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About Truan

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    Within cinema - interested in all of it, but some specific areas of interest are: classic cinema, film noir, horror (Universal, Hammer, Carpenter, Romero), sci-fi, foreign, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Woody Allen, 1980's/'90's indies; the history, art, and technology; love and collect one-sheets (posters); film scores; drive-ins; did I mention movie theater popcorn? That counts as a cinema-related interest, right? I love movie theater popcorn.
    Some other interests:
    natural sciences (astronomy, weather, paleontology, oceanography...)
    outdoors - hiking/backpacking/camping; canoe, etc.; surfing; trail running
    environmental issues
  1. I haven’t seen this version, but based on these couple of exchanges I’m going to assume the characters are going to be more important. There is not much plot or situation setup so far, although it appears Abbot and the skier recognize or know one another, setting up a question in our mind. However, based on our lessons on the Hitchcock Touch, I’m guessing that there’s going to be an early form of a MacGuffin that at least gets these characters into a chase-type, suspenseful situation. I’m very excited to watch this one (I really enjoy the 1956 Jimmy Stewart/Doris Day version), and to watch the entire set of Hitch’s spy thrillers from this period. I finally was able to watch all of Hitch’s silent films this past weekend (none of which I had seen before), something I’d been wanting and meaning to do for years, and I’m looking forward to continuing through his body of work. It really is informative and fun going through his career like this; thanks, Mr. Edwards and TCM. Abbot seems to be a very calm, cool, collected individual, but I get the idea that that there’s a very cold, pathological, violent antagonist lurking underneath, ready to unveil himself when needed or tested. He seems nice enough now, and takes even an embarrassing event in stride, but it might contrast with actions later in the film. It’s funny, but he reminds me a bit of a James Bond villain here, and I see him almost as a template for what was to become the typical Bond villain. All three of the openings seen in the Daily Doses use an opening scene of spectacle/performance and spectators. THE MAN doesn’t have the obsessive, voyeuristic focus on a blonde woman (although the young girl does have curly, blond hair). It also seems to show Hitch moving to a more classical Hollywood style, and honing his story, technique, themes, etc. into more of what will be typically associated with a Hitchcock film and the Hitchcock Touch: there’s a more exotic location (again reminding me of James Bond; perhaps Hitch should have directed one), the everyman protagonist, the calculating antagonist, deception/appearances…and I assume I’ll notice more (like a MacGuffin, thriller genre, etc.) after I’ve watched it.
  2. Hitch sets up the sound design of BLACKMAIL in a realistic way. Before Alice enters the room, the woman’s voice is quieter and more muffled, but as Alice opens the door and enters, the woman’s voice is louder and the words understandable. Then, when Alice enters the phone booth and shuts its door, the woman’s voice again fades, then comes back when Alice exits the phone booth. Now, when the family sits down to breakfast and the woman is still rambling on about a knife, we go into a close-up of Alice, emphasizing her far-off stare, indicating her inward focus, and it’s at this point Hitch switches to a subjective sound design in counterpoint to the visuals. Hitch the tilts down to just a close-up of Alice’s hand getting the knife, narrowing our focus visually, while also narrowing our focus aurally, muffling all the woman’s words except “knife”, lulling us almost into a hypnotic trance. Visually the tension and suspense is ratcheted up by Alice’s shaking, fidgeting hand holding the knife, and by using the sound design and acting to bring up the last utterance of “knife” to a scream, in combination with Alice’s jumping and throwing the knife, we are startled out of our trance and even physically respond to Hitch’s techniques almost 90 years after the fact. Subjective use of sound is still used in cinema (If I remember correctly, an example might be the opening scene of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.), but I think most moviegoers today are accustomed to a more realistic portrayal of action on screen. Subjective sound design, or visual design, tends to take you out of the story more often than not, I think. Not sure if anyone's mentioned it yet, but here's Hitch talking to Truffaut about Blackmail's production, and in particular the "knife" scene. SPOILER WARNING if you haven't seen the film yet.
  3. 1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene? 2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? The first set of POV dolly shots instill a sense of dread, unease, and uncertainty, as we are with the two boys (dollying backwards) as they march slowly closer (dollying forward) to the headmaster. The second set of POV dolly shots, in addition to the dread and unease, definitely add to the suspense of the situation. We wonder which of the two boys the girl is going to identify as the culprit as we dolly slowly toward the boys and dolly slowly backward with her (eventually right between the shoulders of the two boys, which Hitch has to cheat a bit by having the two boys move back together after the camera has passed between them, a technique I've seen him use in other movies.) I assume Hitch intentionally used the POV dolly technique to literally put us in the shoes of characters in order to add to the sense of suspense and dread. (Side note: I think I'm going to have to start watching these movies -- at least the ones I haven't seen yet -- before I watch clips or listen to Hitch or others talk about them so that I don't spoil anything for my first viewings.) 3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples. Later in the scene, Hitch, as in THE RING, again uses the technique of superimpositions, this time as an economical way to recount the girl's story without the use of written description or dialogue in intertitles.
  4. Regarding the set design, I just remembered that the living room set in THE RING reminded me of the living room in ROPE.
  5. 2. As is the case with a lot of German Expressionist films, in this scene, there are many shots that are very subjective and put us into the psychological mind of a main character. Please note the various techniques Hitchcock uses to create that feeling of subjectivity. In the Expressionist tradition, Hitch uses superimpositions and dissolves in the editing, and zooms, changes in focus, and image distortion in the cinematography to show the boxer’s growing suspicion, concern, and anger over what could be going on in the next room with his wife and his rival. A shot representing the boxer’s imagination of his wife and his rival is superimposed over a pov shot panning from the mirror to the boxer’s manager. As his imagination of the worst grows, the shot of the rival and his wife is zoomed in, and ultimately becomes the only shot on screen, the shot of his manager--and reality--fading out. This shot then dissolves into a dizzying blur of warped, elongated, in-and-out-of-focus images of dancers, musical instruments, and a record player superimposed over one another, ultimately culminating in a shot of the boxer’s worst fear—his wife kissing the rival—superimposed over those shots, which then dissolves into a close-up of the boxer’s exasperated face. All of this technical manipulation serves to put us literally into the boxer’s state of mind.
  6. 1. The most obvious difference between the last two Daily Doses would be tone, PLEASURE GARDEN starting as lighter, upbeat, jovial, while THE LODGER is darker, more serious and menacing. Both films do, however, make use of blonde (and even more specifically curly blond haired) women as subject matter and as objects of men’s obsession. 2. As far as the Hitchcock style, the reflection shot of the man mimicking the killer in THE LODGER is foretelling of Hitchcock’s use of reflections or viewing through lenses in many of his movies, for example in NORTH BY NORTHWEST with Cary Grant’s reflection in the tv screen, or the reflection of the murder in the glasses in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Also, the windows of the newspaper truck appear as though eyes, reminding me of Hitchcock’s voyeuristic element of looking or watching. THE LODGER also displays Hitchcock’s fascination of the macabre, and of darker areas of human psychology and behavior. 3. Hitchcock frames the opening scream in THE LODGER in extreme close-up and in a canted camera angle to maximize its impact. It is a more grotesque, expressionistic view. The woman’s expression and eyes are also that of terror, and she is looking up, putting her in a lower, more vulnerable position to that of her attacker. Hitchcock has also preceded this shot with what appears to be the shadow of a figure emerging in an urban atmosphere, utilizing Eisenstein’s ideas of juxtaposing two images to create a third idea. With an eye to the future, this does bring to mind the shower scene and scream from PSYCHO.
  7. 3. As an early talkie that is transitioning from the "silent film era," how well do you think this scene uses synchronous sound and music in the construction of its gags? I don't think the film makes full use of the advantage of synchronous sound. The dialogue is standard fare to move the plot along and set up the gags, nothing pertinent and nothing that couldn't be inferred through body language, action, etc., or stated through title cards. The perfume and shaving gags are completely silent gags anyway. There is no wit or character personality really expressed through the actual words. The one area Charley does take advantage of is in the use of various voices/accents, but this feels forced and just added to exploit synchronous sound. The sound effects do add some elements to the atmosphere of the scene and the construction of the gags (coin and spraying sounds, newspaper rustling). The music sounds almost like diegetic music coming from the establishment's speakers or musicians, adding a little to the creation of the scene and atmosphere and ambience, but adding nothing to the situation or gags. It feels like it was just slapped on after the fact. Nondiegetic music (not heard by the characters) could have possibly added to the gags. But, as stated, this is a transitional period in the development of the use of sound.
  8. Ha! Yes, I agree. Being a big fan of Allen's work, I love that this course gives me a chance and a reason to explore his influences.
  9. 3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era? Judging from my limited viewing of slapstick compared to what I know about it and what images my mind conjures up about it, I’d say a lot. Slapstick is a genre that had never interested me much. I could appreciate the genius of the gags and performances, but I don’t think I’ve seen one complete film by the big three – Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd…clips, yes, but not an entire film. (A travesty, I know, and as a film buff, I’ve been meaning to rectify that for years.) Now, as a kid I think I watched some Three Stooges. And I’m a huge Woody Allen fan, mostly of the verbal wit, but I do also like the visual and physical comedy which he still employs in his films today. Through Woody’s work I came to love the Marx Brothers. And that’s about where my slapstick experience ends. But when I think of the comedies of the silent film era, guess who I think of? Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd…and the standard clips that everyone has seen. So, I’d say historians, documentarians, and theorists have had a major impact on popular opinion of the silent film area, especially if you’re unwilling or unable to search out the films and filmmakers for yourself. They shape what we think and what we’re aware of based on their focus and intent, and are great resources to expose us to new subjects and to get us to think about new ideas, but unless additional or alternate views are presented, some people or events may be lost to history, or at least lost to our personal experience. One of the reasons this course excites me is that it’s finally getting me to watch some films and learn about some film history that I hadn’t known before, filling in some gaps in my knowledge and giving me more inspiration to draw from in my own life and work… and maybe I’ll enjoy something that I never thought I would.
  10. I wanted to add a quick note on the style of the video lectures so far. It's definitely not what I expected, especially after having taken and loved the Noir Summer course and its more standard lecture-style videos in the historic Paramount movie palace. But I enjoyed it, and I think its more relaxed and farcical style taken from the more light-hearted world of sports commentary is an inspired idea and fits the genre we're studying. (And the telestrator does help to slow down and examine fast-moving gags.) Compliments for trying something new and keeping it interesting. Look forward to seeing what's next. And I hope this TCM-Canvas-Ball-State-Richard-Edwards connection continues for more courses and innovations in the future that cover other genres and film topics. Also, I'm really enjoying the message boards. Reading the opinions and expertise of others and "talking" through the subject matter and concepts is really interesting and exciting, and helpful in coming to an understanding of the subjects and forming your own ideas and opinions. I wish I had taken more advantage of it in the film noir course.
  11. I don't necessarily think slapstick need be ritualistic. I do think that slapstick films (or films that employ slapstick elements) can have running gags (gags that are repeated multiple times throughout the film that create recognition and anticipation in the audience) and motifs (repeated elements of any kind), but it strikes me that when Kramer mentions the "professional and ritualistic nature" of the slapstick actions, he is writing about the general ritual elements of the actions in the slapstick genre as a whole - not within one film - that alert the audience to its make-believe nature. So far, though, I do agree with the other elements -- exaggeration, physical, make-believe, violent.
  12. I know the Lumiere brothers made the first version of this seminal slapstick film. I'm not sure if it's entirely settled whether or not Alice Guy made the other version that we've seen, but, regardless, if anyone is interested here's a chronology of her life from the book Alice Guy-Blache: Lost Visionary of the Cinema. She's cinema's first female director, and had a fascinating and prolific career, turning out well over 1,000 films.
  13. I would say this is a good example (and probably one of the first uses) of dramatic irony in film, a storytelling device in which the audience knows something that a character doesn't. In this case we know that the boy has his foot on the hose, while the gardener does not, creating suspense and humor. I imagine there will be more uses of this device in the films seen throughout the course.
  14. The film was remade several times by other filmmakers around that time, including Georges Melies. The Lumiere brothers even remade L'arroseur I think twice themselves. I'm not entirely sure whether the other version we've seen is one of the Lumieres' or Alice Guy's. Regardless, Alice Guy has the distinction of being cinema's first female director, and she had a prolific career. (The version where the prankster gets spanked is definitely the original Lumiere, from 1895.) And Francois Truffaut paid homage to it in his 1957 short Les Mistons.
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