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Chillyfillyinalaska

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  1. 1. The constraints of the silent medium dictate the differing approaches to a body of a fair haired (Hitchcock and those blondes!) woman being found on the Thames embankment. "Lodger's" exposition relies heavily on pantomime aided by a very small bit of dialogue and a lot of written newspaper material to let the audience know that London has a serial killer called "The Avenger" on the loose who has already killed 7 blondes. Hitchcock creates a sense of urgency in his silent opening by using the newspaper's need to get its story out quickly to the eager public to read. "Frenzy " opens with all of Hitchcock's humor on display because the audience can listen to the expansive politician waxing on about cleaning up the refuse found in the river as an environmental clean up project just before witnesses spot a terrible bit of pollution in the form of a dead blonde floating face down in the Thames. Hitchcock's cameo is priceless here because just before the discovery we see him in his bowler hat looking askance at the politician banging on about detritus in the water as if to say to us "how awful to call my victim trash." 2. Hitchcock is very at home in the two London exposition scenes. He uses all of the British conventions with which he is familiar to orient the audience as to where they are. In the "Lodger" he pumps fog into the picture and his bystanders are properly lower class in their dress, reactions and speech. As such the audience knows it is on a Thames embankment which is in the demi monde of London. "Frenzy" shows London a bit differently. The discovery of the body happens during the day among a crowd of middle class people concerned about the cleanliness of their environment. Hitchcock stamps the scene as London by placing a map legend prominently in the corner of the screen. (He did this in "Psycho" and "Notorious" with date, time and place stamps). In both films the audience knows right away a killer of women is among them. 3. Commonly Hitchcock shows us the crime or the seeds of the crime up front. But the story he tells following that revelation is one frequently haunted by guilt, hounding memories and sexual frustration. The audience knows that it will probably be watching a story about a wrong man chased by authorities, bad guys or both, while he has to, in turn, chase the real wrongdoer in order to prove his innocence. The convention of the Macguffin, will probably be used to give the characters a reason to chase around in the world of suspense, even though the nature of the Macguffin is really not important to the story. Hitchcock will often bring the audience up short in the opening by focusing on a place in which a crime would not immediately be expected. "Lodger" shows the horror of murder up close and personal, in the foggy night which is a naturally frightening time and place. By the time he directs "Frenzy" Hitchcock zeros in on a very specific mundane daytime scene in which environmental pollution is at issue. The discovery of the ultimate pollutant in the form of a dead woman brings the audience up short and puts them off balance for the rest of the film. It is not surprising that some 50 years later Hitchcock has mastered his presentation.
  2. 1. Marnie is ladylike in her introduction into the film. She is wearing a well cut tweed suit. From behind her walk is feminine and dainty, her hair a glossy brunette. Once she is in the room (after encountering Hitchcock coming out of another room), the audience understands that she has multiple identities. Marnie is switching suitcases, placing clothes and items she has used in one case, and packing new, unused things in a different case. She changes her identity by replacing one SS card with another from several fraudulent cards she has hidden behind a purse mirror. She empties out cash from a purse into the suitcase with her new things, and then washes the dark brown dye from her hair. Voila! Marnie is really a Hitchcock blonde! Once she puts on her celadon green suit (this is a Hitchcock favorite color for Hedren, she wears a similar color suit when she drives up the Pacific Highway to Bodega Bay in "The Birds"), Marnie has shed her fake look for her real self. Hitchcock also has her hair styled in a chignon as in "The Birds." After this transformation she goes about the final flush of her fraudulent identity and disposes of her used garments and personal items by locking them away in a train station locker. She gingerly approaches a grate with the locker key in hand ("Notorious"), and drops it down the grate ("Strangers on a Train"). Once this task is done she is ready for whatever the next scene has in store for us. The audience understands that despite Marnie's ladylike, refined appearance, she is some sort of shady lady, not to be trusted. 2. The Marnie theme is sentimental and wistful such that despite what the audience sees on screen about Marnie's lack of good character, we know there is a backstory to help us understand her situation and maybe even excuse her. "Marnie" explores Hitchcock's favorite themes of guilt, memory and sexuality. 3. Hitchcock looks like a house detective who is observing his perpetrator before exposing her to the audience.
  3. 1 and 2. The graphics featuring lines traveling at varying speeds, directions and lengths are as chaotic as one could get and still convey the necessary credit information. The score punctuates the out of control and random feeling of the graphics by its own random and varying tempo. One of the main themes of psycho is escape. The music and lines presage Marion's flight from Phoenix, and her abrupt, random stop at the Bates Motel. In the film, Marion and Norman talk about escaping to a private island. Marion wants to escape, and thinks Norman does too, because of his poor situation with his shrewish mother. She doesn't realize that Norman wants to trap and kill her after she randomly is caught in his web. Randomness is another theme of the film. This is shown by the specific date and time stamp Hitchcock places on the opening scene. (Hitchcock also placed a similar stamp on the opening of "Notorious," which he wrote with Ben Hecht). By showing us the specific date and time of an ordinary, random window through which we view an ordinary and random couple having an ordinary random tryst, Hitchcock reverts to a favorite idea that evil lurks in everyday places among ordinary people. So, at any given date and time, through any given window, in any given town the seeds of crime and evil can be sown. In our particular window, we see the genesis of Marion's theft borne of her desperation to be in a respectable relationship with Sam. 3. Marion is someone who is capable of moral breaches, as seen in her illicit relationship with Sam. Although her affair may be tawdry and a minor lapse in accepted morality of the period, it leads her to a larger crime of theft of a substantial sum of money from someone who has placed trust in her. In her discussion with Sam it is clear she is violating her sister's trust in her by carrying on a sex affair with him and she has violated her boss' trust in her by stealing the money. Marion is untrustworthy and a criminal, no matter how normal she looks on the surface. Criminality is another theme of "Psycho." Mario is about to run into Norman, who also appears fairly attractive and innocent on the surface, but is capable of horrendous criminality. Their crimes aren't equal, but each is a criminal just the same.
  4. Huh, none of the video clips for today's daily dose are visible on my iPad today. Drat!
  5. If I had never seen "Vertigo," I would think the film is about a period between two deaths. The obvious reason for this is that the opening sequence specifies that the story is based on a French story called "D'Entre des Morts." (Between the Deaths). I would think that the tale was about two deaths because the spiraling graphics always manifest in two rings linked to each other. The most powerful image is of the constant spiraling, which begins as an eye and results in two linked rings. As stated before, this image is a clue to the meaning of the French story title upon which the film is based. The eye belongs to a woman who apparently has witnessed two deaths linked to each other. The film is principally about a period of time between the first death (Madeleine) and the second death (Judy). The score punctuates the eye spiraling into two linked rings by constant changes from loud to soft, staccato to fluid, bass to woodwinds, melodic to cacophonous, etc. A more traditional, romantic or melodramatic score would not work with the graphics although an atonal composition could point up the condition of vertigo, as flatly stated by the film's title.
  6. 1. Hitchcock sets up Bruno and Guy to be on a collision course right from the beginning of the clip shown . Each arrives in a cab from an opposite direction, each exits his cab from opposite doors, each walks with his porter heading toward the other to their track, each walks to his seat from an opposing direction and they finally collide when Guy has the misfortune to kick Bruno's flashy spectator shoes with his own completely normal looking oxfords. Although they start in opposing seats, Bruno quickly moves to sit next to Guy, who visibly reacts to having his space invaded by an aggressive fan. The train makes its way out of the station on tracks which are "double crossing" each other. 2. In addition to the contrast shown by Bruno's and Guy's collision course entry in to the film, their personalities are contrasted by their wardrobes and actual walking patterns. Bruno is wearing very sporty spectator shoes with a suit made of a district check or glen plaid pattern (hard to see clearly in the tiny clip shown). Additionally, Bruno's shoulder pads are huge, and when he reveals his hand painted tie, the audience understands that he is outre, flashy, and a little odd in his dress. Bruno doesn't mind standing out and calling attention to himself. I think some of this is 1950's code for homosexuality. It is interesting that Hitchcock cast the straight Robert Walker as Bruno and the homosexual Farley Granger as Guy, especially considering that Hitchcock knew Granger was gay. It is one reason he cast him in "Rope." Guy is dressed conservatively, and a little dully. Even though he is a tennis star, he doesn't try to call attention to himself by his dress. Bruno's walk is jaunty and bouncy, while Guy's walk is unremarkable, as is his attire. When they actually meet, Bruno does all of the talking, Guy has no virtually no dialogue. Bruno knows all kinds of information about Guy, who knows nothing about Bruno. Bruno is thus in control of their nascent relationship. 3. The Tiomkin score punctuates the duality if we see in screen. Each lead has his own two part melody for the arrivals at Penn Station and for the walk to the train.
  7. Guilt, sexuality and memory drive the Hitchcock canon. The very few exceptions to his body of work prove the rule. Hitchcock is in a class by himself, and is not a Noir director. Certainly Noir borrowed from him, but he never floated in and out of his own genre as many good, sometime Noir directors floated out of that genre (Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, Robert Siodmak, Edgar Ulmer). Labeling all crime thrillers with atmospheric lighting as Noirs lacks serious thought and insight into Noir. Hitchcock doesn't play around with gangsters, toughtalking dames or hardboiled private investigators. He also doesn't subscribe to the Noir construct of victim, fallguy, femme fatale, colored by money ("I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman." "Double Indemnity"). Evil is obvious in the world of Noir, for Hitchcock evil comes in unexpected places (music halls, "The 39 Steps"). Hitchcock's murder victims are woman murdered by male "fatales," while Noir murder victims are men who fall prey to femme fatales. Further, Hitchcock's Catholic view of the world produces moral absolutes (murder is wrong). Guilt in Noir is always relative. Noirs are mostly B films with economies of style, Hitchcock makes A films with gorgeous blond stars and handsome leading men. In many ways Hitchcock is the opposite of Noir, but he is definitely NOT Noir.
  8. 1. What the audience learns from the opening scene of "Shadow of a Doubt:" Our "leading" man is depressed, lying listless in the bed of a shabby rooming house; He has two visitors whom he has never seen and who have never seen him; The two visitors don't want him to know they have come calling on him; The two visitors are likely law enforcement of some kind and are waiting for him to emerge from the rooming house; The landlady is a busybody who thinks that he has some kind of problem with the two visitors and warns him of their visit; He has plenty of money which he leaves lying around his room; He is bold, and purposely leaves the rooming house to lead the two visitors on a chase of some kind; He is cynical; He has something to do with widows because the "Merry Widow Waltz" is the background music. 2. I confess I never thought of "Shadow if a Doubt" as a film noir before, so the lecture notes about Wilder constructing the opening exposition from the novel "The Killers" is fascinating! Both Joseph Cotton and Burt Lancaster are wanted men, lying resigned in bed waiting for their just desserts: Cotton to be arrested for murder, and Lancaster to be killed by other criminals. In each film, someone comes to warn them of their impending doom. Here it is the landlady, in "The Killers" it is the Swede's friend. Both have a problem with women. Cotton likes to kill widows for their money, and the Swede loves the wrong dame, namely Ava Gardner. The lighting is dark to reflect the mood of the film and the fact that both are lying in the dark awaiting their respective fates. The difference is Cotton is lying around during the day indicating indolence and no job. Lancaster is lying around at night. He is otherwise a hardworking stiff. Both become motivated to leave bed and try to take their individual fates into their own hands, leading to two great chase scenes. 3. Tiomkin's music crashes into the film just as Cotton becomes defiant rather than resigned. The fact that the music is about Merry Widows reflects Cotton's victims and his contempt for their circumstances in outliving their husbands who worked hard to leave them well provided for.
  9. 1, 2, and 3. Rebecca's opening scene is atmospheric, and although Hitchcock audiences would be familiar with London fog from other Hitchcock efforts, the fog here is presented in a dream like quality to match the dream narration. As the camera wanders through what was the majestic de Wynter drive, the audience can plainly see that Manderley's surrounding foliage has been burnt out, hence the reason Joan Fontaine notes "we can never go back to Manderley again." Although the house is shrouded in darkness, the audience can also see that Manderley is a burned shell. This opening is faithful to the book, which I have read, and the rich look of the black and white photography are both characteristics of a Selznick production. The Hitchcock influence is his powerful ability to show the audience with visuals as well as tell the audience with narration what it is in for in terms of the ending to the story which is laid out right in the beginning. In other words Hitchcock is still showing us the crime right up front as he did in so many of his other works. This is the Hitchcock touch added to the lush production values of his first Hollywood effort. As in the book, the Manderley estate is is a key character in the story. It is much talked of, sought after, and one character basically dies because of its worth to another character. I feel I must comment on something the two instructors discuss in the lecture video. It is clear after reading "Memo From David O Selznick," that the Olivier character is changed from a murderer to a victim because of the Hollywood production code. Selznick knew when he bought the novel he would have to change this aspect of the story because the code would not have allowed a murderer to escape punishment for his crime. Selznick notes this in a number of memos he wrote about the production of the film and its basic storyline.
  10. 1. Hitchcock uses graphics to set up his opening (as he did in his silent films) by advertising that we are in a music hall. Thus, we are ready for some relaxing entertainment, and the film does not disappoint. The audience is properly ribald, making lots of amusing comments in response to the MC and Mr Memory, as well as other audience members. Hitchcock's sense of humor sets him apart from other filmmakers. Another construct is to create interest in the main character by introducing him feet first and then his entire back. (Think Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window"). Donat's handsome face is first seen in the crowd before we get a closer shot. The closer shot shows him amused by the lad whose question for Mr Memory tramples on Donat's question. Our hero's good nature is obvious because he reacts with amusement to the impudent youngster who shouted over him. Hitchcock commonly cues the audience that the hero is a good guy with a laid back personality (think the introduction of Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window," Cary Grant in "North By Northwest," and Michael Redgrave in "The Lady Vanishes"). So, the use of graphics as a kind of shorthand for the audience, showing any part of the hero except his face first to create a little intrigue about our leading man, and cuing the audience quickly that he is a good guy are all part of the opening orthodoxy of a Hitchcock film. 2. I think Hitchcock is cuing the audience that the hero is a regular, likeable guy it can relate to. 3. The nature of the music hall would have been a non-threatening place of enjoyment and entertainment for British audiences. Any suggestion that intrigue, suspense and danger could lurk there would not occur to the audience. Consequently, when it does happen, the audience is jarred from a false sense of security into a state of wariness for the rest of the film. 4. Although "The Lodger" was a wrong man film, "39 Steps" is a kind of bridge from the less smooth transitions of the early Hitchcock silent and sound period to the smoother presentation of the wrong man plus double chase themes of many subsequent Hitchcock films ("North By Northwest," "Saboteur," "Strangers on a Train," "The Wrong Man," "I Confess," and "Frenzy" to name a few). A wrong man being chased by the authorities, who in turn must chase the real culprit in order to exculpate himself is a common (but thoroughly entertaining) Hitchcock construct.
  11. 1. and 2. Watching Hitchcock switch his POV shot from that of the boys to the accusing lady creates suspense and intensity by involving the viewer in the situation. Although this early clip looks choppy and rough, Hitchcock has perfected the POV technique by, for instance, the 1946 film "Notorious." A couple of decades after the "Downhill" clip, Hitchcock figured out how to seamlessly switch between Claude Rains' and Cary Grant/Ingrid Bergman's points of view outside the wine cellar as the two Nazi hunters are about to be caught by her husband in a clinch. In switching points of view the anxiety created in the viewer is almost unbearable. Again, this is because the director has involved the viewer in the situation unfolding on the screen. 3. As Hitchcock's filmmaking career progresses he is not wedded to a single POV. For example in the opening sequence of "The Lodger," we only have the blonde's POV of her murderer. Today's clip shows the different POV of the two boys, the accuser and the headmaster, with Hitchcock not dedicated to only one individual's POV. In his most obvious POV film, "Rear Window," where Jimmy Stewart's POV could be paramount, Hitchcock easily switches points of view among, Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and no one in particular. By the time Hitchcock becomes the master of suspense he is creating tension in the viewer no matter whose POV the audience is experiencing.
  12. Although both professors indicate that Hitchcock was influenced by German Expressionism, and Hitchcock himself seems to state as much, the clip from "The Lodger" (1927) reminded me of the 1931 film "M." In our course of two years ago, about Noir, we studied "M" and learned it was an early example of Noir, directly growing out of German Expressionism. While Hitchock's film is made several years before "M," he uses carefully developed vignettes, which are edited in such a sequence as to clearly tell the story of the blonde's murder and subsequent sensationalistic reporting of that crime. Hitchcock greatly aids the exposition of the film by using written narratives which flow organically from the situation. For example, the newsroom printing of the story in real time lets any reader of English know precisely what he or she has just seen. This particularly reminds me of Lang's use of the same written signals which come organically from the unfolding story such as clocks, wanted posters, etc. Although "M" is a sound film, Lang uses visual cues effectively, the same way Hitchcock does in our clip today. Lang also built suspense in his opening by constantly cutting from Elsie's mother waiting for her to come home from school, to the clock on the wall letting us know how late Elsie is to the wanted poster, to the balloon vendor, and to the faceless man who lures her to her death. I am surprised at how much better at building suspense Lang is in "M" compared with how little suspense Hitchcock engenders in the opening of "The Lodger." Hitchcock's subject matter is also more in line with Noir than Expressionism. The audience actually sees the murder just the way we almost see Elsie murdered in "M." In "The Lodger," Hitchcock is much more graphic and realistic than Expressionistic, while Lang is more Expressionistic in "M" by suggesting Elsie's murder when we see her ball gently roll from the bushes where she has just been slain, rather than actually seeing her throttled by Peter Lorre. Consequently, Hitchcock is more Noir here than Expressionistic, while Lang is still heavily influenced by his Expressionistic past. Sorry not to answer the essay questions, but I was struck by how much Hitchcock's opening reminded me of the unforgettable opening of "M." Perhaps Hitchcock's film is more in line with Noir than Expressionism.
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