's comments, although I take issue with the one quoted. I don't necessarily know if it's rescuing her that's what he desires. Interestingly, I read that the director James Gray saw a class element in trying to restore the middle-class Judy to the upper-class Madeline, which I can totally buy. However, in my own experience, I see the most realistic explanation for Scottie's attitude to be the intense, reactive, and obsessive desire to express power and control over something that has been taken or that you no longer have any control over. In all honesty, there's no reason that the clothes, makeup, and hair would have been a significant aesthetic reason for Scottie's attraction to Madeline (he surely could have fallen in love with Judy). Nor does he at any point try to change Judy's behavior. He simply wishes to exhibit complete control over her outward appearance. In many ways, it's like the definition of rape, although I would not go so far as to say that Scottie does this, but that rape is about power, not sex, Scottie's attempts to control Judy are about power, not sex. He does sincerely love Madeline, but the emotional trauma of losing her, of having failed to control her, manifests itself by his trying to have complete control over Judy. When he finally does, it's a sort of solution to the problem. No longer needing to demonstrate to himself his control over the situation, he can begin a domestic relationship with her (which we see, however briefly). Of course, alternate arguments are always encouraged, but that's my reading of the film, which is why it's so painful. This is the second time Judy has been willing to forfeit all autonomy for a man, but unlike the first time, now it's about love. It's about the fact that when Scottie had power over her when he believed her to be unconscious after her attempted suicide, he did not claim it. He respectfully undressed her and put her into bed. Judy was awake for that, no doubt. How gentle and caring Scottie must have been for Judy to have allowed that to happen. Vertigo stands at the closest point to which love and fetishism intersect. Each moment of love can be seen as having shadings of sexual obsession and compulsion; each moment of sexual obsession and compulsion have shadings of love.
  4. 1. Torn Curtain 2. Marnie 3. The Lodger 4. Rich and Strange 5. The Manxman 6. Downhill 7. Blackmail (Sound) 8. Easy Virtue 9. The Pleasure Garden 10. Frenzy Having watched now every Hitchcock film, these are my bottom ten (Frenzy being the worst). I'd like to acknowledge that I actually think every film but Frenzy is at the very least decent, and the rest of the films in this bottom ten are what I would call "decent but dull," besides Marnie which I think suffers from a less rampant problem than Frenzy. For what it's worth, before I explain my reasons against Frenzy, I'd like to acknowledge that I think Frenzy is formally Hitchcock's best film posted The Birds, which might make you ask, why is it the bottom then? (For comparison, The Birds is #20 on my list.) Frenzy, I think, is Hitchcock's most complete and unashamed descent into depravity. Marnie anticipates it with its "ambiguous" rape scene (i.e. not ambiguous at all), and even The Birds foreshadows what's to come. But, compare the killing sequences here against that of Marion Crane in Psycho, and you will see the sick appropriation (or natural instinct) of its Rusk's psychosexual frenzy in the filmmaking. However, that's not all. Of course I can recognize that, but Hitchcock decided to use his newfound abilities to depict nudity and show it all, baring one woman's breasts after another in the most inappropriately lascivious manner as possible, humiliating the dead corpses of women with distorted, grotesque face gawking out at you bugeyed and tongue a-lolling, with their breasts hanging out. Nothing is too low for these women, whether it's depicting their violent death in grossly fetishistic detail (Brenda), tossing them aside carelessly (Barbara) and then humiliating their corpses with that ghastly scene in the potato truck (also Barbara), or having the main character bash their ends in post-death (the last woman, who I don't think was even named). I'm not a prude, nor am I predisposed to hate violence necessarily, especially when it's well done. However, unluckily for Hitchcock, my powers of articulation were recently bolstered by Anjelica Jade's essay on Detroit, where she lambasts Bigelow & co. for not being aware of the power of their images of black suffering, and I feel the same way with Hitchcock, who not so much isn't aware of the power of these debased, filthy, obscene images of raped and murdered women, as unconsiderate, which is much worse. I refuse to let his artistry raise this film above the same sort of thing that would become commonplace in slasher films a decade later. I'm sure many people can defend this film and even make counterarguments and subversive arguments, but at a certain point, after a career of films that point towards this ultimate destruction of women (the only female character who doesn't die is the inspector's wife, who is repeatedly the butt of jokes even as she displays her intuition, and Brenda's secretary, who also holds the unlikeable position as the person who accuses the hero), the buck stops here, and I refuse to humor such a jolly and unabashed carnival of rape and misogyny. I'll be writing a more complete evaluation of the film on my blog, hopefully soon.
  5. Well, I've done it. I've watched every single film by Alfred Hitchcock (excluding non-extant and alternate versions, i.e. the very difficult to find silent version of Blackmail), and am now prepared to make my revised list. Surprisingly, the list remained fairly similar. What I'm about to post is actually a mix of personal and objective thoughts and evaluations. It's difficult for me to recall in many cases enough recollections of my emotions so as to compare, especially after so long a time between films (by long a time, I mean more the amount of movies between. I completed the Hitchcock challenge in 19 days, after all.) So, my list: 1. Vertigo 2. Notorious 3. Shadow of a Doubt 4. The Wrong Man 5. Foreign Correspondent It should also be noted that I feel the first part of Psycho ranks among these others. It's such a gloriously unprecedented, visually exciting, original and complex piece of filmmaking. However, the second part plays so normally in comparison that I think it hurts the picture, quite a bit. It's not even visually as beautiful. Honestly, any day of the week I think you could see me claiming any of those films beside The Wrong Man as my favorite Hitchcock. Although I've seen Vertigo a few times already, watching it this time I was more fully aware than ever that it is a tragedy—and what a tragedy it is! The entire second half of the film I was beset with heartache, as I became more aware than ever the psychology of these characters (which, with Hitch, I tend to discard beyond superficial motivations). And yet, the movie rolls on like a freight train, and you know that the unrelenting final moments are going to come, and you can do nothing to stop them. And yet, Ingrid Bergman plays that same tragedy of a woman willing to allow a man to remake her for love in Notorious, which also flowered in fuller emotional depth this time around. However, motivations are more clearly delineated, and so they slightly lack the depth of Vertigo. This time, however, I was more fully cognizant of the degree to which Bergman's character is seen as a sort of prop by the Americans, which is equally heartbreaking. Shadow of a Doubt now appears to me a fully defined coming-of-age tale, something that's overshadowed (pun unintended) by its Americana at times. But, the film really is the realization of the world, with its greys and its ambiguities and its horrors. It is the essential film that allowed for the later masterworks.
  6. My list is already very tentative, as I feel that any of them could switch positions at any given moment, but here it goes: Foreign Correspondent (1940) Notorious (1946) Vertigo (1958) Strangers on a Train (1951) Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Honorable mentions to The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938). And just to add a little extra flavor, I expect potential threats to this list to be, besides the honorable mentions, Under Capricorn (1949) and The Wrong Man (1956), both of which I've actually seen, but not in quite some time.
  7. I certainly don't mean any disrespect by pointing out what's not involved, as I think that it's a great and well-structured course regardless. Just shining a light on those not being shined.
  8. 1. I imagine the Hitchcock Touch refers to a stylistic tendency rather than a particularly thematic one? If so, I see Hitchcock's early command of a variety of angles to be telling. It seemed to me that the cutting of the sequence was rather quick, something that I associate with most of Hitchcock (though, of course, there are exceptions). His unconventional camera angles also contribute to this; I especially noted the move from outside the office when the girl realizes she's lost her money, to right inside, low and more in line with the perspective of the office clerk. Although, truly, I see this still has Hitchcock undeveloped: it is a largely conventional late silent film era scene, at least in grammar (although, obviously, for a debut film, quite accomplished). I also question the previously cited shock value of the fake hair, and wonder to what degree the older Hitchcock would have set up the scene earlier by letting the audience know it was fake, providing irony to the scene as the older man comments on the hair (unless, of course, we, as the audience, are meant to be compared with the desirous older men, which would certainly gel with the Jimmy Stewart Hitch-heroes from the 50s). 2. I would agree with the Strauss, Yacowar, and Spoto, although that's not saying much due to the big picture comments they were making. I actually find the most interesting thematic/elemental consistency between this scene and his later ones is the focus on false appearances/fakery. It's most centered on the fake hair, which most have mentioned for its humor and shock value, but which points towards what would probably be called a late Hitchcock preoccupation with the obsession over the constructedness of identity, specifically female identity, as in Notorious, and obviously and especially Vertigo. It's also exhibited on a metatextual level with the concept of the Hitchcock blonde. In some ways, one could argue, Hitchcock is already deconstructing his later fascination with fake-blondes (although, to bring it that far is just fun scholarly stretching, I think). 3. I think that the only limitation that the lack of synchronous sound places on the scene is the simplified layers; had Hitchcock had sound, he probably could've placed other layers on the film, such as a juxtaposition between the music hall and the outside (further dramatizing the distinction between the upper class indoors, and the petty thieves outside).
  9. Although it's only the beginning of a very long course, filled with over 40 of Hitchcock's films, just as notable should be the films that are not being shown over the course of the next month. Whether for lack of time, lack of rights, lack of materials, or lack of interest, there are 13 films directed by Alfred Hitchcock that will not be shown. (This is assuming that the list of films that TCM provided is comprehensive.) They are as follows: The Pleasure Garden (1925) The Mountain Eagle (1927) [this film is lost, which explains its absence] Easy Virtue (1928) Champagne (1928) Juno and the Paycock (1930) Elstree Calling (1930) Mary (1931) Waltzes from Vienna (1934) Secret Agent (1936) Sabotage (1936) Young and Innocent (1937) Under Capricorn (1949) To Catch a Thief (1955) Personally, I'm most sorry about Under Capricorn, especially after learning that New Yorker critic Richard Brody holds it in such high esteem (and, of course, Ingrid Bergman). And, most baffling is the exclusion of To Catch a Thief. I've also included a link to a particularly good print on YouTube of Young and Innocent and a link to dailymotion for Under Capricorn. Thankfully, a number of these films are available through the openculture link that the course provides. What do the rest of you think? Any thoughts on any of these films? Any especially worth seeking out for non-completionist reasons?
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