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About A_Laff

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  1. 1. 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 opening of Frenzy differs from the opening of The Lodger in a couple of ways. First, The Lodger opens with a close up shot, while Frenzy shows us a long, aerial shot of London. The Lodger has a hard opening with the scream and the murder, while Frenzy opens with a seemingly innocent scene of a public speech, and only at the end of the clip is the body discovered floating. 2. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. Some of the Hitchcock touches I see in this opening scene are first, it starts with ordinary people in an ordinary situation. Second, we see Hitchcock's signature cameo. Also, there's the element of humor with the politician talking about cleaning up pollution in the river, while a dead body is seen floating in it. 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. Hitchcock's openings are always attention grabbers. They also always introduce us to a location, character, or theme that will be important in the film. (The voiceover talking about Manderley in Rebecca, Tippi Hedren noticing the flocking birds outside the pet store in The Birds, this dolly shot of London in Frenzy, the date and time stamp in Psycho, etc.)
  2. 1. 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? Based on this opening sequence, you already know that Marnie is skilled at changing her identity; clearly she's had a lot of practice. Hitchcock reveals, through her interaction with objects, that although Marnie likes expensive things, she doesn't place any sentimental value on them. Things are meant to be used and thrown away to Marnie. 2. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? Bernard Hermann's score adds a mysterious and suspenseful element to this scene. Because there is no dialogue, we rely on the score to help guide our emotions with what we're seeing. 3. Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means? This cameo is different because Hitchcock looks directly at the camera. It's almost as if he's saying, "Are you seeing this girl?" Also, his is the first face we see. We haven't seen Marnie's face yet.
  3. 1. 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? This opening scene seems more appropriate to a romantic comedy because we watch this little meet-cute between Melanie and Mitch. She's a prankster, thinking she's playing a little joke, while Mitch knows what she's up to this whole time. We learn that Melanie does not seem to take things very seriously, while we go on to find out Mitch decides to play this joke in order to teach her a lesson. 2. 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? In this opening sequence, the sounds of the birds are almost ambient, what you'd expect to hear in outdoors or in a pet shop. However, they begin to incite feelings of terror and horror as the film goes on. 3. 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. The famous Hitchcock cameo in this film is significant because he is walking two dogs out of the pet shop. It foreshadows all the couplings that will become important in this film (Melanie and Mitch, the lovebirds, Mitch and his mother, Mitch and Annie, San Francisco and Bodega Bay).
  4. 1. 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 is very sliced up, almost as though a knife has been taken to it. The music is also very frenzied and immediately gets your heart rate up. 2. 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? Establishing the date and time lets the viewers know that this is most like a clandestine affair between these two characters, as it's the middle of a workday. Entering through the semi-closed blinds reminds me of Rear Window; as viewers, we are already voyeurs in this film (as Norman Bates turns out to be!). 3. 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. This hotel room scene functions to establish Marion Crane as the main character because she has more dialogue and what she says offers more detail into her life: her job, the affair, her feelings on their affair and their future, etc. She is clearly the star.
  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. Knowing Cary Grant as a debonair, suave playboy, that persona plays directly into this scene. Although Eva Marie Saint had just finished playing a very innocent young woman in On the Waterfront, she is still a strong and confident woman, and she holds her own (and more) with Cary Grant in this scene. 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 R.O.T. matchbook is the only close up Hitchcock does in this scene, so, as a viewer, you know that there is something supremely important about it. It obviously shows that Cary Grant is not who he says he is. 3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The ongoing ambient sound of the train along the tracks really adds to this scene. Additionally, the music is subtle and allows the viewer to focus on the actors and their conversation.
  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. From the sounds and images you can tell several things about the film. First, it seems as though both faces and minds will be important. The music is very mysterious, a repetitive melody with crescendo. The abstract shapes that spin and spiral also add a level of mystery to the title sequence. 2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. In my opinion, there are two powerful images, and I can't decide between them! The first is when Kim Novak's name appears on the screen; the face looks left and right before looking back to center again. The second occurs around the 2:20 mark. The green spiral, then the yellow spiral, get closer and closer, until you feel like you are falling through the center. Then the yellow one spins back into the eye. 3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? I honestly couldn't imagine this title sequence with a different score. The images of Saul Bass's are mesmerizing, and Bernard Herrmann's accompanying score is also mesmerizing. You are almost in a trance watching and listening to this title sequence.
  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 shot of this film establishes all of the many characters that will play a role in this film. Because Jeff has his back to the window, the point of view expressed in this shot is that of us, the audience. From the start, we are voyeurs in this film, the same as Jeff. These people that we're looking at might be our neighbors; this window we're looking out of might be our window. 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 gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? Through Hitch's time and emphasis on the camera and the photographs, we can ascertain that Jeff is a photographer. Some of the photographs we see look like they could have put Jeff in danger, so we might be able to guess his broken leg is the result of a shoot gone wrong. Without sounding too sexist, you might also be able to assume that Jeff is a bachelor, as his apartment looks more like a place where he works, as opposed to a real home. 3. 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? This opening scene definitely makes me feel like a voyeur. As Hitchcock himself said in the interview with Truffaut, "I’ll bet you that nine times out of ten people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and say, ‘It’s none of my business.’ They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out.” And it's true; we can't look away. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? I would agree that this film is indeed cinematic. Because the entirety of the film takes place in Jeff's apartment, looking out that one window, there is a lot of masterful filmmaking needed to capture and keep the audience's attention. The camera angles, the use of light and shadow, etc. make this film cinematic.
  8. 1. 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. There are many ways in which Hitchcock plays with the metaphor of "criss cross" that is central in Strangers on a Train. First, you see Guy's and Bruno's shoes appear as they each disembark from a cab, and in one critical moment, those shoes touch. Another example is the interlocking train tracks. You don't know which direction this train will take, and it makes you wonder how things might have turned out differently if the train had veered to one direction instead of the other. 2. 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. There is definitely a contrast between Guy and Bruno. First, and most obviously, are the shoes. Guy's are more standard and sensible, shoes you'd expect, while Bruno's are flashy. Bruno also has a flashy tie and tie pin. Bruno is also much more talkative, while Guy is less so, seeming like he is taking part in the conversation to be kind only after Bruno has recognized him. 3. 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 music by Dimitri Tiomkin is central to this opening sequence. The music really makes this scene seem lighthearted, but, knowing Hitchcock as we do, we know that things won't stay this way for long. The music used for each of the characters' exits from their respective taxis gives us more an idea of their very different personalities.
  9. 1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this early scene from the movie? There are several Hitchcock touches in this early scene. For example, the interesting camera angles, specifically when Cary Grant is entering the room. Second, there is a lot of use of light and shadow. You also have the telling conversation between the two main characters. 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? At first, Cary Grant is in the light, while Ingrid Bergman is in the shadow. We also see Cary Grant speaking from the front, while we're looking at the side or back of Ingrid Bergman's head for a lot of this scene. Cary Grant is, as always, impeccably dressed in a dark suit, while Ingrid Bergman is rumpled in this scene. These contrasts make us think that Cary Grant is professional and serious, while Ingrid Bergman is less so. 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? In a lot of ways I believe this scene challenges their personas. In previous films, Cary Grant was a lighthearted character, more of a playboy (Suspicion, His Girl Friday, Arsenic and Old Lace, and The Philadelphia Story come to mind). Ingrid Bergman seemed to be more wholesome. In this film, their previous personas are almost reversed.
  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? One Hitchcock touch I see here is the messiness of the room, which seems to reflect the couple accurately. Another Hitchcock touch is that we meet several characters, and dialogue between the minor characters gives us a better characterization of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. ("I'm running out of dishes!") As always, the use of music here is very well done, and my favorite moment is when Carole Lombard's eye pops open in perfect concert with the music in that moment. 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? I would agree that the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical Hitchcock opening based on other openings I've seen. Many of the reasons I agree with this have to do with the Hitchcock touches I outlined in the first question. Additionally, what you seem to see is an ordinary couple in a pretty ordinary looking situation for the most part. But knowing Hitchcock -- suspense or comedy -- you have to wonder what will happen to them! The set also takes on a bit of a "character" role in this opening as well. 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? I believe that Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are excellently cast. They have a lot of chemistry, and their relationship seems very natural.
  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. In this opening scene, Uncle Charlie seems tense, worried, sly, and it's obvious that he's in some kind of trouble. This characterization stands in stark contrast to the Uncle Charlie we'll see around his sister and his sister's family. 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 thing that most stands out to me in this opening that reminds me of a film noir are all the shadows. The intense music also reminds me of film noir. Finally, there are detectives in this scene, and aren't detectives the first thing that come to mind when we think of film noir? 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? Dimitri Tiomkin's score is married perfectly to the camerawork of this scene. The music helps guide the viewer's emotions. I believe it perfectly matches what Hitchcock wanted for this opening scene. You hear the "Merry Widow Waltz" for the first time, and that music will come back to haunt the viewer -- and Uncle Charlie -- throughout the rest of the film.
  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? The opening of Rebecca is different from the multiple opening scenes we've looked at from the British silent and sound period films in many ways. First, this opening contains a voiceover. Second, this opening does not use humor. Additionally, this opening is not driven by interactions between several characters. 2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? One Hitchcock touch in this opening sequence is the interesting shots. The pan from the water, up to the cliff, to a character is classic Hitchcock style. Following the point of view of the narrator is also classic. 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? Manderley is seen as a character because it is the focus of Joan Fontaine's introductory voiceover. The more she talks about Manderley, the more you want to see it. The voiceover draws you in and the flashback makes you want to know how the characters got from that point to where they are now.
  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 opening of this film is definitely lighthearted, natural, and even a bit comical. The music absolutely makes the film seem lighthearted, as it sounds like a score you might even hear in a part of a Disney animated film or other movie for children. 2. Discuss the characters of Caldicott and Charters in this scene. What do the performances of Caldicott and Charters add to this scene. These two, Caldicott and Charters, are such a comical dynamic duo. They add humor, and they play off each other. 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. You can tell that Iris is the star of this scene because of several things. First, she is physically in the front of her group. Second, she speaks the most, ordering the dinner, and making the decisions for herself and her friends. Also, she has dark hair while her friends are both blondes, so physically she stands out from her group as well.
  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? Some similarities are the interesting camera angles and the use of music. The scenes also feature a spectator/performer dynamic. 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? I do agree that Hitchcock is focused on introducing a more innocent character. He is at a seemingly innocent public gathering, is dressed normally, and asks a seemingly innocent question of Mr. Memory, which shows he is engaged in the same entertainment as everyone else. 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? All of these elements play into Gene Phillips's "Hitchcock Touch" description. The scene takes place in an ordinary setting and the main character appears to be an ordinary person. Although you don't see it in this scene, perhaps my favorite description of Gene Phillips's is “…The settings of Hitchcock films are quite ordinary on the surface, thereby suggesting that evil can lurk in places that at first glance seem normal and unthreatening.”
  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) Based on this opening scene, I think that the characters are going to be more important. You really have no idea what the plot will be, based on this clip. However, you meet several characters, and you watch them and listen to them interact with one another. 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? You learn that Abbott seems to be the kind of man who has a good attitude and who doesn't really let things bother him. He is laughing off the incident. He only drops the facade when he encounters the second man, the skier. It's as if they have met before, or Abbott knows something about him that he doesn't like. 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. The first main difference, of course, is that this is not a silent film. Therefore, we not only get to see the characters interact, but we get to hear them: their tones of voice, their accents, their choices of words. As far as visuals go, all three films are captivating in their openings. You want to watch them and are interested right away. They don't open slowly.
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