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Rachel Bellwoar

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Everything posted by Rachel Bellwoar

  1. There are a lot of great scenes in Night at the Opera but a small one that stood out was when Harpo knocks the one guy out (watched the film last week, & forget the context). Harpo then tries to relieve him and Chico says he's "Sorry," but no, Harpo knocks the guy out a second time. This works so well because of the character Harpo establishes, of being a sweetheart who would never hurt anyone, and the innocent look he maintains afterwards. Completely different note but one thing I appreciated about The Pip of Pittsburgh is the structure to it. Charlie Chase's character tries to sabotage his date by doing three things and then backtracks to fix these exact same three things when he realizes his date is the amazing Thelma Todd. It goes back to idea of knowing in advance what Charlie's going to do, so the surprise comes instead from not knowing how he will do it.
  2. This clip from Speedy is an interesting parallel to yesterday's in the Breakdown video from Coney Island, of Fatty getting hit accidently by Keaton's back swing for the high striker game. Here it's a stranger who gets his ice cream pushed in his face when Speedy swings his arm back to throw a ball to knock down bottles. Unlike Coney Island though, where Fatty, the "victim," gets retribution and the prize cigar, when the stranger throws the ball back at Speedy in anger he knocks down all the bottles instead, an act credited to Speedy so he gets the prize doll for his girlfriend, not the "victim."
  3. One thing I thought was interesting was Syd's moustache and glasses, which would later become a trademark of Groucho (and today the glasses with moustache attached are still a dollar store item associated with comedy). Here the moustache works to hide Syd's mouth, as well, so all the acting is done with his eyes and eyebrows. Amazing how well can tell what he's thinking while part of his face is obscured (and specifically the part associated with making expressions). Good cover if you're prone to breaking on scene. Also, liked the fact that Syd was determined to catch the Tramp in the act, and not accuse him before he caught him red handed. It's obvious that Chaplin (and maybe his dog) are the culprit (only logical explanation) but he continues to give them the benefit of the doubt, which works to further humanize his character, even as we are set-up to sympathize with Chaplin, too.
  4. While both the Tramp and Chaplin's character in "Tillie's" break the law, their crimes feel very different. The Tramp usually steals material things as a survival mechanism--he needs the food or money he takes. Also, when offered a job (The Circus) he shows a willingness to work and earn money legally. Chaplin in "Tillie's," meanwhile, usually money for luxuries--a fancy new outfit and cigars--and his actions hurt Tillie emotionally as well as monetarily.
  5. In the earliest films in the festival, the framing of many shots would be similar to watching the gag being performed on a live stage. The camera, as the cliché would have it, is typically sitting in the fifth row of the audience, and placed in the center. The camera itself does not move much, allowing the performer to have the full range of movement from one side of the screen to the other. But compare that type of camera setup and movement to the films from 1928, and I think you will see that the early slapstick pioneers began to take advantage of cinematography, camera angles, camera movement, and editing. The first scene that came to mind after reading this in today's post was from Charlie Chaplin's The Circus. The Tramp's love interest is above on the trapeze/rings and he is throwing up food to her because her father won't let her eat. Of course her father shows up but Charlie continues looking for opportunities to throw the food (ending with a fantastic twist on the pie in the face gag). I'd have to go back and rewatch, through this new context, but if I remember right for some of the scenes she is in frame but in others you just see Charlie throwing food up, with it being understood by the audience why the food is not falling down. It's such a departure from films we've watched like "The Waterer Watered" where everyone is always in frame. There we get moments like the boy first sneaking up while the gardener is unaware but here we get to see how absurd Charlie's actions look when you don't realize what's going on. Because characters are out of frame, the visual image doesn't make sense on its own, without knowledge of the storyline, which brings its own, special kind of humor. Really enjoyed this sequence while watching but hadn't thought to consider it in terms of camera position and movement. Adds a whole new appreciation.
  6. For me, one of the keywords that resonates with slapstick is in the Encyclopedia Britannica definition: "uninhibited." The best comedians aren't afraid of being the butt of a joke, or looking foolish. Pride sort of goes out the window and it becomes about making people laugh, not ego. That letting go of self-consciousness isn't easy and I really admire it.
  7. The focus on the audience, in the "L'Arroseur Arrose" film poster, is such a departure from what movie posters have become today, where the film itself (and, even more specifically, the actors involved) take prominence. It sells the experience rather than the product. The closest equivalent today is maybe IMAX 3D, or Quentin Tarantino's 70 mm Hateful 8. Who they have in the audience is also interesting, towards pegging it as a family film that you can take your kids to. Favorite detail is that they included the usher watching, as a comment on the universality of slapstick and a bit of classism, too.
  8. For anyone from the noir class last summer, by any chance is there a list of the films that were watched, like the schedule for the upcoming slapstick features? Sorry to have missed that one, but can't wait to join the discussion this fall and study a specific film genre.
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