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Ken R

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About Ken R

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  1. I kept thinking of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. This scene is about Mabel’s accusation and its effect on those involved. Her movement is minimized – she is sitting when the young men walk into the room and she makes us aware of her by dropping her purse and gathering full attention, becoming the literal fulcrum of the scene. The movement into the headmaster by the boys almost moves all of the elements into her control. There is, at times a stage bound quality – the toy men aligned in a single plane, but this works as well because Mabel is going to select one of them and to us they are all equal. The headmaster may be the executioner, but Mable is jury and judge. She has fire and vengeance in her eyes and while we push in with her on the boys, the plane is absolutely symmetrical. She is the center of the circle and Hitchcock gives her geometrical prominence both in establishing her without movement and in making her the person with all the power as she walks inbetween the two boys. Hitchcock uses his camera in these scenes seen thus far to establish a very strong and at times unbalanced power dynamic. This is one where the power rests all in one place (despite the presumed power of the headmaster, merely a referee here). In The Pleasure Garden, the scene between the chorine and the producer is one where the power subtly shifts between them. In The Golden Ring, we are watching the power of paranoia destroy our boxer who remains in a position watching a scene playing in his own imagination. Mabel’s eyes are always boring through the proceedings in her scene; Pleasure Garden has two people looking at each other equally (in a flirtation) and in The Golden Ring, our fighter is praimrily below the action looking up into the mirror/window to the next room.
  2. This is a scene of a man being driven mad with paranoia while trying to maintain a vener of propriety. As he is being told about his responsibilities as a fighter, his mind wanders to the next room (“Is it a window or a mirror?” we wonder, reality or imagination and we’re never really sure as the camera takes us from what seems like a discernible reality of a party, complete with flappers and flowing hootch, back to our guy who is being driven crazy while trying to maintain a sense of propriety. The entire sequence (at least void of context) is entirely reminiscent of Rear Window in what seems like a voyeuristic approach to what’s going on in the other room. The visual establishing seems to maintain a distance from the next room and suddenly we are in it. How is this possible? We were tied into a point of view, and we cut from the objective to the subjective – suddenly we’re in the party, but the party is a performance piece by two dancers, so we are now still watching but we are watching from a direct perspective; we are still audience both in the theatre and in a scene with performance in it. We are in the room, yet we don’t really know how we got there. The reality is sudden and suggests our voyeur has now joined the party so that when we cut back to him we are in what is now a distorted point of view where we see (in the close up of the record player over him) that he can’t get this out of his head. Meanwhile, the other men in his room are unaware of his madness. We thus, have gone from point of view, to an objective participation in the scene back to a distorted point of view.
  3. To be literal, blond curls appear in both films clips examined here -- themes of voyeurism are pretty clear with the crowd reactions in both. This is more externally energized crowd reacting to the discovery of the corpse, but we are involved in their energy in both clips. The performances here are much more focused, and less general than in the Pleasure Garden, the actors don't seem the least bit capricious in their choices -- they are being directed with specifics, it seems. There are almost two identical stories being told of the spread of energy from the micro to the macro; we discover a body (loving the orchestration that pusles with what seems to be the screams of the victim. I notice that in the first sequence, at the scene of the crime, we start with singles until we get to the crowd -- the screaming victim, the woman discovering the body, the cop AND THEN the crowd which brings in the energy; similarly in the second sequence we linger for what seems like forever on the copy being typed at the telegraph office and move into a controlled manner of single shots until we get to the machinery, which does look like something out of German expressionism in which people are dwarfed by the machinery. I love the shot of the newpaper delivery van which looks like a face with the two men framed like pupils in its eye. And then we get their point of view moving rapid to the crowd of a voracious public. In both sequences, the mob swallows up the individual story. Because of the cutting and the two parallels we really see a story grow like wildfire. It's remarkable as a silent film that so much is said about the story becoming a sensation. I recall a lot of Hitchcock using sound to punctuate action. Whether it's the sharp strings accompanying Marion Crane's shower stabbing, the whistling of a train to cover screams in Shadow of a Doubt or the anticipated crash of cymbals in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock treated soundtrack as very specific in moments.
  4. The view from the side of the stage, the chorines' entrance down the staircase into the view of both the stage from the audience point of view then to the audience from the stage point of view is interesting. In the Hitchcock interview in part 1 of the module he talks about staricases which were frequently part of his storytelling. While Vertigo and Psycho are probably the most iconic stair sequences, I always loved the sequence in the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much where Doris Day is trying to reach her child (singing Que Sera, sera, no less) and the camera moves slowly up the staircase into the room where the boy is, letting us know how far the distance and how sharp the shot of Day to have picked this song in this space. I also think (and again, I'm thinking of The Man Who Knew Too Much) of his pan of the audience; Hitchcock seems to really linger on his atmosphere people, each taking in the view in a slightly different way. He does a very conventional establishing performance of both his chorus girl, flirting, giving the producer a lock of her hair, and then his lady in distress being stymied trying to (what?) get backstage. I don't think he's too inhibited by the silent film conventions, but I think his actors' performances are more stock; in this first effort, Hitchcock seems much more at ease with images than with people.
  5. The opening of the film sets the entire story in motion by establishing the characters, not just as the star players (although Garfield and especially Turner are given star entrances), but exactly as they will move through the film. The opening sets up almost an erotic dream for Garfiled (the farmer's daughter story) that merely intimates the nightmare (certainly the all-white, sensual entrance of Turner makes her seem like some kind of angel of light rather than the femme fatale, she won’t let her hair down, literally or figuratively until later, by which time we know from the entrance not to trust her). Similarly Garfield’s moral universe is established both in his anticipation of the cop as crooked, but in his demurring on the job because of his wandering feet – Cecil Kellaway is all foolish trusting optimism and energy as he not only brings the fox into the henhouse but hands it the keys. Even the burnt burger anticipates Garfields willingness to act on instinct. Is the cop crooked or not? The environment is clearly established – the cliffs, the sea, the remoteness and small-town feel (a half hour from San Francisco and on a coast – seemingly the edge of the world). The last 90 seconds are silent except for two exchanges: Garfield: you dropped this? Turner: Thanks. The dialogue is meaningless filler to a scene which is completely about a seduction completed –a trap being set and walked into by both of the men (Is it possible Turner pointed out the stranger on the sidewalk to her husband?). Garfield’s hips give into Turner, she watches him, she moves in. The last thing we expect in this sequence is that Turner is somehow married to Kellaway. It’s impossible. Their styles, physiognomy, mannerisms are polar opposites – Kellaway is spontaneous, energetic, trusting; Turner is controlled, mannered and manipulative. We know her lipstick didn’t fall, but she would never, ever be seen baiting the trap. People walk into it.
  6. The sense of voyeurism permeates this scene and becomes meta as we are swept up in Gilda’s show. Film IS voyeurism, but we as an audience are called on it in this scene. We establish the scene with Ford hearing the music and snapping into a fearful/controlling mode as he opens a window to look in at Hayworth -- he knows she has released the Kraken. But it isn’t enough for him – the fear propels him into the club’s main room where in the few cuts away from Hayworth we see the effect she has on others – gaping, leering; when she asks for help, the men become riotous. (There are women in the audience as well, but we don’t notice them). But we, too, are watching Hayworth’s mannered routine become an unstoppable force that even she can’t control as she’s dragged off stage; we can’t help but be overwhelmed. By the time Ford pulls her away, even with the danger of his jealousy, she can’t stop her movement – her sexuality has taken over and created a riot. And the lyric, simple as it is, is about a woman who creates an earthquake – a woman’s sexuality as a killing force (“Mother Nature was up to her old tricks,” is a lyric that suggests the feminine connection, but even moreso, when Mame“began to shim and shake, that brought on the Frisco quake”). This is a song about the killing danger of a woman’s sexuality in which sexual abandon equals ruin.
  7. This is a scene about asymmetry – a mother/daughter relationship that has become monstrous and out of balance – Mildred has done everything for Veda, and since the youngest child died, has gone way overboard, denying Veda nothing, and in so doing has created a monster, who here has faked a pregnancy in order to blackmail the father. What’s apparent here is how Curtiz uses the visuals to create a sense of both imbalance and order. The elements of the room and particularly the bannister on the stair emphasize our sense of order and chaos. The geometry is omnipresent in the scene. The line between Veda and Mildred on the sofa; The skewed bannister connected to Veda, the straight one connected to Mildred. The straight lines connected to Mildred from the Venetian Blind shadows. We open tight on Veda and pull back to a low angle where we a see Mildred, higher/superior to her daughter, geometrically aligned with all the elements of the room – the door, the archway, the mirror, the window -- until she moves behind Veda and Veda turns and forms a line with Mildred which connects us to the stairwell - an element of ascension -- which will become the apex of the asymmetry – the straight bannister seeming to go right through Mildred, the crooked one connecting to Veda. We’re very aware of Mildred’s lofty height until the stairwell throws us into a vertigo, where her attempt to restore order/balance by finally ripping the check culminates with the slap from which Mildred finally recovers her higher position, not physically, but stoically standing still until Veda runs up to the top. The scene’s physical action and staging of objects is about Mildred finding a natural alignment in a world that she has let go out of order; we think in this scene that Mildred has finally come to a moment of stillness in which order has been restored.
  8. We hear Waldo’s voiceover as if he’s narrating from a distance while we look at a cold, controlled but abundant life – antiques, order, only the ticking clock (life passing, the tell-tale heart leading to the solution) to break the monastic, meticulous mood of silent possessiveness. After hearing in the vo that Laura has been murdered, we meet the obviously out-of-place but easy-to-identify hard-boiled detective whose first movement into this quiet world is first to a series of masks (human guises) then to a wall of glass objects; he seems clearly out of place here – all gumshoe virility invading this fragile environment while we listen to Waldo, who abruptly breaks the voice-over convention by calling out to the detective – this is HIS environment (not the victim’s): we know who he is. This leads into an incredibly revealing scene – a scrawny man, imperious as Nero, completely nude in a marble bath tailored to feature his main attribute – a typewriter – dominating the conversation, and asking the detective to put a robe on him (Andrews’ take on being asked to put on the robe, removes any ambiguity about both the hapless sexual curiosity in Waldo’s request as well as his lack of attributes). Waldo seems to be in control, telling the detective about the detective – his storied past, etc. And yet, the dialogue reveals the true contrast between the man of words and the man of action – Waldo is revealed in this scene as scrawny, risible (Andrew’s reaction to his nudity) and factually inaccurate. The man of action, Andrews is proven to be superior in all aspects to Lydecker’s man of words; Lydecker is humiliated (to the audience) and rendered impotent in the very first scene of a film in which he will ultimately be revealed as the killer. I find it difficult not to compare Waldo to the critic, Addison DeWitt, in All About Eve which also has a noir elements – femme fatale, blackmail, adultery, fraud, a city of night and inhabitants unique to that environment. Addison, like Waldo, is a writer (acid pen no valid substitute for the masculine sword, in All About Eve, wielded by Gary Merill’s he-man director). Both men are possessed with a huge sense of power, brought down by the unattainable object of their sexual longing/sublimation – a woman whose inaccessibility unleashes the monster within: for rejecting him, Laura is ostensibly destroyed by Waldo (although the victim turns out to be a Doppler– the reappearance of Laura – the ghost of his deed and corporeal proof of his impotence as both a killer and as a “man” – will finally undo him). Addison, trades his arm-candy “protégée”, Miss Caswell, presumably for services rendered (whether actually bedding him or merely bearding him) at a party where he sees in Eve Harrington both the poise and especially talent that the voluptuous but vacant Caswell lacks. When he subsequently offers himself to Eve she laughs in his face and he loses the very composure by which he defines himself and strikes her; her rejection forces him to show his hand – his ability to destroy her in a highly charged scene in which he goes from submissive to dominant and literally brings her to her knees. In Laura, this rejection of Lydecker as a sexual companion results in a murder.
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