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Sea Shell

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  1. 2. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. Hitchcock touches: · Sweeping vistas · Public places · Unknown evil in the midst of the crowd · Establishment shot to orient viewers · Initial state of equilibrium that very quickly becomes disrupted 3. 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 love the way Hitchcock uses his title sequences and opening scenes to tell the story, to anticipate in metaphoric—and sometimes literal—terms the trajectory of the narrative. If we watch and listen closely, he offers myriad clues to the story, to the characters, to the impending doom. For example, following the beautiful helicopter dollying shot offering the bird’s eye view (Ah! The Birds—just realized that connection), the politician issues his statement about promising to “clean the waters.” Immediately following, the crowds discover a dead body floating in the river. As we’ve discussed before, the devil is in the details with Hitchcock, for instance in the positioning of the politician over and above the crowd, or the draped, gaudy neckpiece of the attending politician which foreshadows the death of the young by strangulation. I haven’t seen this film yet, so I plan to revisit the opening scene after I watch the entire movie
  2. Even before the clip begins, the initial close-up of the suitcase envelops viewers into a scene of hyper-femininity. Marnie’s suitcase is lined in pink satin, the same color as her nails. When the camera later zooms in, we see opulent clothes and gloves and boxes, all neatly folded and—most important—juxtaposed against the pedestrian suitcase and its common garb. Here come Hitchcock’s dualities: the suitcases, the sets of SS cards, the hair colors, the purses, the suits. Once again, we see the quintessential Hitchcock trope of binaries and doppelgangers which anticipate the probing of a troubled psyche. Also, when the scene opens with a tracking shot focused in close-up on the green purse, the locus of precious/treasured possessions and identity (a quaint metaphor, to be sure, for the mind), and then abruptly halts its movement as Marine continues her sexy stroll down the hallway, we viewers once again detach from the action and become observers. Hitchcock purposely invokes this tension: we pull back, she moves forward (hearkens back to the signature staircase shot in Vertigo, actually). She leaves—we watch. Further, Hitchcock’s departure in his cameo shot stuns. He looks at the camera—directly into the lens with a pointed and conspiratorial look, as though together we will embark upon this journey of suspense and mystery. More so, perhaps, Hitchcock’s gaze is now turned toward us, the viewers. Do we in some way, on some level, become the objects of scrutiny in this film?
  3. The trope of the love birds and the flirting between Melanie and Mitch, particularly when Mitch attempts to stump Melanie with the ornithological and molting comments, establish the attraction between the two characters. Interestingly, Melanie’s assertion that they cannot simply let the birds go in response to Mitch’s dig about caged birds sets up, as the professors note, a microcosm of the film: the birds do indeed get loose and enact revenge upon their captors.
  4. The thin lines and the movement from side to side in the opening credits mime the slashing of a knife, as do the frenzied, staccato violin chords. Initially, evenly spaced and building toward a crescendo, those chords echo the sound of thrusting. As with a knife. Together, the graphics and score recall death by a thousand cuts. And of course the high pitch of the violin foreshadows Marion’s screams in the shower scene. In presenting the time stamp Hitchcock establishes that time will be important—he must construct that timeline for us to follow in the narrative. And as we saw in the video this week, details, details, details matter for Hitchcock. Because it’s Hitchcock, we know by now that a woman will play a crucial role in the film—not just any woman but one worthy (!) of watching. So as we sweep in under the blinds and glide toward her with her lover in the opening pan, we become part of the intimacy, the sexual fantasy that animates the storyline.
  5. 1. 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. Those lines about familiarity and “having that effect upon people” demonstrate H’s humor at work—of course Grant has an effect upon people, particularly women. In fact, his lines introduce the narrative naturally and launch the sequence of sexual innuendos within the vignette. Further, this banter between EMS and CG harmonizes perfectly, simply because their sexuality remains on display, both within the world of the film and within the world at large, and as they are fully objects of desire, we see H’s logic in the pairing: recall functions 2 & 3 from Bruce Babington’s framework. 2. 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. The matchbook furthers the sexual banter and functions as the catalyst for physical contact between Roger and Eve: consider how Eve controls Roger’s hand when he lights her cigarette. Once he lights her cigarette, he begins to draw back his hand, but she grasps it with the lighted match, pulls it close to her, and blows out the flame. This is heady stuff, and like the exercise girl’s seductive pose in Rear Window, I’m surprised but delighted that Hitchcock was able to get away with it. This scene in some ways reminds me of that subtle sensuality of the carriage/glove scene in Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence: the possibilities inherent with hands. 3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. I had some great thoughts here, but my first posting went awry and I lost all my text. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it . . .
  6. 1. 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. The colors red and green interplay throughout this credit sequence and become associated with the two women in the film, Madeline and Judy. The colors reference the stop/go mentality within Scottie: whenever he sees these women, he will falter and stumble, attempt his communication in fits and starts. These beautiful designs echo the kaleidoscope merging of color, pattern, and shape, but these spirals are more orderly and orchestrated, much like the narrative itself. 2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. Although I love Bass’s graphics, the text reading "James Stewart" above Kim Novak's lips sound as harbinger of the trouble those lips will bring . . . and, of course, we end the graphic sequence back in the center of Novak’s face, her eye, another powerful symbol in the film. Oh, and I noticed that Hitchcock’s name appears twice, as if to set up the whole doubling motif. 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 images and score work in harmony to amplify and retract—once again we see the stop/go; hard/soft; yes/no bifurcation that we’ll experience throughout the film.
  7. 1. 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 pan of the neighborhood introduces us to the characters and setting, first with background music and commentary to accompany each apartment’s resident (e.g. radio announcer attending to the middle-aged man’s insecurities regarding his appearance, the exercise girl’s lightly-flirtatious dance music), juxtaposed against children’s voices to capture the buoyancy of everyday life. The vantage point expressed here is one of omniscient narrator, almost—except that it’s Hitchcock behind the lens and thus we become complicit in watching the watcher. It’s interesting that Hitchcock sets up the scene this way, for as viewers, we cannot indict Jeff for his voyeurism throughout the film—we too share the guilt of stalking, and we do so from the first moments. 2. 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 give us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? We learn that Jeff is a photographer of both action and fashion shots (why else would he have those fashion magazines?), that he puts himself in harm’s way to capture the perfect picture, that he’s broken his leg—probably as a result of garnering that shot of the crashed race car—that he doesn’t overly concern himself with cleanliness or order, that he lives in the city proper (not too high, not too low a neighborhood), and that he’s suffering in the heat while restricted to his wheelchair. Further, he’s good looking, wearing nice pajamas and is well-groomed, so someone (!) is taking care of our adventurer. 3. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? Interestingly, we seem fine with the roundabout view of the tenement and the picturesque vignettes of everyday life, until the camera moves inside Jeff’s apartment and we view him asleep while we scope out his personal space. This is the moment we realize we’re stalking . . . 4. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? This film is beautiful on many levels, but I would disagree: Vertigo has my vote for the most richly-textured and cinematic of Hitchcock’s films.
  8. Most everyone has shared about the criss-crossing, but the most important focus for me is Hitchcock’s low angle view of feet. I have mentioned before (Pleasure Garden, 39 Steps) how he introduces us to characters and settings by way of feet, but in this short opening scene he extends that trope. Wow. For example, we have the black and white shoes of Bruno exiting the Diamond cab in a darkened tunnel or passageway versus the monotone (brown, maybe?) shoes of Guy exiting the cab in broad daylight. These two travelers then traverse pavements, thresholds, and tile—covering a lot of ground—to meet by way of their respective shoes clashing “under the table.” While this collision seems the overriding metaphor for the entire film, one could also trace the idea of clandestine, "under the table," moves that set the entire narrative in motion. Hitchcock was such a literary man, it surprised me that he and Chandler parted ways on this script, particularly as these two men shared and underlying vision regarding guilt and innocence, fate and volition.
  9. 1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this early scene from the movie? As noted by the professors, viewers are disoriented by the canted and upside-down framing of both actors. Once again, we have slow panning and dollying. 2. 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? The mobile framing primarily uses medium close-ups and close-up shots. The lighting draws “lines” all throughout the scene, in varying areas of the rooms to draw attention to the pointed nature of the discussion. What I noticed most, however, were the graphic relationships throughout costumes and setting—that is, the lines and planes and shapes all seem to cohere into metaphoric messages: cross pieces in the headboards and the crucifix in the anteroom (a crossroads?); the decorative lines in the walls and on the ceilings (walking a straight line? Crossing lines?); Bergman’s blouse—the horizontal stripes juxtaposed against her question, “What’s your angle?” 3. 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? Both actors seem out of character—Gary Grant is known to us as that high-flying playboy—and Ingrid Bergman as that ingénue who first appeared in white in Casablanca. Interesting shake-up here with two of America's favorite sweethearts.
  10. 1. 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’s touches in the opening scene include the mood music, the lighting and shadows, the panning over elements within the mise-en-scene to tell a story. The fabrics and china and upscale furnishings indicate we’re not in a tenement house but rather a swanky apartment or home. 2. 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? No, I don’t think the opening is “typical,” only that it includes some of Hitchcock’s signature touches—those elements noted above to orient the viewers and provide very quick context. 3. 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? They seem to be . . . haven’t seen the film yet, though.
  11. 1. 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. We learn that Uncle Charlie has had a spate of good luck—whether gambling or such, for the money is lying as though tossed about, not located in a wallet or tucked away under the mattress. Charlie lies back with total aplomb in his pin-striped suit gripping a cigar as he listens to the landlady discuss the visitors. Only when she leaves does he exhibit emotion: anger or frustration when he throws the glass against the sink. 2. 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) The opening here reflects that hardcore protagonist who *seems* unbothered by visible threats. When I heard Cotton’s sardonic voice over, “What do you know? You’re bluffing. You got nothing on me!” I am immediately reminded of the opening “tough guy” stance of William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. I have seen Shadow of a Doubt, so I know this film is far more sinister, but yet it mimes the other film in tone and attitude and subjectivity. 3. 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 score serves as an emotional guide during this scene: hard and loud when Uncle Charlie faces the men shadowing him and yet the quick chirp and warble signal as he entertains an idea for escape and then back again to crescendos when he begins his journey toward and past the men. These musical notes resonate and usher viewers into the emotional action of the scene. As an aside: I absolutely love these connections to the Hardboiled and early detective fiction, both of which are inextricably-linked to Noir. Dr. Edwards: would you consider your next class as a Hardboiled? It would be excellent, for sure!
  12. 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? This scene definitely opens with that nod to the Gothic, with the gates, arches and shadows, as well as with that pan across the great house silhouetted against the night sky. In fact, the foregrounded house pre-figures Psycho’s house on the hill enveloped by dark clouds. Is this the point where Hitchcock develops a penchant for the iconic? 2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? Within the voice-over we hear tones of melancholy and superstition, and then the film cuts quickly to the turmoil of a raging sea. These sensory aspects all invoke a sense of dread—that experience that Hitchcock seeks to invoke within his viewers. 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? The stately house, the melodious music, the articulate voice-over all establish that we have progressed into a more polished and sophisticated realm. No longer do we experience textual clues with flashing neon lights and travel brochures; now we move—physically through and with the camera dolly—into the world of Manderley, a world of great ancestral homes and aristocratic peoples, a beautiful and richly-textured world. With this opening scene, I anxiously await the journey of a narrative. We’ve evolved beyond the mere frisson for sure!
  13. 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 lighthearted folk music certainly ushers in a certain lilt to the scene, as does the bugler in the cuckoo clock, and the exaggerated accent of the hotel owner. Along with the light-hearted chatter of the travelers, the scene depicted is one of comradery and adventure on a Bavarian mountaintop. Again, Hitchcock opens the scene without ominous sound, and viewers do not see that anything is yet at stake . . . a real departure from the earlier films we viewed last week. 2. Discuss the characters of Caldicott and Charters in this scene. What do the performances of Caldicott and Charters add to this scene. The bantering between Caldicott and Charters is quick and witty, which reminds me of Nick and Nora kibitzing in The Thin Man films. If you don’t pay close attention, you will miss the dry humor: the men surmise that the women are not just Americans but “almighty dollar Americans.” And Caldicott asserts that it has “always been [his] belief that the Hungarian Rhapsody is not their national anthem.” This is funny stuff. Hitchcock firmly establishes himself in the comedic realm here, heavily influenced by the snappy (and at times sappy) dialogue of Hollywood films of the time. 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. Dialogue: the pacing—again, quick and easy banter (the sheets comment was great) and Iris directing the girls to get on toward their room demonstrates her central role within the triumvirate of dancers. Additionally, her alarm at the avalanche affecting her travel and the hotelier’s immediate concern as she corrects his pronunciation all differentiate her, as does her hair color. Amazingly, she’s brunette! Camera movement: The POV of C & C as the hotelier approaches and then moves away is brilliant and furthers the comedic aspect of the film.
  14. 1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? Conforms: letters or text provide context, public places containing audiences and performances which set us up as voyeuristic. Deviates: jovial and light-hearted banter and we see nothing at stake in the opening scene, other than Mr. Memory missing a question or two. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? Definitely I agree with Rothman—Donat’s countenance is winsome and his posture open and welcoming. His dress, manners, and accent all indicate a different stature than those around him, as does his question about Canada. Where the other questioners focus on bouts and races, Hannay’s query about distance between cities belies a more cosmopolitan individual, one perhaps we would like to get to know. We evince no revulsion or horror when we meet him in close-up. 3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? Because of those attributes listed above, we are immediately drawn to this character with his “everyman” qualities. Philips’ assertion that evil lurks among the mundane—which appears true here—reminds me of Agatha Christie’s (and the other three queens of mystery) plots in which evil is situated in the seemingly cozy surround. In fact, this opening reminds me of those period mysteries whose narratives generally open with that sense of equilibrium only to quickly dissolve into societal chaos by way of misdirection and mistaken identities.
  15. 1. Based on these opening scene, what do you anticipate is going to be more important in this film--the characters or the plot? (It is fine to make an informed guess about the 2nd question if you haven't seen the film yet) I haven’t seen the film yet, so I’m guessing that the plot will be character-driven, based on the Peter Lorre character who seems intriguing . . . 2. What do you learn about Abbott (Peter Lorre) in his brief scene? How might this introduction affect your view of the character Abbott later in the film? Abbot seems winsome and friendly—not villainous at all. 3. We saw two opening scenes from Hitchcock's silent films in the Daily Doses last week (The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger). How is this opening both similar and different from those two films' opening scenes. Like The Pleasure Garden, we see the swift panning of the faces in the crowd, a girl with curls, and anticipate danger based upon the pacing. The danger motif also appears when we see the face of the skier as he anticipates his fall or collision with the dog. All these acts work to build suspense—this time, however, we’re more attuned to the characters *without* the use of morose or escalating music.
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