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Chris_Coombs

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Posts posted by Chris_Coombs


  1. A list of directors and films inspired by Hitchcock would have to unclude Brian DePalma films, like Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, and Sisters.

     

    Everyone is going to say Charade, and I will too.

     

    Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation has many things that reminds me of Hitchcock.

     

    Clint Eastwood's The Eiger Sanction also reminds me of Hitchcock - a spy thriller, with humor, with a climax in a famous location, The Eiger.

     

    High Anxiety is obvious.

     

    And now a word about Psycho II. This film is much better than people might assume. For a film that was a sequel to one of the most iconic films of all time (a difficult feat indeed), Psycho II is an excellent thriller. It of course is shot in a manner reminiscent of Hitchcock's style, but it does a very hard thing. It gets us to sympathize with Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins performance is wonderful, and even as he starts to unravel you find yourself really feeling for him.

     

    The music score is exceptional, and rather trying to imitate Bernard Hermann it has a somber, melancholy feel to it, which is perfect as we feel sad for Norman.  

     

    Is it a masterpiece like the original? No, but it's an excellent film, well made, well acted, with a solid story and great twist, and it slowly builds tension til it's climax. What more could you ask of a film?

    • Like 4

  2. Who would be Hitchcock's 'Bernard Hermann'? John Williams.

     

    Hitch already worked with Williams on his final film, Family Plot. We know Hitch would reuse people. Williams is a masterful composer who can tackle any genre, so we know no matter what Hitch wanted Williams could create.

     

    We know the power of Bernard Hermann. Think of Psycho without his score. The same is true of John Williams. Think of Jaws without HIS score.

     

     

    Williams had done spy thrillers (his score for The Eiger Sanction is wonderful), Gothic Horror (Dracula) Sci-Fi Thrillers (Minority Report), Political Dramas (Munich), Action Adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Courtroom Dramas, (Presumed Innocent), ans Horror (Jaws). So Williams has shown he can tackle any Genre even remotely near to Hitchcock, and what Hitchcock might have made.

     

     

    Much is said of Hitchcock collaborators - editors, Production Designers, costume designers, writers - but one name is often overlooked: Albert Whitlock.An artist and one of the most famous matte artists of all time, Whitlock worked on Hitch's original Man Who Knew Too Much in 1934 right through to Hitch's final film, Family Plot in 1976. That's an over 40 year collaboration!!! Second only to Alma Reville his wife.We know how Hitch loved his matte paintings. And while Whitlock didn't work on EVERY Hitchcock film over those 40 years, he worked on dozens, and many of his Key films from The 39 Steps to Frenzy to The Birds.

     

    Because we know Hitch loved matte shots, and made many scenes that could ONLY be done in matte shots (The overhead shot of Scottie leaving the mission after Madeline's 'death', and Thornhill leaving the UN Building after the murder of Townsend), we can assume he would continue to use mattes in later films. I would think he would work with Weta Workshop, a top notch special effect house that did the digital mattes for the Lord of The Rings trilogy.

    • Like 4

  3. How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to rewatch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison

     

    The Lodger, Hitchcock’s first thriller, started on the close-up of a scream, and then to the revelation of a dead body, surrounded by a crowd and police. Frenzy starts with a great helicopter shot over the city of London, down (or up?) the Thames towards the iconic Tower Bridge, The music score is very stately, and Hitch is clearly establishing a British feel to this film – a feel that would last throughout the entire picture.

     

    Tower Bridge represents London the same way the Eiffel Tower represents Paris, or the Capital building represents Washington. They are icons. So Hitch is establishing the film’s Britishness. The film will feature other typical and iconic British elements in it: Covent Garden Market, The British Pub culture, Dinner Clubs, and so on. The people featured are lower class, but very British –Rusk works at Covent Garden, Babs and Dick work at a pub, The Police Sergeant a typical British character, and so on. Even food is stressed to be simple British fare – meat and potatoes, sausages and eggs – as the Police inspector struggles with his wife’s recent cuisine classes and is making exotic un-British food which he cannot stomach (pun intended).

     

    So Hitch is first establishing the atmosphere, which he didn’t do with The Lodger, which starts In medias res.

     

    It is also almost a reverse of the events in The Lodger. In the Lodger, A woman screams, there is a dead body, and a crowd forms. In Frenzy, a crowd forms (for a political speech), a person screams, and then we sees the dead body. It is a great shot as first one person, then two, then three then four, then the entire crowd see the body.

     

    Because we are in the sound era the irony is expressed through sound and visuals, instead of visuals alone. After a speech about cleaning up pollution in the Thames, we see a dead body floating in it. In the lodger we see the dead blond followed by the sign ‘Tonight Only Golden Curls’ – it has to be told visually.

     

    A key difference that we will see later in the film – a fundamental difference – is that in The Lodger we never meet the killer, whereas in Frenzy we spend much of the movie with him.

     

    There are similarities to the Lodger though. In both cases we are dealing with a serial Killer. In both cases our lead will be mistaken for the killer. In both cases there is humorous talk about the killing (in the pub).

     

     

    What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific.

     

    Irony – the speech on cleaning up pollution in the Thames followed by a dead body floating in it.

     

    The opening helicopter shot – which is a directorial flourish but serves a purpose as well, establishing the London setting

     

    Of course the cameo – Hitch standing in the crowd with his hat on

     

    The cutting – first one person sees the body, cut to two people, cut to three people, cut to four people.

     

    The element of danger in ordinary public places. The body is not found in a back alley but rather floating down the Thames by a political speech.

     

    Humor – it is not just ironic, it is humorous that a dead body should float by as a politician talks about cleaning up the Thames.

     

     

    Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50 year career.

     

    I think the main purpose of a Hitchcock opening scene is to engage the audience, regardless of the design of the openings, which vary greatly from film to film. We have had:

    1. Visual introductions to characters (Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt)
    2. In Medias Res openings (Vertigo, The Lodger)
    3. Voice over narration (Rebecca)
    4. Character set ups (The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, Psycho)
    5. We’ve started with murders (Rope, The Lodger)
    6. We’ve built up to murders (Psycho, The Birds, Frenzy)

    We can see how many differences there are in a Hitchcock opening, but they all have some method of engaging the audience. The visual introduction of the two characters in Strangers on a Train is no less engaging than the immediate murder in Rope, which is no less engaging than the pan of the apartments in Rear Window.

     

    The main thing about Hitchcock openings is it grabs the audience’s attention somehow.

    • Like 8

  4. Based on the opening sequence alone, what do you feel you already know about Marnie as a character? In what ways does Hitchcock visually reveal her character through her interaction with objects.

     

    The close up of the bag indicates it is something important, and since we are in a Hitchcock film that means it is also something of an illicit nature.  We see only her back, which tells us this is a person of mystery. There is something unknown about her, something which will be explored in the film.

     

    We see her packing a suitcase with newly purchased clothes and accessories – gloves still in their plastic packages – and seemingly discarding older clothes in a rumpled pile to the side. This tells us she is ‘discarding’ an old identity and creating a new one, for a new place (hence the suitcase). We can assume that she has some trouble that she is escaping.

     

    We next see a shot of the purse and it is indeed filled with illicit money. Wads of cash still in their bundle strips suggest she has stolen money. The bands around the money tell us it is from some institution – a bank, or business safe – as opposed to a liquor store robbery or some such thing.

     

    She then goes into her wallet and replaces her social security card, thereby confirming that she is switching her identity. It is interesting that she hides her extra social security cards in a compact behind a mirror, since the mirror represents your visual identity and appearance. She is changing her outward identity but will still remain who she is internally.

     

    The shot of the hair dye in the sink, as pointed out in the lecture video, is reminiscent of the blood going down the drain in Psycho, and it is black, which I understand is close to the color used in the earlier film –it was reported to be chocolate syrup. But of course she is removing her past identity by removing the hair dye.

     

    What comes next is totally unexpected. We have been following this mysterious person, who we know has been involved in illicit behavior such as deception and theft, and we finally get a reveal of her face – of Tippi Hedren’s face, accompanied by a surge of music almost like a glamour shot. It is a shot we might expect to see from a beautiful female romantic lead having just come out of a pool in a Romance film. Suddenly a blonde, beautiful, and in a gesture of freedom that tells us she got away with whatever she did, it almost forces us to identify with this ‘criminal’ right from the start.

     

    Now in new clothes and with suitcases, we see her at a train station (and we hear the sounds associated with train stations such as arrivals and departures being announced). She puts a suitcase in a locker – for what reason? – and we get our first full reveal of the new woman: with her hair done and a serious look of determination on her face. As she drops the key down the grating we know now she was disposing of her old identity – presumably those old clothes in the suitcase – and has permanently changer her identity. She is indeed a criminal of some sort.

     

    This is a classic Hitchcock introduction, reminiscent of the opening of Shadow of a Doubt or Strangers On A Train where we are given an introduction on characters in a purely visual manner without the use of dialogue.

     

     

    How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene?

     

    The music that opens the clip is a bit somber, a bit melancholy, and low key. We get the impression that there is a bit of sadness about the situation –perhaps not from the Character’s perception – but how we will witness it as the audience. A short, turning melodic phrase is repeated over and over, maybe subtly suggesting this is neither the first nor the last time this ‘event’ has or will take place with this character. In other words maybe subliminally it suggests a repeated character trait or behavior.

     

    The music does a subtle thing as she reaches for the purse. The short, repeated melodic motif, which had up until this moment had been in 4/4 time, changes to 3 /4 time. This ‘removing’ of one beat per measure is a very subtle increase of urgency – the music is ever so subtly and again almost subliminally increasing in urgency, without the obvious loud crescendo or dramatic acceleration. It is a remarkable use of music to depict such ideas in a seemingly low key scene.

     

    We get a new repeated musical motif, a little more urgent because it is only two notes, over shots of her sorting through multiple social security cards. This two note theme is just the tail end of the previous musical motif, and as such again is a very subtle way to rack up the tension – by further compressing that musical idea. Because it is shorter the phrase repeats more quickly. Clearly it parallels the idea that this is a repeated behavior on the part of the character, who has multiple identities and has committed multiple illicit actions. What a fantastic way for the music to show this without obvious fanfare.

     

    We then get a slow buildup as she washes dye out of her hair to a climactic musical flourish as she whips her hair back to reveal her new self to us, the audience. I referred to it above as a ‘glamour’shot, and the music establishes that. The lecture video mentioned Hitchcock’s self-referential shots to previous films like psycho, and clearly this is a mini version of the transformation scene in Vertigo, not only visually but more obviously musically. (Even down to the use of the exact same chord and suspension resolution used in the Vertigo score at its climactic moment!)

     

    The music then abruptly stops as she puts the suitcase into the locker. We are snapped out of this ‘glamour’ moment into reality – the sound of the announcer at the train station and all the ambient noise. We are not in a romantic, luscious moment but rather in reality, and reminded that this is someone on the run because of her criminal behavior.  It is a supreme example how even SILENCE in a musical score can communicate to the audience important ideas or themes.

     

    This short clip shows the subtle brilliance AND the obvious brilliance (the face reveal) of a masterful film composer at the height of his powers.

     

     

    Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means?

     

    The Hitchcock cameo, which had become a ‘thing’ by now, is comical in a new way. Many of his cameos are funny – walking the dogs in the birds, missing the bus, the newspaper ad in Lifeboat – but here he actually looks at the audience as if to acknowledge his authorship in the film and also his cameo. It’s also almost like he came out of the door accidentally and thought ‘Oh heck! We’re filming!’

     

     

    An additional note: Mention was made in the lecture video comparing Sean Connery's behavior as compared to Max in 'Rebecca'.

     

    Many people complain about the way Max treats 'I' (the 2nd Mrs. de Winter) in the film - that he treats her as a child, that he is oblivious to her fear of Mrs, Danvers, and his mystifying shortness of temper at certain times.

     

    What many fail to either realize or remember is that Max is a victim - a wounded character. It is only that we don't KNOW this until the end of the film. If you watch the film a second time and REMEMBER from the first viewing what happened to Max, his mystifying behavior becomes, if not right, at least excusable, and right for the CHARACTER. This was not a poor acting choice on Olivier's part by any means. He was acting the part knowing the history of the Max-Rebecca relationship.

     

    Max was smitten with Rebecca, but she turned out to be a cruel and spiteful person. She cheated on him multiple times, and flaunted it in his face. She was having another man's baby (seemingly) and was forcing him to raise it and publicly acknowledge it as his own. She domineered and humiliated him to such a point that he was driven to murder her (or so he believed).

     

    And all the while she did this everyone around her ADORED her. Can you imagine the psychological effect of being treated in such a cruel and spiteful way and having everyone else love and adore her?

     

    THIS is the trauma - the damage - that afflicts Max at the start of the film - the cruelty and spitefulness of his domineering yet adored-by-others wife, and his knowledge of her murder at his hands (seemingly). I think such trauma more than explains - not necessarily justifies - but explains and even excuses Maxes behavior towards 'I'.

     

    1. Max was domineered by Rebecca, so he became attracted to the opposite, a very shy young woman.
    2. Rebecca was cruel and spiteful, controlling and domineering. Max therefore treated ‘I’ like a child, for he feared to have her ‘grow up’ to become another ‘Rebecca’. This is very important, for we see how just the lingering presence of Rebecca’s reputation dominated and smothered ‘I’ in the film, how much more intense and difficult must that have been to Max when she was alive and his wife? Max IS a wounded character.
    3. Moments when Max loses temper with ‘I’ almost always concern some rememberance of Rebecca, whom he hated and despised and murdered (seemingly). For example, The dress at the party was a reminder that to the world (but NOT to him) Rebecca was stunning and adored. Remember too his loss of temper is not REALLY towards her, but is a reflex reaction and anger at HIMSELF for his MEMORIES of the troubled relationship with Rebecca. A later scene shows he had already completely forgotten about the incident, showing it was in HIS mind ABOUT him and not her.
    4. Several times Max expresses disappointment towards ‘I’ about the relationship perhaps being a mistake. This is NOT that he doesn’t love ‘I’ but rather he feels, as a murderer with his troubled past that he can NEVER be free of Rebecca or the past.

     

    These few examples show that Max’s difficulty was NOT with ‘I’ but with HIMSELF. ‘I’ was just  unfortunate to receive it as ‘collateral damage’ from Max’s disintergrating emotional state.

     

    Remember too that when we DO find out, even ‘I’ realizes Max is an injured, wounded soul and she suddenly mothers and supports him (who is the child now?). She becomes strong for him at that moment because she now realizes that Max had been through the terrible trauma of cruel and spiteful treatment by Rebecca, who was about to force him to raise her lover’s child and who’s torment drove Max to murder (seemingly), and who was adored through it all by everyone around him.

     

    If people cant see such trauma as affecting a person, then I am baffled. And Max’s behavior towards ‘I’ makes sense to me quite clearly.

    As for his insensitivity to her fear of Mrs. Danvers, that is due to the fact that he grew up with servants obeying his every wish and command. He grew up thinking of these people as not scary but rather his obedient servant. He even SAYS this to ‘I’ at one point: “why should you be frightened of Mrs. Danvers?” It would be like wondering why a person would be frightened of an ant. To him Mrs Danvers is harmless as an ant. He can’t conceive how anyone could be frightened by a servant. It’s not an insensitivity, but rather that he doesn’t comprehend how that could be possible.

     

    Lastly this film is being told from the perspective of ‘I’. We see Max through HER eyes. We see Mrs. Danvers through HER eyes. Max’s treatment of her seems disturbing to us the audience because it is disturbing to ‘I’ at those moments because ‘I’ doesn’t know the truth – that Max hated Rebecca. The behavior of Max which at times confounds us is really confounding the narrator, ‘I’. When she finally DOES learn the truth, see how the relationship IMMEDIATELY changes with her being strong because she finally UNDERSTANDS Max – who now both Rebecca and the audience see in a different light.

     

    Remember that in ‘The Snake Pit’ Virginia (Olivia DeHavilland) is traumatized by events in her past life. Yet no one complains of her treatment of her husband, whom she just abandons and doesn’t even recognize, despite his clear love and devotion to her. Her treatment of her husband Robert is EXCUSED because we are told she has mental issues from trauma in her past.

     

    It’s a shame that those critical of Max can’t excuse or at least understant his behaviior from the trauma in HIS past, which is no less severe than Virginias. Olivier is not giving a poor performance in Rebecca. He is playing a damaged character and many choose not to acknowledge that fact.

    • Like 7

  5. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene?

     

    When Melanie ‘plays’ at being a pet shop worker is more similar to romantic comedy, which often have scenes where characters  mistake the identity of a person and the person plays along. In ‘Kingdom of the Spiders a visiting scientist mistakes William Shatner for a gas station attendant. He plays along for fun.  While that is a horror film it relates to the romantic comedy aspect of the film, as Shatner and the scientit eventually become romantically involved.

     

    However it is also a playful variation on Hitchcock’s ‘mistaken identity’ theme

     

    We also see that Mitch is wise to her act, and he is having fun at her expense. More typical of romantic comedy where two people we know will eventually be together spar with each other.

     

    There is a great line “Doesn’t it make you feel awful… having thise poor innocent little creatures caged up all the time?” While Hitchcock never gives a concrete specific answer to why the birds attack, he gives us plenty of humorous ‘food for thought’ with that line.

     

     

    How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere?

     

    We start with a trolly sound for a couple seconds. That’s all we need to know the location as San Francisco. Right away we get bird sounds in the background. There is a humorous moment when out of that chirping comes a ‘wolf whistle’ at Melanie. (Different times, she smiles in appreciation). When she looks up at the sky and sees the mass of birds the calls become a bit louder, and there are ‘caws’ in the mix, giving a subtle feeling of menace.

     

    As we enter the pet shop, we are surrounded by bird chirps (and no other animal sound, like dog barking or cats mewing). The chirps are highter pitched to represent the small birds in theshop.

     

    The bird sounds change a bit as mitch enters. Gone is the steady high-pitched chirping as Malanie talked to the Pet Shop worker. They have a more ‘fluttering’ chirping sound, perhaps to represent that Melanie is immediately attracted to Mitch, as can be seen as her reaction when he addresses her. She makes a slight double take and we can tell she is attracted.

     

    In the end the two are framed on either side of a cage of two love birds, and the metaphor is clear

     

     

    The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene.

     

    Hitch is seen leaving the pet shop where the movie starts. It is as if he’s saying “I just set up this whole scenario… enjoy!”

    • Like 7

  6. Psycho opens with title design by Saul Bass and music by Bernard Herrmann. This is their third collaboration for Hitchcock, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. How does the graphic design and the score introduce the main themes of this film?

     

    The graphic design consists of gray lines sweeping across the screen, dragging the credits behind them, and dragging them off. It creates a disturbing tone right away for several reasons

    1. The lines and credits come from any direction – it is unpredictable, and that creates tension. It also hints that the film ahead will have unpredictable, disturbing events.
    2. The lines and credits start coming and exiting from MULTIPLE directions – half from left and half from right, or half from bottom and half from top. This then increases to multiple SECTIONS split up – 2 or 3 sections come in from the left while 2 or 3 sections come in from the right. It is an increase of chaos and unpredictability.
    3. The lines come in and exit unevenly – there is no ‘order’ to it – it is uneven.
    4. The words get fragmented, which is both unsettling and suggests the ‘knife’ motif – as if the words were sliced up.

    Janet Leigh’s is the only credit treated differently from the main players. Her name alone leaves the screen being pulled apart. A foreshadowing joke, perhaps?

     

    The music starts with dissonant chords (Minor major seventh chords, a ‘nondominant seventh chord in the harmonic minor scale’). Being nondominant, it’s desired resolution is to its own tonic. (I.e. an A minor major seventh chord  by itself want’s to resolve the dissonant note [g sharp] up to a to make a stable A minor chord).

     

    What all that musical nonsense means is the chords are dissonant and harsh, and want resolving that NEVER happens – it stays harsh and dissonant. These harsh chords suggest something violent and literally stabbing in nature.

    The some of the chords occur off the beat, which again gives an unpredictable, unsettling feeling. This alternates with a regular, literally PULSING rhythym that has an intense sense of drive.

     

    The orchestration, as mentioned in the lecture video, is for string orchestra only. The effect is to remove the ‘soft’ quality of woodwinds and horns, and leave only a ‘scratching’ quality in the intense parts and an ‘eerie’ quality in the softer moments.

     

    A sustained melody is played over the pulsing lower strings. The melody, while lyrical, has a driving sense because all the notes in the melody are the same time length – it is relentless.

     

    This melody also alternates with a sixteenth note-eight note alternating figure in the violins – a  musical ornametal similar to a ‘turn’, which has a grating, ostinato feel to it. In other words it goes nowhere.

     

    The music combines with the graphic design to create a feeling of an unpredictable, chaotic, disturbing, harsh, violent, pulsing and driving nature.

     

    There is a musical bridge from the credits to the opening scene. The music, now slow, is more somber, low keey, but has an eerie resemblance to the credits music. The pulsing figure from the credits is now slowed down and becomes very like a sigh.

                    Here is the pulsing notes from the credits highlighted:

     

    20257940_1616236268407402_50656351697855

                    And here is the slower bridge music linking to the  scene in the hotel room. The highlighted ‘sighing’ notes come from the ‘pulsing’ notes in the credits. In other words, the two musics are related, and gives the somber bridge music a slightly off putting quality.

     

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    As the titles end, we have three shots of Phoenix, Arizona, and a very specific day, date, and time: “FRIDAY, DECEMBER THE ELEVENTH” and “TWO FORTY-THREE P.M.” What is Hitchcock seeking to establish with such specificity? Also, why do you think Hitchcock elects to enter the hotel room through the semi-closed blinds from the outside? Does this shot remind of any other Daily Doses we have watched?

     

    The time, date, and location suggest a reality, as in a documentary. This is most likely to establish that in a movie named ‘Psycho’, where an element of delusion might exist, THIS scene is real.

     

    Hitchcock enters from a pan of the city, closing in on the window to show several ideas.

    1. It suggests a ‘bird motif’. It is as if we are a bird flying and landing on the window sill, looking in.
    2. It says that this story is just one of many within the large city, and that while ordinary lives go on, something extraordinary may happen. This is disturbing because it also suggests that something extraordinary MAY one day happen to us.
    3. It is another peeping tom mofif – Just as norman will peep, we are peeping in at their private lifes, and at a very personal private moment.
    4. It is also Hitchcock’s way of telling us he will be guiding us on this journey.

     

     

    In the remainder of this sequence, we are introduced to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). The scene pushed the boundaries of censorship, especially considering our last Daily Dose for North by Northwest was edited for a line of risqué dialogue. Since this is the opening scene of Psycho, how does the hotel room scene function as a way to establish Marion Crane as a main character? Defend your answer.

     

    We know that they just had sex. The bed covers are off and the sheets are rumpled. He is topless and she is in a bra and slip.

     

    Marion refers to the room as ‘a place like this’, suggesting it is a cheap hotel and not a luxurious, respectable one. It is a hotel for people who do illicit things.

     

    Marion also says the line ‘we steal lunch hours.’ This is obviously a foreshadowing to when Marion will in reality steal ON her ‘lunch hour’ (steal from work).

    • Like 9

  7. Chris, this is great, even without the inserted video; I can imagine the juxtaposition. (And having the video removed for copyright reasons reminds us of all that behind-the-scenes work our course professors have to do to make all of this material available to us -- not possible without TCM etc. Thanks on that, too.) I appreciate the musicological, technical analysis. I guess that's why Hitchcock movies win so consistently in the technical categories, as opposed to his directorial ones.  Cheers.

    i think i fixed the link. I didn't know you had to use the 'link' button above the text window. i just typed in the link. MY BAD, it should work now if you're still interested! I hope you are.


  8.  

    Though discussing the opening, this post has SPOILERS.

     

    3) How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

     

    The music score in this film by Bernard Herrmann is one of the greatest films scores in history.

     

    The music starts the second the film starts, not at the credits, but at the Paramount logo. There is an ostinato (a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm) of a fallling-rising arpeggio in the violins, and at the same time the  woodwinds play an upside down rising-falling arpeggio.  The piece is in e-flat minor (which I write in text as ‘eb’).  Of importance is the notes in the two figures: In the violins we have D Bb Gb D Bd Db (7 5 3 7 3 5 in the scale of eb).  In the woodwinds we have the arpeggio in an opposite direction playing Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3).

     

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    The notes in a chord are 1, 3, and 5. The 7th is called a ‘leading tone’ because melodically and harmonically it wants to resolve to the tonic, or 1. It is the single most dissonant note in a scale, because the need to resolve is the strongest of any note away. Think of the ditty ‘shave and a haircut’

     

                    Shave and a hair cut, two---

     

    If you DON’T say ‘bits’ you never resolve the 7th, which is the word ‘two’ in that song.  Sing it to yourself to see. Yes, we are used to the words finishing a coherent sentence, so try humming just the NOTES and stop again on the penultimate note. It leaves you hanging because that last note desperately wants to resolve UP to 1, or the tonic. (a scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 )

     

    I mention this because that D natural in the violins by itself creates incredible musical tension that never resolves.  Wagner’s famous Tristan and Isolde opera was famous for using music that never resolved, representing unfulfilled longing and desire. The music in Tristan and Isolde ONLY resolves in the end of the Opera when the two are ‘joined in death’ and can finally consummate their love. (Liebestod).

     

    The mention of Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ is by no means arbitrary. Herman was clearly influence by this monumental moment in musical history, when tonality started to break down.  And Vertigo has so much to do with unfulfilled passion and desire: Scotty desires a married woman he cannot have. Scotty loses her when she dies and cannot give up this longing. Midge has unfulfilled love for Scotty, and she loses him, both to  Madeline and after she’s gone to his trauma. Judy has unfulfilled longing for Scotty who will not love HER as JUDY, but wants to change her into MADELINE.

     

    The CLIMAX of Vertigo is one of the single most powerful combinations of the visual and the musical ever put of film. (Think of the final moments of the Spielberg film E.T., told almost excursively with visuals in music barring the two short lines ‘Come’, ‘Stay’. If you watch this scene and you are familiar with the Wagner piece you will definitely see the similarities. The climax of the Wagner is on a downward resolutions.

     

    20232117_1610854598945569_78805890113057

     

    (the above music is a piano version of the Wagner in C major.)

     

    This downward resolution is also found in the Bernard Hermann music. It is a passionate, sighing musical phrase with the resolution a release of tension, even, and exuse the term, and almost sexual climax sense in the piece, both in the Wagner and the Hermman Vertigo score.

     

    If you haven’t heard the Wagner, I earnestly ask you to listen to it, and compare it to the Herman moment from Vertigo’s climax. You can find it on Youtube under ‘Wagner prelude and Liebestod’, or follow this link:

     

                   

     

                    (The place in the link I posted to start listening is the 15 minute mark, with the ‘climax’ occurring at 16 minutes 35 seconds)

     

    OK, WHY am I talking about the END of Vertigo when the Daily Dose is the BEGINNING of Vertigo? The answer is because the SEED of the themes, the love theme, and this climax are in the music in the very first second. In the example 1 above, the bottom part (woodwinds) contains the notes: Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3). The C to Bb resolution IS this part of the love theme.

     

    Over this ‘swirling’ arpeggio ostinato are played dark noted and chords in the brass. Two notes, again, resolving DOWN one step, just in the climax I mentioned. Is it a coincidence? No as we see what that brass line becomes. We are seeing the first two notes of a 4 note falling theme.

     

    20228486_1610854775612218_55127723235697

     

    This ominous theme suggest ‘falling’ paralleling our journey into the abyss of obsession. But it is something more than that, it is the second half of ‘the LOVE THEME of Scotty for Madeline’. OK, if it is the second part, then what is the first part? THE SWIRLING OSTINATO in the violins. Let’s put the two together:

     

    20156058_1610854952278867_18107400487750

     

    Therefor we can hear, perhaps subconsciously throughout the movie, that this LOVE is born from and OBSESSION, a ‘falling into the abyss of that obsession.

     

    Going back to the first picture and the ostinato figure. I said it was two mirror opposite arpeggios. This also suggests the DUALITY of the Kim Novak character. It also resembles ‘swirling which is in the visual design representing ‘descent into the abyss of obsession. This duality is heard also during the dream sequence: after some percussion in a ‘Spanish’ rhythm , tremolo violins play both the falling and rising melody at the same time. So the music is constantly reminding us of the DUALITY, established in the opening seconds of the score.

     

    The interval between the 7th and the note above it (1) is a half-step, which is a VERY dissonant combination when played together. Since the upper arpeggio starts on 7 while the lower arpeggio starts on 1 – played at the same time, right from the start is a slightly disturbing musical sound. This ‘half-step’ interval is exploited in the dream sequence. I described the percussion ‘Spanish rhythm, and the tremelo violins. The violins alternate between playing a few bars of tremolo notes to another musical figure where the 1st Violins play an octave (1 up to 8 [and 8 is also 1]) and the second violins play a major 7th (1 up to 7). This results with 7 and 8 (which is 7 and 1) being played at the same time. It is an almost ‘screeching ‘, FAMOUSLY used by Hermann in the SHOWER SCENE in Psycho.

     

    These dissonances are used on strong beats, and syncopated beats, which emphasizes that dissonance.

     

    Speaking of the climax, the Falling Brass note chords (decent into the abyss) is used in tremolo violins in the huge musical build up to the climactic moment of the film, repeated, rising each time, step by step until the musical ‘descent into the abyss’ culminates in a near org-asmic fulfillment of Scotty’s desire for Madeline: She is back alive again!

     

    So we see how seeds of the music in the opening represent ideas of falling, an abyss of obsession, out of which is Passion and unfulfilled love, tension, as well as setting up the Love theme and the final Musical and filmic CLIMAX of Judy’s transformation into Madeline.

     

    It is in this CLIMAX that not only does the music resolve (as in the Wagner)  but it also triumphantly ends in a huge long MAJOR chord as the scene ends. The music up to this point has been mostly in very dark, minor keys ( like e flat minor) This switch to MAJOR at that moment adds to the glorious moment at that scene, when Scotty is finally fulfilled in his desire – he FINALLY has MADELINE  all to himself!

     

    [this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]

     

    I became so intrigued thinking about the relationship between Bernard Hermann's wonderful score for Vertigo and Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan and Isolde that I made a video (just for fun) replacing Hermann's music in the climactic transformation scene with the Wagner.

     

    https://ccoombs1964.wixsite.com/cinemachris/homework

     

    In Wagner's Tristan and Isolde the two characters' love remains unfulfilled until First Tristan and then she (Isolde) dies and their love can finally be consummated. Isolde sings this most famous aria talking about Tristan rising from death to join her in love:

     

    Softly and gently

    how he smiles,

    how his eyes

    fondly open

    —do you see, friends?

    do you not see?

    how he shines

    ever brighter.

    Star-haloed

    rising higher

    Do you not see?

     

    [...and ends...]

     

    to drown,

    to founder –

    unconscious –

    Utmost bliss!

     

    How similar is THAT to Scotty's feeling for the 'reborn' Madeline at that moment. Even the ideas of 'drowning', the 'smiles' and 'eyes' (think of the opening credit sequence by Saul Bass), of foundering (a ship that sinks into an abyss). I find this comparison fascinating, but most importantly the idea that 'death' will bring them together. (This is why the music is called 'Liebestod' - Literally 'love death').

     

    The parallel to the death and 'rebirth' of Madeline, and Scotty finally being able to 'consummate' his love with her (and now he actually has her all to himself for she is no longer Gavin's wife) is clearly visible to me.

     

    Anyway, I made the video just for fun. Take into consideration that film scores are written to be precisely timed to hit certain beats in a film - a line of dialogue, a specific edit, a close up or zoom, the length of the shot, etc. - I did not want to re-cut the scene or edit the Wagner (both would be sacrilege to do). So I fit it in as best I could.

     

    Again, this is just for fun and in no way am I saying the Hermann is not good. I honestly believe Hermann's Vertigo scores is one of the best film scores ever written.

     

    Anyway, hope you like it.

    • Like 5

  9. Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene.

     

    Cary Grant was a HUGE star at this time, ane people come to expect certain things from him:

     

    1. They expect him to be suave, charming, sophisticated
    2. They expect he will become involved in a romance
    3. They expect he will be a decent man
    4. They expect he will be the male lead
    5. They expect a certain amount of charming humor

     

    Cary is indeed suave, charming, and sophisticated in this film, and even pokes fun at his image at several moments:

     

                    Do I look heavy? I feel heavy. Make a note: ‘Think thin.’

     

    He does indeed get involved in a romance. But because Eve Kendal is a ‘femme fatale’, THAT becomes the obstacle to the relationship.  How can Cary Grant fall in love with a ‘bad’ woman?

     

    He is a decent man, but they play with it a little by making him seem a little shallow. ‘Ex-wives and several bartenders to support.’

     

    He is the male lead, and we expect him to succeed in his mission, we expect him to outwit the bad guys (which he does many times – the drunk driving scene, the auction).

     

    And of course he has lots of charming humor: ‘R.O.T. The ‘O’ stands for nothing.’

     

     

    Eva Marie Saint was at the start of her carreer, but her two early hits ‘On The Waterfront’ and Raintree County’ lead people to expect certain things from her.

     

    1. They expect her to be sweet, innocent and vulnerable
    2. They expect her to become romantically involved with the lead

     

    In this case they play AGAINST type. She is  not innocent, but very ‘experienced’. She is not vulnerable (until we know the truth), but deadly. She is not warm and sweet, but cool and sexy.

    She does become romantically involved with the lead, but we see it is not ‘real’, but a seduction. (Until later when we know the truth)

     

    There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene.

     

    It is when Eve suggest that he come to her room because she is bored ‘I don’t particularly like the book I’m reading’, that the cigarettes come out. She pulls out the cigarette and he takes the bait. It is here that she is shown in profile, because we are only seeing one side of her true nature. We think she is innocent, but she is really devious. However, this is ironic since deep down she IS innocent and only ACTING devious for the mission. So which side are we seeing?

     

    Of course the cigarette has sexual connotations, as a phallic symbol, which also suggests that SHE is in control of the sexual relationship and using HIM, which she is.

     

    The flame indicates the passion that will develop between the two.

     

     

    Roger’s monogrammed matchbook says a lot. First of all, what kind of vain man has monogrammed matchbooks? And yet, his humor is self depracatory ‘The ‘O’ stands for ‘nothing’. It is an odd combination where he is concerned with his appearance yet makes fun of himself. And of course his appearance is part of the maguffin. He is mistaken for George Kaplan. So his appearance that he worries about is what got him into trouble.

     

    The ‘O’ stands for ‘nothing’ also means he is our ‘ordinary’ man. He is just one of a number of men in the advertising business. It’s like saying he’s just another lawyer in New York.

     

    The ‘O’ also is a joke, because he is NOT George Kaplan.

     

    The ‘O’ is also Hitchcock’s supreme self-referential joke that the maguffin is nothing.

     

     

    Finally it is the matchbook that plays a crucial role in the plot at the end. It is fantastic that a monogrammed matchbook, associated with one’s ‘vanity’ or ‘appearance’, should be the key at the end that says  ‘I Roger Thornhill am here’.

     

     Finally I have to mention ‘lure men to their doom on the 20th Century Ltd.’ Which of course is what she actually IS doing – luring him to his doom. It is like Hanney’s comment to the female agent when she says she wants him to take her to his apartment. He says ‘it’s your funeral…’ Clever foreshadowing by Hitchcock.

     

     

     

    How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer.

     

    We hear the sound of the train on the tracks. It is a subtle background sound but suggests a turbulence in their relationship while at the same time being real.

     

    The music is soft and elegant – the same kind we would hear in a hollywood movie set in a restaurant in a romance film. It is quiet besides the dialogue, except for the occasional clink of china cup and spoon. In other words we are not in a Chuck-E-Cheese, but an elegant setting.

     

    When eve sets her lure – the cigarette – we get the ‘love theme’. This is ironic, for of course it is not a real romance but rather a seduction of Roger to send him to his doom. And yet again deep down inside it IS the romance, for she is only playing a part.

    • Like 8

  10. Though discussing the opening, this post has SPOILERS.

     

    Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.

     

    This opening is one of the greatest openings ever! The film starts with the Paramount logo, followed by the Vistavision logo, but in Black and white. The music starts with the Paramount logo, and not AFTER the Vistavision logo at the start of the credits. This is unusual, and to me starts tension from the first second the film starts. (I will discuss the music in great detail answering question #3)

     

    We see a mouth, a pair of eyes, and a single eye. But it’s not as simple as that. Notice where the credits lie in this sequence:

     

    1. We start with the mouth  over which we see the credit for ‘James Stewart’. The story being told is HIS story. And, in the tradition of detectives, he EXPLAINS many important things in the film – like the denouement when he confronts Judy in the tower.
    2. We move to a set of eyes. The eyes look left, and right, and back, which to me represents two things:  It suggests the idea of something that has to be watched out for – something dangerous. It also suggests the DUALITY of Kim Novak’s part in the film – Madeline and Judy.
    3. We then move to a single eye. Alfred Hitchcock’s credit is placed over this image. Hitch is the eye through which we see the film – the author.
    4.  

    The camera moving from mouth over nose to eyes and finally a single eye also represents the obsesssion in the second half of the film, where Scotty is trying to ‘recreate’ Madeline through Judy by CHANGING those details – hair color, make up, dress, jewelry, shoes… everything.  So close to the face it’s also an INVASION of her, which again is what Scotty eventually does to her – he enters here apartment, then enters her life, then changes her, and all forcefully, in the sense he doesn’t even consider Judy’s feelings.

     

    There is only one ‘non-swirling’ design, and this comes at the editor’s credit. I have always remembered the name ‘Tomasini’ because this one image stood out so much. To me, that design resembles an eye, like from the opening.

     

    COLOR starts as we enter the eye, and the swirling designs start. The first color is RED. In the article  “Verdant Vertigo: Dreaming in Technicolor” by Jim Emerson (linked  in Monday’s module)  he states that “red suggesting Scottie's fear/caution/hesitancy when it comes to romance, and its opposite green, suggesting the Edenic bliss”. Red is a warning.

     

    The swirls come AT us, giving the effect that we are falling INTO the abyss.  As one comes at us so far it disappears the next comes from INSIDE, again we are going deeper into the abyss. They don’t just swirl, some morph and change, like ‘living spirographs’. The idea of ‘changing’ is introduced – as when Scotty tries to transform Judy into Madeline.

     

    The COLORS of the swirls alternate in color, between GREEN and PURPLE. In Jim Emerson’s article (quoted two paragraphs above) indicated, Green is Scotty’s desire for Madeline, and Purple is Judy trying to assert her own Identity. This alternating of two colors again reinforces the DUALITY of Kim Novak’s characters in Vertigo.

     

    They look like cobwebs, which is significant because Midge says after Scotty’s traumatic loss of Madeline “Mozart is the music that sweeps the cobwebs away," Does Midge sweep away Scotty’s trauma, or sweep away Scotty’s obession with Madeline? That line now has an ambiguity due to the credits. Were it not for the images in the credits the line ‘cobwebs’ would make no connection to obsession. We have seen Midge trying to get Madeline out of Scotty’s mind (the painting she paints, which is of Midge – Midge wants Scotty to drop Madeline for her).

     

    The swirls all go counter clockwise (except one). The counter-clockwise motion suggests going back in time. In the film Madeline is obsessed with the past life, and often tries to ‘re-live’ it. Scotty is obsessed with recreating Madeline, whom he lost in the past. Even Midge regrets she never married Scotty, which begs the question “If  Madeline is obsessed with a past life, and Scotty is obsessed with Madeline, is Midge obsessed with Scotty? She tends to him, almost in a motherly way, even though he will never return her affections. And in a fantastic close up, where Scotty says ‘We were engaged once’, the camera cuts to her,  and she looks up with only her eyes – something Scotty could never see, and in that moment we know Midge loves and mabye obsesses over Scotty. I mention this because of the ‘eye’ iconpgraphy in the opening.

     

    I said all the swirls go backward except one. After many green and purple we see one GREEN swirl going CLOCKWISE. To me it means that Scotty’s desire for Madeline (the color green) will effect Judy’s future.

     

    FINALLY We see a different color swirl. And guess what color it is? It is YELLOW. In  Jim Emerson’s article he tells us that “Midge is associated with soft, pastel shades -- yellow”. But what happens to that swirl? It is the ONLY swirl that changes color, and it turns to RED, which in the article was called “a cautionary color, suggesting Scottie's reluctance to get involved with members of the opposite sex.” That one moment in the credits hits at Scotty’s reluctance to commit with Midge.

     

    We see a second yellow swirl, and it GOES AWAY from us, the only one to do so. Is it because Midge loses Scotty into the abyss of his obsession with Madeline?

     

    At last we end up on the single eye over which for a second time Hitchcock’s credit is put, reinforcing that it is through Hitch’s directorial eye that we will see the story.

     

     

    In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

     

    The single most powerful image in the title is THE SINGLE EYE, which starts the journey into the swirling abyss, and is the last image in the credits. This film is about obsession – about looking for something that’s lost. It is about trying to recreate that, so you can see it again. The eye also represents perception: Scotty perceives Judy and Madeline one way, but we find out that perception is entirely wrong. It is when Scotty finally SEES this that he solves the mystery,  purges himself from guilt and trauma, and is finally free.

     

    How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

     

    The music score in this film by Bernard Herrmann is one of the greatest films scores in history.

     

    The music starts the second the film starts, not at the credits, but at the Paramount logo. There is an ostinato (a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm) of a fallling-rising arpeggio in the violins, and at the same time the  woodwinds play an upside down rising-falling arpeggio.  The piece is in e-flat minor (which I write in text as ‘eb’).  Of importance is the notes in the two figures: In the violins we have D Bb Gb D Bd Db (7 5 3 7 3 5 in the scale of eb).  In the woodwinds we have the arpeggio in an opposite direction playing Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3).

     

    20245945_1610854335612262_53483247996091

     

    The notes in a chord are 1, 3, and 5. The 7th is called a ‘leading tone’ because melodically and harmonically it wants to resolve to the tonic, or 1. It is the single most dissonant note in a scale, because the need to resolve is the strongest of any note away. Think of the ditty ‘shave and a haircut’

     

                    Shave and a hair cut, two---

     

    If you DON’T say ‘bits’ you never resolve the 7th, which is the word ‘two’ in that song.  Sing it to yourself to see. Yes, we are used to the words finishing a coherent sentence, so try humming just the NOTES and stop again on the penultimate note. It leaves you hanging because that last note desperately wants to resolve UP to 1, or the tonic. (a scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 )

     

    I mention this because that D natural in the violins by itself creates incredible musical tension that never resolves.  Wagner’s famous Tristan and Isolde opera was famous for using music that never resolved, representing unfulfilled longing and desire. The music in Tristan and Isolde ONLY resolves in the end of the Opera when the two are ‘joined in death’ and can finally consummate their love. (Liebestod).

     

    The mention of Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ is by no means arbitrary. Herman was clearly influence by this monumental moment in musical history, when tonality started to break down.  And Vertigo has so much to do with unfulfilled passion and desire: Scotty desires a married woman he cannot have. Scotty loses her when she dies and cannot give up this longing. Midge has unfulfilled love for Scotty, and she loses him, both to  Madeline and after she’s gone to his trauma. Judy has unfulfilled longing for Scotty who will not love HER as JUDY, but wants to change her into MADELINE.

     

    The CLIMAX of Vertigo is one of the single most powerful combinations of the visual and the musical ever put of film. (Think of the final moments of the Spielberg film E.T., told almost excursively with visuals in music barring the two short lines ‘Come’, ‘Stay’. If you watch this scene and you are familiar with the Wagner piece you will definitely see the similarities. The climax of the Wagner is on a downward resolutions.

     

    20232117_1610854598945569_78805890113057

     

    (the above music is a piano version of the Wagner in C major.)

     

    This downward resolution is also found in the Bernard Hermann music. It is a passionate, sighing musical phrase with the resolution a release of tension, even, and exuse the term, and almost sexual climax sense in the piece, both in the Wagner and the Hermman Vertigo score.

     

    If you haven’t heard the Wagner, I earnestly ask you to listen to it, and compare it to the Herman moment from Vertigo’s climax. You can find it on Youtube under ‘Wagner prelude and Liebestod’, or follow this link:

     

                   

     

                    (The place in the link I posted to start listening is the 15 minute mark, with the ‘climax’ occurring at 16 minutes 35 seconds)

     

    OK, WHY am I talking about the END of Vertigo when the Daily Dose is the BEGINNING of Vertigo? The answer is because the SEED of the themes, the love theme, and this climax are in the music in the very first second. In the example 1 above, the bottom part (woodwinds) contains the notes: Eb Gb Bb C Bb Gb (1 3 5 6 5 3). The C to Bb resolution IS this part of the love theme.

     

    Over this ‘swirling’ arpeggio ostinato are played dark noted and chords in the brass. Two notes, again, resolving DOWN one step, just in the climax I mentioned. Is it a coincidence? No as we see what that brass line becomes. We are seeing the first two notes of a 4 note falling theme.

     

    20228486_1610854775612218_55127723235697

     

    This ominous theme suggest ‘falling’ paralleling our journey into the abyss of obsession. But it is something more than that, it is the second half of ‘the LOVE THEME of Scotty for Madeline’. OK, if it is the second part, then what is the first part? THE SWIRLING OSTINATO in the violins. Let’s put the two together:

     

    20156058_1610854952278867_18107400487750

     

    Therefor we can hear, perhaps subconsciously throughout the movie, that this LOVE is born from and OBSESSION, a ‘falling into the abyss of that obsession.

     

    Going back to the first picture and the ostinato figure. I said it was two mirror opposite arpeggios. This also suggests the DUALITY of the Kim Novak character. It also resembles ‘swirling which is in the visual design representing ‘descent into the abyss of obsession. This duality is heard also during the dream sequence: after some percussion in a ‘Spanish’ rhythm , tremolo violins play both the falling and rising melody at the same time. So the music is constantly reminding us of the DUALITY, established in the opening seconds of the score.

     

    The interval between the 7th and the note above it (1) is a half-step, which is a VERY dissonant combination when played together. Since the upper arpeggio starts on 7 while the lower arpeggio starts on 1 – played at the same time, right from the start is a slightly disturbing musical sound. This ‘half-step’ interval is exploited in the dream sequence. I described the percussion ‘Spanish rhythm, and the tremelo violins. The violins alternate between playing a few bars of tremolo notes to another musical figure where the 1st Violins play an octave (1 up to 8 [and 8 is also 1]) and the second violins play a major 7th (1 up to 7). This results with 7 and 8 (which is 7 and 1) being played at the same time. It is an almost ‘screeching ‘, FAMOUSLY used by Hermann in the SHOWER SCENE in Psycho.

     

    These dissonances are used on strong beats, and syncopated beats, which emphasizes that dissonance.

     

    Speaking of the climax, the Falling Brass note chords (decent into the abyss) is used in tremolo violins in the huge musical build up to the climactic moment of the film, repeated, rising each time, step by step until the musical ‘descent into the abyss’ culminates in a near org-asmic fulfillment of Scotty’s desire for Madeline: She is back alive again!

     

    So we see how seeds of the music in the opening represent ideas of falling, an abyss of obsession, out of which is Passion and unfulfilled love, tension, as well as setting up the Love theme and the final Musical and filmic CLIMAX of Judy’s transformation into Madeline.

     

    It is in this CLIMAX that not only does the music resolve (as in the Wagner)  but it also triumphantly ends in a huge long MAJOR chord as the scene ends. The music up to this point has been mostly in very dark, minor keys ( like e flat minor) This switch to MAJOR at that moment adds to the glorious moment at that scene, when Scotty is finally fulfilled in his desire – he FINALLY has MADELINE  all to himself!

    • Like 10

  11. July 18, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 14 

     

    Rear Window, on the other hand, can be reproduced theatrically. For starters, the entire setup is a stage because the “set” that Jimmy Stewart views through his lens is vast--so vast, we can’t even cross the proscenium line, thus we experience the same limitations theater has that the cinema camera doesn't, with its ability to shift the 180 degree line to almost anywhere, and frame shots in various sizes.

     

    Also, while the opening shot where we learn about Jimmy Stewart’s character through the items in his room is a “cinematic” way to establish character, the same amount of information can be understood organically through a well designed theatrical set. 

     

    (I partly agree with you, which you will see in the end of my reply :):))

     

    Actually, Hitchcock can and does cross the 'proscenium line in the film. Every time we see Jeff, Lisa, Stella, and Tom Doyle - every time we are in the apartment, we are looking from a view across that line. We see shots in the apartment BEHIND the window (Proscenium). Even the first shot passes THROUGH the proscenium (window) and on to Jeff's forehead. Then on into the apartment - his table with the smashed camera, photos on his wall, the negative of the woman, stacks of magazines...

     

    If we never crossed the line we would never at any point see Jeff, Lisa, Tom, or Stella, unless they were outside the apartment, or framed within the window.

     

    I mention this because it is KEY to one of Hitchcock's most characteristic traits as a film maker: Subjective view. In most all of his films he shows someone observing, followed by a shot of what is being observed.

    1. In Psycho we see a shot of Lila looking as she approaches the house, followed by a shot of approaching the house as if we were she,
    2. In Downhill we saw the boys looking as they approached the Headmaster, followed by a shot of approaching the Headmaster as if we were them.
    3. In spellbound we see a shot of Constance approaching Dr. Edwards room, followed by a shot of the door with the light under it as if we were her.
    4. Etc.

    Since Rear Window more than ANY other Hitchcock film is about subjective view - the ENTIRE film is about Jeff watching the neighbors - Hitchcock uses reverse angle shots, or else the film would not work. In this film we see a shot of Jeff looking with a camera, followed by a reverse angle (180 degree) shot of what he sees. Indeed, we even see the reflection of what he sees in the camera lens AS he's looking, making a kind of '360 degree' effect. We see Lisa looking, followed by a shot of what we see, etc.

     

    While you could recreate the STORY of Rear Window on stage, you could NEVER even approach the subjective idea which Hitch supplies in the film: What the characters think when they see is often shown without dialogue, through the use of close ups.

     

    Remember it is not enough to tell a story. Hitchcock gets into the minds of the characters. It is a psychological thriller. Jeff comes to the conclusion that Lars is up to no good from things he sees, without any dialogue. We see into Jeff's mind as we along with Jeff think what he thinks: that Lars is up to no good.

     

    And some things could NEVER be reproduced theatrically. Just as the closeup of the key is vital in Notorious, so is the close up of the Wedding ring in Rear Window. THAT is so crucial, it is in fact the ONE thing that completely incriminated Lars and proves to Jeff, Lisa, Stella, Doyle, and US the audience that Lars IS guilty. That is a purely cinematic shot just as in Notorious and the key.

     

    Jeff's binoculars and ultimately his camera with telephoto lens see into apartments to get details you could never show on a stage: Stella notices with binoculars Miss Lonely Hearts took pills, for example. And at the climax we see one of the most cinematic shots of all - the close up through the telephoto lens of Lisa wearing the ring, panning up to a close up of Lars looking at the wiggling finger, and then straight at US (the audience) and Jeff, which lets us know that HE knows we know about him. It is a crucial moment, told purely cinematic while a completely different thing is going on (Lisa being questioned by police) that could never be reproduced cinematically.

     

    So while you COULD produce Rear Window theatrically, that is not how Hitchcock shot it. You could in theory produce a play of Notorious theatrically. The wine bottle scene could easily be recreated by half the stage a set of the party scene and the other half a set of the wine cellar, with action going on either simultaneously or alternately using lighting and scrims.

     

    Additionally, dialogue scenes within the apartment follow standard reverse-angle technique used in most American films, following rules like screen direction and so on.

     

    Incidentally, I sort of agree with your answer. My answer is that ALL of Hitchcock's films are 'cinematic', though he uses different techniques in different films. You pointed out the use of cross cutting and montage in Notorious is cinematic. Yes it is. It is a different technique than Hitch uses in Rear Window. He uses other cinematic techniques in other films. Even Rope, which much seem the most 'stage-like' of all his films uses the 'single-take' technique for a cinematic effect to what essentially could be otherwise a filmed stage play.

     

    So, in the end I partly agree with you. :):):)

    • Like 5

  12. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window?

     

    The opening camera shot is voyeuristic, which is a theme of this movie. The idea of a ‘Peeping Tom’ has been mentioned in reference to Jeff. Jeff IS a peeping tom, and so are we:

    1. We watch the neighbors with as much interest as Jeff – we never look away
    2. We watch Jeff and Lisa
    3. We watch this movie
    4. We watch other movies. We are always peeping into other’s lives in film.

    Jeff is also SUPPOSED to be a peeping tom, in that it is his JOB: he is an action photographer. It is his job to look at people, things, and events, and to photograph them, so that his readers may look (peep) at them as well.

     

    Hitchcock establishes many things in the opening without a single word of dialogue:

    1. That Jimmy Stewart is the main character
    2. That he has a broken leg
    3. That his name is L.B. Jeffries
    4. That he’s a professional photographer
    5. That he injured his leg photographing a racing car accident
    6. That he’s passionate about his work (see #5)
    7. That his opinion of women may be ‘skewed’ (the negative of a woman’s face)
    8. That it’s very hot (also a metaphor for passion and potential danger)

    Hitch also establishes many of the characters:

    1. A cat (pets will play an important role in the movie)
    2. The couple sleeping on the fire escape
    3. Miss Torso
    4. The musician
    5. The real world via the cars and pedestrians in the alley

    Hitchcock also establishes the environment – the courtyard of the apartment complex, where the entire film will take place.

    The Vantage point is Jeff’s apartment. It is also OUR vantage point as we are the ones watching

     

    What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design?

     

    Already discussed in question 1. Hitchcock has done similar things in the openings of other films. The opening of Shadow of a Doubt begins with a scene showing the camera panning from Charlie to the money, we see a lot about Charlie from that shot. Strangers on a Train has an even longer opening sequence without dialoge that tells us a lot with visuals only.

     

    Film critic Donald Richie commented on the Akira Kurosawa film ‘The Lower Depths’ (a film which is confined to a single set – the long house where all the characters reside):

     

                    “In one sense he opens up the film by closing it down – that is by confining the characters within this small environment, it allows him to more fully explore the characters.”*

     

    Hitchcock can do this here as well  - as in Lifeboat, by closing down the environment to a small area, he can more closely examine the characters of Lisa, Jeff, and Stella, and so on.

    *the quote may not be precise, as I am quoting it from memory

     

    Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments?

     

    Again I addressed this in question 1.

    1. Jeff is a voyeur.
    2. Lisa is a Voyeur.  (she must look at other people to be aware of fashion trends
    3. So is Stella (as a visiting nurse she can’t help but enter other’s private places)
    4. So is Tom Doyle (who looks into people’s lives as part of his job)

    We are a voyeur watching the apartment, watching Jeff & Lisa, watching this film, and watching other film. We also Study this film to learn more.

    And as noted in the noted for this module it reminds us that Hitchcock, and all filmmakers, are Voyeurs, and so are the audiences they make films for.

     

    Is it his most cinematic?

     

    it is cinematic in the sense that all the windows are like mini movies: different stories going on that Jeff (and we) watch.

     

    However, It is only ONE type of Cinema. We have seen, and will see, that Hitchcock uses every cinematic tool available to him - in different movies and in different ways.

     

    1. In Rope Hitch uses the effect of a ‘single take’  - a cinematic technique
    2. He uses special effects (models in The Lady Vanishes and Number 17, Matte paintings in NxNW and Marnie, The rice paper in The Foreign Correspondent airplane crash
    3. Hitch uses camera ‘tricks’: the special ‘dolly-out/zoom-in’ shots in both Vertigo (the staircase) and more subtly in Marnie (Marnie remembering her childhood)
    4. He uses super impositions in films (The ring, and Vertigo as Judy remembers the murder)
    5. Hitch uses crane shots in (Psycho and Frenzy)
    6. Helicopter shots (Frenzy)

    We can see that in most every film he makes he uses different ‘cinematic techniques’ to tell his story. In that sense, ALL his films are ‘cinematic’ as he was master of the art of ‘cinema’ which is not limited to one device only.

    • Like 5

  13. No reason why she wouldn't reconcile?    To me the constant lies,  laziness,   gambling,   and the embezzling of funds from his cousin (Leo Carroll),   would be enough to seek a divorce.    But hey,  I'm not a killer:  doesn't make for a very good resume.    ;)

    Yes, but in the book, she love Johnny so much that she willingly drinks the poison and lets herself be murdered. So if, in the book she was willing to drink poison and die for Johnny, it is understandable if she would reconcile with him even if he were a thief and a liar, which is bad but not quite so bad as murder., :)

     

    (I love film discussions :D)

    • Like 1

  14. We think we are watching the action unfold in the way typical of most Hollywood films, where the viewer follows what the camera captures and assumes that the story is being presented in a strictly objective way. But in Suspicion I think we are watching the action from Lina's point of view, i

    Yes. That is what I liked about the movie version. In Kurosawa's 'Rashamon', an event - the murder of a man and rape of his wife - is told in different versions by different observers. Each perceives the reality in their own way. In one version the thief is heroic and the duel dashing. In once version both men are cowardly. In another version the wife 'enjoyed' the rape and wanted to leave with the thief, etc. Each version was different because each person perceived reality in a different way.

     

    So Lina percieves her husband and the actions a certain way, but is it the reality? In that way 'Suspicion' is similar to 'Rashamon' (or vice versa.)


  15. Well I'm halfway between the OP and you;    I believe it works well that the husband isn't a murderer (since the basis of the film is the wife's suspicion)  but I still don't like the non-dark ending.   The husband was indeed a cad, a thief,  and dishonest.    So to me a better ending would be that while the authorities were investigating if he killed Binky they find out he stole from him.  Therefore he is attested for stealing and the ending makes it clear the wife will be leaving him.     

    Actually, the ending is dark in the sense it is implied, whether she stays with him or not, he is probably going to jail for embezzling the money from that job he had. So he is a thief, and will go to jail.

     

    That her wife sticks with him is only right, because, even in the original novel where he poisoned her, she loved him so much that she just drank it anyway. So if in the book she was willing to drink poison and be murdered because of her love for Johnny, it is to be expected that she should stick with him even if he goes to jail for embezzlement. So in that sense the movie makes sense.

    • Like 1

  16. i hated the ending because the way the film was going, i just knew cary grant poisioned joan fontaine and BINKY!, There's no way Joan Fontaine would reconcile with Grant if she knew he poisoned her so either way the right ending was she left him or he poisoned her not that silly ending

    But he DIDN'T poison Binky. And he didn't poison her. Therefor there is no reason why she wouldn't reconcile with Grant. That was my point. If he HAD really killed Binky, it would be different. But he DIDN'T.


  17. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “criss cross” or “criss-crossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “criss cross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film] Be specific.

     

     

    Ways in which Hitchcock suggests the theme of ‘Criss-cross’

    1. The title itself, ‘Strangers on a Train’, suggests two people apart who’s paths  cross on the train.
    2. The screen direction of the characters. Bruno’s enters from the right and heads left. Guy enters from the left and heads right. This suggests an eventual meeting in the middle.
    3. Then we see alternating shots of Bruno walking towards the left, and Guy walking towards the right. Again the suggestion is they will inevitably meet. Legs and feet are and walking are a visual metaphor for a path in life. So this will be a meeting of the two men’s destinies.
    4. We next see them in a single shot, though not together, as first Bruno enters the gate followed eventually (and inevitably?) by Guy. We are approaching the center or ‘meeting’ of the ‘X’ in a cross.
    5. We then see the train tracks. We see 5 crosses of rails in the shot, clearly suggesting the ‘X’ or cross in criss-cross: the meeting of two people. Train tracks suggest a couple things. First, they suggest fate, or destiny, as you HAVE to follow the rails. However, there are switches that offer limited control as to the destination. Therefor the inevitable fate (rails) will lead to a destiny only if the correct choices (switches) are made.
    6. We see a final two shots of Bruno walking toward the left and Guy walking towards the right. We know the axis of the cross is about to happen.
    7. They both cross their legs. It is in the crossing of Guy’s legs that the bump between  feet happen – the actual physical contact and juncture of the ‘X’ in the criss-cross of their lives. It is at this moment that we finally see the two people in the same frame together.
    8. After a temporary ‘separation’ – as we see a few reverse angle cuts as the dialogue begins, Bruno rises and moves over to Guy and we know there fate’s are together whether Guy wishes it or not.
    9. Guy’s tie is of course a checkered pattern, which is nothing but crosses.

     

    Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example.

     

    Contrasts;

    1. Screen direction is opposite, as mentioned above.
    2. Bruno has a tan case, and spectator shoes*(see below). Guy has a dark case, and brown shoes.
    3. Bruno has striped pants, while Guy has solid pants.
    4. Bruno's cab is #1020 which is even, while Guy's cab #1975 is odd.
    5. The music that introduces them in each case is similar, but guy’s is one full note lower. It is subtle, but you can tell it’s different somehow subconsciously.
    6. Bruno’s cab enters into a covered area, which is dark. Guy’s cab drops him off outside in the light. This suggest the contrast of Bruno’s darker nature vs. Guy’s innocent nature.
    7. Bruno enters the gate after his attendant. Guy enters in front of his attendant.
    8. Bruno has his right hand in his pocket, again suggesting something hidden. Guys hands are not in his pockets.
    9. Bruno sits in a chair. Guy sits on a bench behind a table. The chair suggests singularity - someone apart, while the bench suggests someone ordinary - belonging to the group.
    10. Guy is reading, Bruno is not. Guy has his own life. Bruno will make Guy part of his life.
    11. Bruno has lighter clothes. Guy has a dark suit.
    12. Bruno’s has a flamboyant lobster tie, while Guy’s is a simple checkered pattern.
    13. Bruno has handkerchief. Guy has not.

    *The meaning of the ‘spectator’ shoes, like the shoes themselves, is multi-facited, and suggest a few things about Bruno:

    1. Bruno is flamboyant.
    2. The black and white represents the two sides of Bruno, who can be charming on the surface but deep down is a disturbed and dangerous person.
    3. Bruno is also a ‘spectator’, in that he is constantly watching Guy throughout the movie, to see if he will carry out ‘his half of the bargain’.
    4. Bruno is literally a spectator in the Tennis game.
    5. The shoes themselves have a definite connotation.

    “In the 1920s and 1930s in England, this style was considered too flamboyant for a gentleman, and therefore was called a tasteless style. Because the style was popular among lounge lizards and cads, who were sometimes associated with divorce cases, a nickname for the style was co-respondent shoe, a pun on the color arrangement on the shoe, and the legal description of a third party caught in flagrante delicto with the guilty party in a case of adultery. Wallis Simpson was famed for wearing this style, although it was said that she was an adulteress and that it was Edward VIII who acted the part of co-respondent.”

    Hitchcock would have been well aware of this growing up in England. Thus the idea of infidelity is also brought into the picture, through Bruno’s shoes, as well as the idea of crime and the legal process.

     

    While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence?

     

    The score

    1. Over titles: after a fanfare over the WB logo, we get a single violin theme, which suddenly grows bigger. (the build up of events?)  it is a dramatic theme, which is then repeated with a counter theme (two themes at the same time). This parallels the idea of two people crossing paths.
    2. There are contrasts between a dark theme (the rising, dotted-note music with a falling tail) and a playful, light version of the same music, as we see the two get out of their cabs.
    3. As the two walk towards each other there are rising scales, which themselves rise step by step increasing the suspense of their inevitable meeting. There is a shortening of  musical theme or motif, i.e. the scale is now only two notes in each iteration. This further increases tension.  Think of the first theme of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (after the famous two statements of the 4 note motif. The theme then proceeds:

    ♪♪♪♪  ♪♪♪♪  ♪♪♪♪ --

    ♪♪♪♪  ♪♪♪♪  ♪♪♪♪--

    ♪♪♪♪-

    ♪♪♪♪-

    ♪♪♪♪-  ♪-   ♪----

                            Even if you don't know how to read music you can see simply visually how this increases tension, because as it contracts it is focusing to a point. This is what builds the tension. Just as the same technique is used in the movie score here, just as the length of the shots themselves get shorter in tandem with the music.

    1. Over the crossing train tracks we again get the dotted-note theme with counter theme, two themes again now with a visual metaphor of the train tracks suggesting two destinies intertwining.
    2. It slowly winds down til a zing as their feet touch, and then is silent as the conversation starts.

    Over all the dramatic nature of the music let's us know we are about to go on an exciting journey.

    • Like 6

  18. Note: Because this thread discusses the ending of a film, of course there are SPOILERS.

     

    Suspicion is notorious (pun INTENDED) for the changed ending from the book. The producers, concerned about Cary Grant's image, demanded the change. In the book, Johnny (Cary Grant), is a murderer, while in the movie, he is not a murderer. Most people, including Hitchcock himself, complain about the change, and feel that by Hollywood imposing a happy ending it weakens the picture.

     

    I am in a minority for two reasons, one obvious, and one perhaps not. Firstly, I agree with the producers, in that I myself wouldn't really want to see Grant as someone who could murder someone as sweet as his wife, Lina. In all of Hitchcock's American films, there are only two star turns as a murder: Shadow of a Doubt, and DIal M for Murder. Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant never played murderers in Hitchcock. If fact a great bulk of his output featured an innocent man accused of a crime, having to clear himself.

     

    However, my MAIN reason, and one which may not as obvious, is that to me it actually makes the film much more interesting. I try to imagine a film where Johnny is really a murderer, and this is what I see:

    ---   A woman marries a man, and slowly discovers clues, bit by bit, that make her REALIZE he is a murderer, and will eventually murder her.

     

    OK, that's not bad, but pretty conventional. It is like any other mystery, where clues are found slowly leading the protagonist to the solution.

     

    Now let us look at the film:

    ---   A woman marries a man, and slowly discovers clues, bit by bit, that make her BELIEVE he is a murderer, but in the end finds out she is wrong.

     

    Now the film becomes psychological - it becomes a matter of perception vs, reality. Whenever she sees some information, it is filtered through her perception that he may be a bad man which leads her to INTERPRET it as a clue proving his guilt.

    ---   He brings her a glass of milk. The reality: it is to help  her sleep. She perceives it as being poisoned.

    ---   Beaky dies from drinking. The Reality: He was with others, who didn't know his problem with drink, and couldn't have dissuaded him to stop. She perceives it as a murder by Johnny, who knew this particular problem.

    ---   Racing along the cliff in a car, he lunges at her. The reality: she was shrinking away from him, and he was reaching for her to pull her back in the car. She perceives it as Johnny trying to push her OUT of the car.

     

    These are just a few examples of incidents where something happens and Lina's mind interprets it into something else. Each thought reinforces her belief that he is a murderer, so each further incident falls even more strongly under that perception.

     

    I am quite sure Hitchcock, having no choice but to make him innocent, went in this direction, but few ever seem to mention it. People usually just complain about a 'Hollywood Ending'.

     

     

    This type of difference - psychological vs conventional - to me makes it much more interesting, There are times when outside forces, good or bad, can cause a change in the film that is positive. In Spielberg's 'Jaws' the troubles with the mechanical shark forced Spielberg to re-envision moments, and suggest the shark rather than outright show it, until later in the film. Most people know this and agree it greatly improves the film, making suspense, and building up the eventual entrance of the shark to one of the great moments in all of cinema: "I think you're gonna need a bigger boat."

     

    I must admit I never read the original book (Anthony Berkeley Cox's 'Before the Fact') either before or after seeing this film.

     

    The reason I posted this as a separate thread is because 'Suspicion' was not shown in any of the Daily Doses in the TCM/Ball State University film course '50 Years of Hitchcock', and I wanted to express my opinion on this matter and see if others agree, disagree, or haven't yet considered it.

    • Like 2

  19. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this early scene from the movie?

     

    We see Hitchcock's famous POV shot: the view of Devlin as he enters the room, through Alicia's physical (and mental and emotional) disorientation.

     

    We see the canted angle, which (as mentioned in the lecture video) is a shot he used in 'Downhill'

     

    We see light and shadow to reveal character information, which I will discuss in detail answering the next question.

     

    How does Hitchcock choose to light, frame, and photograph his two stars in this scene?What are some of the contrasts that Hitchcock  trying to set up between these two characters through art direction, costume, and cinematography?

     

    Contrasts through costume: Grant is neat, and suggests order, and a business-like manner. He's there for the job. Bergman is wearing a Zebra top, which both suggests wildness as a party girl and moral ambiguity: black and white, is she good or bad?

     

    Bergman is also disheveled, hair a mess, on her cheek. She is at a low point in contrast to Devlin.

     

    At the beginning we see Devlin through her eyes, and the close ups on Alicia are for us to both identify with and empathize with her character.

     

    A key lighting moment is when Devlin plays the recording. Up until then we do not truly know if she is bad or good. As it plays, she is seen in the bedroom doorway in shadow. As the record tells us she is patriotic, she slowly steps forward - half shadow half light, to eventually stand in full light. The lighting  - shadow to light - reflects the audience realizing she is not bad but good. It is only at THIS moment, that we know she is good, that Devlin stands beside her and we see them both in the same frame.

     

    It should also be noted Grant's name as 'Devlin', which is similar to 'Devil', as he is there to offer her a truly Faustian bargain: You can redeem yourself and make up for your father's evil, but you must bed a man you don't love.

     

    Based on this scene (or the entire film if you have seen it already), reflect on the casting of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Does this scene conform to or challenge their well-known star personas?

     

    We come to know Grant as a leading man, and Bergman as a leading lady. In the film they both are. We come by that casting to expect a romance between them, and there is one.

     

    Grant and Bergman usually if not always play good people, and they are in the film. I think this casting helps us realize that though this is dirty work they are both good people.

    • Like 1

  20. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

     

    Hitchcock touches: the slow pan which reveals information - liquor, food, a mess, man in pajamas with bedding on couch, woman in opulent bed under covers. Hitch reveals all this with the pan (like the pan in psycho of Vivian Leigh dressing, a suit case, and the money) or Shadow of a Doubt (the pan from Charlie, to the money)

     

    Visual Design: We see opulence, which tells us they are a wealthy couple - Doors with designs on them, alcohol not in bottles but decanters, expensive plates, a luxurious bed. This is further reinforced by the fact they have a maid and housekeeper. Mrs. Smith's elegant nightgown (we only see the top) is also expensive. This couple is well off.

     

    The furniture also is expensive looking, and there is much of it, for a typical bedroom. A poor or middle class family would have a bed, dressers, w cabinet or closet, maybe even a chair and mirror, but not a divan, end tables, coffee table, double doors, liquor cabinet, and french doors leading to either a balcony or patio.

     

    The camera pan from the door (getting the breakfast) to the bed also reveals the SIZE of the bedroom, which also says 'wealth'.

    (we know this is a bedroom, and not a studio apartment when we see the maid, housekeeper, in the kitchen, and even THAT is split into multiple 'areas' with the swinging doors... this is a wealthy house, and a wealthy couple.

     

    [many if not most screwball comedies dealt with wealthy people: Bringing Up Baby, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, My Man Godfrey, Sullivan's Travels. I Married a Witch, Love Crazy, I Love You Again... True, there are poor, even destitute people in these films (My Man Godfrey, Sullivan's Travels) but the leads are wealthy, and the poor are seen and experienced through their eyes.]

     

    The mess, the food, the cards, the bedding on the couch, all suggest they have both been in there a while, and aren't speaking,

     

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not?
     

    It is typical in it's use of a camera shot to reveal the information (as said above.)

    It is atypical in that it is a domestic setting, as opposed to 39 Steps, Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, MWKTM. (Shadow of a doubt didn't feel like a 'domestic setting'. It felt more like a room a guy was hiding out in.)

     

    What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not?

     

    I have seen few Carol Lombard films, but My Man Godfrey is one of them! If anyone was BORN to be in a screwball comedy, it's her. They seem to have chemistry. I know little of Robert, but I have seen this once long ago and I had no issues with chemistry.
     

    • Like 5

  21. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific.

     

    When we first meet Charlie, we know nothing about him. We see he has money, and find out men are looking for him. Is he a victim or a bad guy? We really don't know. We don't know how he acquired the money, but can assume it was in a shady manner - gambling, robbery, yet we don't know.  --  And then Mrs. Martin, the landlady, lowers the blind.  --  Now we KNOW charlie is bad. he is in darkness. it is then that he comes to life, now that we know he is bad.

     

    We learn there are two sides to Charlie (the lecture video mentions doubles, and the two sides may be an example):

      --  We see a calm, cool, collected man - the man who shows little reaction when the landlady tells him men are looking for him. The man who walks calmly past the two detectives he knows are tailing him.

      --  And we see the violent side - the man who in a fury smashes the glass in anger/frustration at the situation he is in.

    The whole movie will be about this duality in Charley: The smiling, friendly, loving uncle, and the cold, violent murderer.

     

    Finally we learn factual things about Charlie, namely that he is on the run, pursued by detectives, for some crime involving illicit money. We learn that he is alone in the city - without a family there.

     

    In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations)

     

     

    Comparisons to The Killers:

    Differences -

      --  The Swede (Burt Lancaster) is hiding out in a small town, where big city killers come to kill him.

      --  Charlie is in the city, and has not yet fled to the country to hide. He is pursued by the law, not criminals.

    Similarities -

      -- Both men are criminals being pursued for their activities.

      -- Both films start with the person already being pursued, with no background explaining it yet.

     

    Film Noir:

      --  The establishing shots of the building and window are slightly askew - a dutch angle, common in many Noirs (The Third Man,  Touch of Evil, and Kiss Me Deadly).

      -- The apartment is filled with shadows.

               Shadows in Noir are used to illustrate character, such as when the landlady lowers the blind, covering Charlie in darkness                     wherein we learn he is evil.

               Shadow in Noir can also illustrate the situation. The shadows of the window frame appear as prison bars on Charlie,                      suggesting that he is trapped.

              Shadows in Noir often foreshadow.The prison bar-like shadows on Charlie foreshadow a dark end for him.

      -- Film Noir often features a character alone, fleeing from circumstances, which is how we find Charlie.

      -- Film Noir is centered around crime, and we learn that Charlie is a criminal.

     

    As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene?

     

    The music starts lighthearted, almost waltz-like, but quickly turns eerie as we enter Charlies room. It then goes away as the landlady and Charlie talk. At the moment we learn Charlie is evil (the lowering of the blinds, casting him in shadow) the music reappears, dark with dissonant horns.

     

    When Charlie says to himself 'You've got nothing on me' there is a brief return of waltz-like music, this time ethereal, as if a memory (Celeste [?] and flutes). This is subtle, but I think clearly puts in the viewer's mind the idea that Charlie is thinking about just what 'Nothing' they have on him - in other words what he really DID, that he is wanted for.

     

    There is a brief 'Mickey mousing' when he shatters the glass, which adds an exclamation mark on his violent side.

     

    The music then builds to a crescendo, anticipating the confrontation with the detectives. it drops down as he leaves the building, and slowly crescendos again as he approaches the detectives, creating suspense. Is he going to gun them down? Then it ebbs as he walks by, and we see how cool Charlie is.

     

    Finally, dissonant piano chords represent the plodding detectives as they follow.

     

    We can see in this short 5 minute clip just how many beats the music touches upon, and how it enhances the film.

    • Like 4

  22. 1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period?

     

    First, many if not all of the Hitchcock films started with crowds of people (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, MWKTM, 39 Steps...), whereas Rebeca starts with no one - only a voice over.

     

    Second, all the other films started at the beginning of a story, whereas Rebecca starts at the end, looking back as the story is told in flashback. This quality of reminiscence already starts to establish an tone, for reminiscence often is associated with loss, as you remember what once was and is no longer.

     

    Third, the other Hitch films started of establishing characters (MWKTM, 39 Steps, Pleasure Garden) or a Plot (The Lodger). Rebecca starts by establishing mood or atmosphere - the moonlight and shadows, evoking a dreamlike atmosphere, the winding POV through the woods, the dark shell of Mandarley in shadow. No plot is set up, only mood and atmosphere. This coupled with the narraton, a reminiscence, which above i commented suggested loss, establishes a definite somber, dark mood.

     

    Similar to Citizen Kane, which is also told in flashback, we start on a gate which ostensibly prevents us from going further, but in both cases we go through to investigate what is behind it, to find out what secrets there may be. Like Citizen Kane it has the same dark, somber atmosphere. Mysterious.

     

    2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock?

     

    Most noticeable is the POV shot. Used by Hitch to convey a subjective viewpoint, the shot gets us into the mind of the 2nd Mrs. DeWinters, who narrates the opening. As she remembers, we see what she sees. This helps us identify with what will be the main character of the story right away.

     

    And in that sense is another Hitch touch: subjective viewpoint. Hitch most often lets us experience what is in the characters' minds. Usually he does this with alternating shots of the Viewer and their POV (Downhill, Psycho), and sometimes with superimposition (The Ring, 39 Steps)

     

    The use of miniatures (and later on matte shots) was something Hitch was known for. The Lady Vanishes opens with one. Though sometimes for budgetary reasons, other times it is solely artistic (the shot of Roger Thornhill fleeing the UN building after the stabbing is a matte shot, where the virtual camera is high in the air looking down on a tiny figure).

     

    3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene?

     

    Mandarley is described as a 'shell' - meaning dead. Something dead was once alive. Mandarley is a character in the film. It is associated so closely with Rebecca, that the two are inextricably linked. The 2nd Mrs. DeWinters can't go anywhere with out seeing or being in a place that represents Rebecca: her stationary is in the drawers, her linen has monograms, this was her favorite room, this is her bedroom still kept as if she were alive. One could argue that Rebecca and Mandarley are one.

     

    I described how the atmosphere was established by the flashback - a sense of loss. A dark somber atmosphere. The shots of Mandarley help reinforce this. It is dark, shadowy, and yet as the light and shadows move it suggests a kind of life within the house.

     

    Final thought concerning the lecture video: (Spoilers)

     

    I disagree that Olivier is a 'stumbling block' in this movie. First, the film has nothing to do with GWTW, save the producer, and comparisons between the two films should concern nothing about character, storytelling and so on, but only technical concerns such as production.

     

    Secondly, Ghering said he didn't know where Olivier's character was coming from - the treatment of the 2nd Mrs, DeWinter as a child, and so on. Max's attraction to and treatment of the 2nd Mrs. DeWinters was do to the relationship with his first wife, Rebecca. We find out in the end that she was a domineering, cruel, heartless woman whom Max despised. Fontaine's character was simple, shy pure, and innocent - the exact opposite, which was why he was so attracted to her. He would treat her as a child for two reasons: First, to maintain control (something he lost with Rebecca), and two, to keep her as she is - to prevent her from perhaps growing into someone who could turn on him again.

     

    True, you don't find out Rebecca's true nature til the end, but that makes Max's character and action in retrospect make complete sense.

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  23. 1. Using specific examples, describe how Hitchcock opens The Lady Vanishes. What tone, mood, or atmosphere is Hitchcock establishing for the audience very early on in this picture? Pay particular attention to the music.

     

    The music that opens the sequence is light and amusing: a waltz, which subtly suggests a European flavor (Vienna, Bohemia, Austria), and has a slight similarity to a cuckoo call. There are several ideas shown. There is a bit of chaos, as everyone scrambles to register and the harried hotel manager deals with the train being delayed. The cuckoo clock 'announces' the situation with it's tiny fanfare. There is the idea of many characters from many places - the hotel manager has to shout out instructions in several languages. Many different people brought together in one small space, which will later be the train.

     

    2. Discuss the characters of Caldicott and Charters in this scene. What do the performances of Caldicott and Charters add to this scene.

     

    First they add humor, as their banter is quite funny. They are Anglo-centric - with them everything revolves around England: When the manager finally speaks in English, they respond 'Why the deuce didn't he say that in the first place" showing either their ignorance (not realizing the manager WAS saying that all along in different languages) or their prejudice (English should have been firs) or a little of both. The way they comment about other countries - "3rd rate country", "America and the almighty dollar", "Hungarian Rhapsody not their national anthem" - shows how they feel.

     

    The way they move together, for instance when passed over for the three women they look at each other and back in perfect synchronization, makes them seem as a single unit. They belong together.

     

    Being Anglo-centric in a film made in England primarily for English audiences, their commentary is a gentle way at poking fun at themselves (the English people), similar to the way the American tourists appear in the film 'If it's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium'. One also thinks of the character Basil Fawlty in 'Fawlty Towers', who's attitudes and side comments are made fun of.

     

    They also help establish a humorous tone to lighten the film.

     

    3. From their doorway entrance to their staircase exit, describe how Hitchcock uses dialogue, camera movement, and the placement of characters in the frame to establish Iris (Margaret Lockwood) as the star of this scene.

     

    Their importance is established by the hotel manager ignoring the other guests to personally greet them at the door. Hitch has a scene at the door with the four of them. He then switches to another area, and has a second scene, but this time the sound of the crowd is much lower so it's as if they were all alone. Only faint mumbling in ambient sound is heard in the background of the scene. Finally Hitch has the manager escort them up the stairs to their rooms. From the moment they enter, the manager follows them til the moment they leave the scene. This establishes their importance. Iris also gets a two-shot dialogue with the manager.

    • Like 9
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