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About jameskwonlee

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  1. If Hitchcock were to be alive today, he would still: innovate and push the boundaries of cinema, gravitate towards suspense thrillers, and have a sense of humor. Knowing all these things, I think for the DP (Cinematographer), he would work with Roger Deakins. Roger is british as well, and has worked on numerous thrillers and dark comedies with the Coen Bros. Among his best works include the Oscar-winning "No Country For Old Men" and more recently, "Sicario" which was Oscar-nominated and premiered at Cannes. Like Hitch, Roger has yet to win the Academy Award. In short, Roger is a great suspense-thriller DP that pushes boundaries and has all the big Hollywood resources to work on the the most cutting-edge sets in the industry. He'll even be lighting the new "Blade Runner Movie," a massive Hollywood sci-fi production. I can only imagine he has the chops to innovate alongside the master. As for Production Designer, Hitch will probably work with Arthur Max at a certain point. Arthur worked on "Se7en," "The Martian" and "Gladiator," and has been nominated for the Oscars three times. He is capable of designing huge worlds that are grounded in realism. I know Hitchcock is not a fan of documentary realism, but for some reason, I feel that Hitch wouldn't use too much animation and CGI, because it's just too common in big-budget films these days. Hitch would probably find practical solutions to design, and Arthur Max seems to be the perfect guy for that: he builds big, lavish sets that are practically built rather than artificially designed by VFX. Not to mention, Arthur Max studied extensively in London, so there's that possible cultural connection too. Music is tough. There's a saturation of film musicians, and no one person seems to be the defining voice of today's generation the way John Williams, or Bernard Hermann was back in the day. I see a lot of posts favoring Hans Zimmer, but I digress--Hermann was not the Hans Zimmer of his day, not that he has to be, but Hitch seems to favor a special type of musician that engages in diverse experimentation of style and content. Hans is prolific and his music is strong and big, but it's not the kind of projects Hitch would probably direct all the time. I bet Hitchcock would rather go with Alexandre Desplat. He has tons of awards, and even won the Oscar for "The Grand Budapest Hotel." He works on Hollywood big budget movies like "Harry Potter" and "Godzilla," and award winning indies. If he doesn't win awards, he works on projects that do, such as "The King's Speech," "Argo," and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Hitchcock is a prolific director, and his musicians seem to be equally so, if not more prolific in their respective field. Alexandre probably has the versatile skill sets necessary to work on a huge variety of Hitchcock pictures. As for writers--Hitch seems to love working with authors of thriller books too. Gillian Flynn did "Gone Girl" and "Dark Places," both crime thrillers that have been adapted into feature films. But I feel like Hitch would probably option the rights to another one of her books. It'd be interesting to see what he'd pick as a source material. I can't really think of any other collaborators at the moment.
  2. July 27, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 20 1. The Lodger immediately tells us we’re watching a horror and or a thriller film. There’s a close-up of a woman shrieking. Then as we anticipate what the horrors are about, we pass through a very darkened, foggy location as we track what the crime is. Frenzy opens on a very upbeat note, with a grand, sunny view of London. None of the production design indicates that we’ll see a dead woman at the end of the scene. Even as we see the politician speak, we don’t expect a horror/thriller film at all, not even from the music. But the discovery of the body in the river surprises us, and catches us completely off guard. Also, the Lodger is a silent film, whereas Frenzy has a lot of dialogue, and it also relies on dialogue to direct our attention to the body—“Look!” 2. We see a large crowd, and get a sense of who the people are in this film. We also get an establishing shot that tells us what the geographic location is, right away. We then see Hitchcock’s cameo. 3. Hitchcock lets the viewer establish expectations about the film. We have a fast-paced entertaining score set on a building for North By North West. We have a hypnotic look into a woman’s eye in Vertigo, and we have a tense string score and a cerebral title design intro with Psycho. With Frenzy, we are made to expect a happy, grand drama, but this is immediately desecrated by the discovery of a naked corpse in the river. Hitchcock also wants to grab the viewers interest with an innovative or bold camera choice. With the Lodger, we open on a close-up of a silent scream, of a woman we never had the chance to be introduced to because she is the first one on the screen. With 39 Steps, it’s the introduction of the main character’s back. We never see his face until later. And with Strangers On A Train, we have to diametric shoes walking towards each other, culminating in an inevitable encounter. With Frenzy, we have a soaring one take, we fly through London and feel the calm breeze of the land until we see the people and then quickly, the crime scene. Music plays a key role in supporting both aforementioned points—setting expectations and grabbing viewers’ interests. Psycho, North By Northwest, The Wrong Man, and many more of his films open with the musical theme. Frenzy no doubt does the same, but like my previous points, it almost misleads the audience into believing the film is about something else other than murder.
  3. July 26, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 19 1. Marnie is deceptive, she is either hiding from something or someone, or is deliberately disguising herself for a purpose. We don’t know if her intentions are good, innocent, or evil. We also know that she is beautiful. 2 . The opening music builds tension, and blossoms at the first sight of Marnie’s face. It increases the audience’s sense of wonder and awe, while giving us a hint as to what the genre of the film is. 3. Hitchcock first looks at the back of Marnie, highlighting what the audience is wondering--"who is this lady?" Then Hitchcock blatantly looks at the camera in this one. He doesn’t even blend in the background—it’s almost a shot just for him. This could imply his rising ego, or desire to make himself known as his career slows down.
  4. July 25, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 18 1. Melanie pretends to be the bird shop owner or worker as she tries to help Mitch find two lovebirds. It’s clear that she’s no bird expert, but Mitch plays along. Based on attire, Melanie seems to be an upper class woman, and Mitch seems to be a nice man who is close to his family. 2. The birds dominate from the first frame with their sound. The sound overlaps the dialogue, almost obscuring it at times. The high pitch and the sheer volume of the chirping noises makes it seem like we are trapped a huge birdcage. 3. Hitchcock steps out of the shop with two dogs. While there was mention in the lecture about Hitchcock’s symbolism on doubles, I honestly felt like he picked what made the most visual sense and the fact that both of those dogs were his own.
  5. July 24, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 17 1. The strong piercing string soundtrack immediately introduces tension, momentum, and a sense of fear. The genre of this film is clearly in the horror and or thriller space. The fragmentation of the typography indicates that there’s more to this film than just the façade, that there’s some cerebral element that the audience should look out for. And finally, the modern (non-serif) typography hints that the film will take place in the present day. 2. I think the specificity makes us believe that somewhere in the world this thing is actually happening. It’s almost like voyeuristic news footage, introducing our characters. Entering the semi-closed blinds gives the audience private access into the lives of our protagonists. We shouldn’t be seeing or hearing them, but the directly secretly let us in. As for similarities with other films, this shot reminds me of Rear Window’s opening, but in the inverse—unlike Psycho, where the camera starts outside and peaks in, Rear Window starts inside a room and peaks out. 3. Marion Crane is probably not viewed favorably. The audience at the time probably judged her as an anti-hero, as an immoral character that does not value traditional marriage and family. The audience might've rooted against her, yet, nonetheless, her attractive face and body makes them want to see what happens to her. In that sense we are made to be a pure voyeuristic spectator. This serves the movie well, because when she gets killed early on in the movie, we're not necessarily devastated enough to want to stop watching the film.
  6. July 20, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 16 1. To preface, I'm not too familiar with these actors. I haven't seen many films in their era, unfortunately, to fully understand this question. Though I can see that it's two very attractive people flirting with each other. We are invested in what they say and feel because the preceding films they’ve worked on have already established a mythology for the audience about these two characters—we automatically empathize with them without seeing much backstory in the film. 2 The ROT matchbook allows for the two characters to physically touch each other for the first time. Because there’s minimal action, the touch is very significant, and even a little sensual. 3. The music is romantic, as if the two are out on a date. The train sounds fill the silent voids, but lowers in volume when they speak. When the two genuinely connect for the first time, around when the ROT matches are pulled out, the music cue changes to an even more romantic theme.
  7. July 19, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 15 1 The film promises to be hypnotic—one that will get underneath your skin and appeal heavily to the senses, and subvert logic by sending us into a dream state. I expect to see surprises, twists, and experience surreal moments. Because we see such close-ups of a woman’s lips and eyes, I think the film will be about obsession or seduction. 2. I think it’s the extreme close-up shot of the eye, but more specifically at the exact moment when the eyelid widens and the screen turns red. It’s shocking because it evokes terror through radical contrasts: the vibrant color contrasts heavily with the black and white image that precedes it (and the color red reminds me of blood), and it’s the moment when the music hits us with a strong brass/string sound, and finally, it’s where the title emerges, moving from a tiny spec to almost hitting us over the head. 3. The overall tune reminds us of a hypnosis, a journey into the deep, with a few surprises: Every new text element is introduced with a brass/string hit. Once we see the Lissajou spirals, the music enters a new phase, one that sounds deeper, and more epic in scale, and more tremolos from the strings, accommodating the jaggedness of the shapes.
  8. July 18, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 14 1. The opening camera shot is the director’s omniscient perspective. It is not Jimmy Stewart’s POV, which we will indulge in a lot a little later throughout the film. The reason for this is to introduce to the audience the objective truth of the people’s lives in this contained world. We become familiarized of the general setup, so that we don’t have to waste time thinking about it when the real drama plays out. Also, this opening shot allows us to be the casual voyeurs, before we become one by proxy of our protagonist. 2. We immediately learn that he has a broken leg, and this is connected with a broken camera, quickly followed by a picture of a racing car that is being destroyed in a nasty crash. We connect his broken leg to that incident. But to dispel any doubt that he himself may be a race car driver or a casual bystander, we see a series of photographs, including a framed negative, that is the cover of a magazine. From this, we know that he is a professional photographer. 3. The opening does make me feel like a voyeur, somehow, when I’m able to peer into a private space, I already feel like I’m violating someone’s privacy. I’m also watching unflattering things, like a radio that by coincidence proclaims the dissatisfying life of a middle aged man, and also a woman who nearly reveals her breasts, before she turns around and starts stretching her legs as if no one is watching her. Bonus: Initially, I thought of the film, Notorious. I’ve never seen a sequence like the wine bottle scene, where each removal of champagne from the cooler indicates the passage of time, or rather, the running out of it. The image itself, is then replaced with the “pop” sound. The audience understands the implications of the scene just from the sound. Then through effective closeups, we see that a “unica” key leads to a certain wine cellar, and the close up of numbers on the bottles indicates clearly which one is our Macguffin. In the climax , when Grant and Bergman’s characters are about to be discovered, they kiss—it’s better to be caught cheating than to be seen as spies. We can only imagine that Grant’s character secretly savors this interaction. When Rain’s character arrives, we subsequently see the heart-rending double entendre of Grant’s dialogue, “I loved her before you did”. But Rains is not stupid, and we see, through his POV, that the “unica” key is missing. Such a sequence can never be understood better theatrically, as in a play, or in any other medium like a Virtual Reality film or a documentary. The scene features techniques that are only unique to 2D-cinema: Parallel cutting, multiple lensing within a single scene, the ability to view shots from perspectives, closeups, juxtaposition of images that make up a new meaning, subjective sound, and non diegetic sound that is cut to seem like it's originating from an organic source. A director’s custom framing of the camera and camera movements are absolutely necessary to achieve what Hitchcock did in Notorious. 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. Of course, this changes in the climactic battle between hero and antagonist, but what Rear Window is most known for is its voyeurism from Stewart’s wheel chair--thus the movie willfully remains planted (with a couple of exceptions). This is not to say that Rear Window is less of a film, because Hitchcock's entire concept is that we are "planted and constrained" like the wheelchair bound Stewart. 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. In summary, I feel that a film like Notorious utilized the cinematic medium to its maximum capacity, whereas Rear Window did not. Honestly though, if the master himself says so, I will have to agree to some extent.
  9. July 14, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 13 1. The big one, already mentioned in the lectures is the railway that “criss crosses.” Secondly, both of the men’s feet, the white shoes and the black shoes, cross in the opposite screen directions. The music seems to accommodate this “crisscrossing”. The edit also diametrically opposes the two movements and feet. Each of the men sit and cross their legs. These shots culminate in the wide shot of the two men, sitting across from each other. 2. Bruno seems flashier, with his white shoes and pinstripe suit. Guy seems to be more conservative in all black, shoes and dress to match. Bruno is also older, and is the one whose perspective we first engage in as he notices the unsuspecting Guy read something: we see the world first through Bruno’s eyes. Bruno is the one that seems to evoke artificial empathy by bringing up his mother and also by noticing and praising Guy. Guy seems like the more innocent man as he is the one “pursued” by Bruno, and conversely, Bruno is the one with the designs, but what? Hitchcock does a great job in creating this anticipation for what may happen as the two men interact. 3. With Copland-esque strings, the score promises adventure and scale. It also promises conflict between two men, with the first phrase answered by a second similar yet subtly different “response”—each correlating with the different characters’ feet. Their inevitable encounter and “foot tap” is underlined with a strong string hit, a collision of sorts.
  10. July 13, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 12 1. We see a strong character POV of Alicia, who is upside down and fuzzy brained. The camera rotates to an upside down position and becomes sharper focus as she wakes up. Immediately, if I may count this as a "Hitchcock touch," we see two of his favorite actors, and both have a good share of close-ups so that the audience can read their emotions. 2. Cary Grant’s character is dressed in a suit, implying that he's all business in this scene. Bergman is dressed a little more casually, and her hair is in disarray as she wakes up, implying that she’s not “ready for the job” yet. Every time we see Bergman, the lighting and or lenses are softer and more diffuse—implying that she is a romantic interest. 3. I watched the film before, but I’m not too familiar with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman’s star personas. I’m guessing, based on the lecture notes, that the former is the case. Ingrid is a “natural beauty”, with a touch of vulnerability. And Cary Grant fulfills his role as the leading man, not completely invulnerable, but a little stronger in terms of his personality and how he expresses his emotions.
  11. July 12, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 11 1. We see the strong, “director-motivated” camera once more—when Mr. Smith wakes up and sees his wife in bed—a dolly pushes into her. There’s also an element of suspense in even the minor beats, such as when Mr. Smith pranks Mrs. Smith by acting like he left the room after he notices her sleeping. With the pole near the door, we see the setup before the execution, which ramps up our anticipation for what might result after the door slams. The messy, half eaten plates, the playing cards, and the large room indicate that this is a wealthy couple that lives a hedonistic and commensurately disordered lifestyle. While their embrace and kissing in the end suggest that they love each other, their initial separation (through physical distance and separate camera shots) hints at some marital strife. 2. I disagree, and I’d have a hard time distinguishing this as a Hitchcock flick had I not known in advance. The tone is very light, and the performances by the supporting cast, such as the law student, and the maid, are very much in the line of the screwball comedies. While there is an initial subjective camera POV, the rest of the scene lacks a strong sense of the director’s unique hand in how the main character psychologically perceives his surrounding and situation. 3. I think they are well cast. They’re both attractive and appear old enough to believably look as if they had been married for several years.
  12. July 11, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 10 We know that he’s being watched. It’s clear from the landlady’s dialogue and at the end when the two men actually follow him. The hero seems well aware of this and is depressed, almost resigned, as evidenced by how he leaves wads of cash on the ground, and also by how he doesn’t take extra precautions to hide from the men, like closing the blinds or making sure his stalkers aren't at the door. He just lets the landlady in very easily, without even acknowledging her presence. 2. Iconographically, in line with other noir films, we see the fedora, the suit, and wads of money on the ground. The two men are also suited. Stylistically, there’s high contrast lighting, shadows from the blinds, and a sort of urban setting. While I've seen lots of noir films, I haven't seen or remember about enough of them to really point out what makes this particular opening different from others. But Alfred Hitchcock's use of omniscient camera is apparent from the very beginning, where the camera liberally pans and tilts to show the money without any motivation. 3 The music opens on a cheerful note to give us a sense of place and time, but a mood of foreboding develops as we see Charlie on the bed. The music highlights the emotional actions in the film, such as the suspenseful build up to where Charlie throws a glass piece at the wall in frustration. We also get a sense of the men that are keeping watch of him with a score underlying the moments in between. In terms of pace, the music externalizes the sense of dread our character is feeling—which may make the pace seem slower than it actually is (not without a sense of anxiety and anticipation).
  13. July 10, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 9 1. Immediately, the narration and Hollywood-style score made me think this is not a Hitchcock picture. And the production value is clearly more magnificent than any of Hitchcock's previous films. Furthermore, his British films often opened in more “common” environments, such as an inn, a theater, the street, etc. But Manderley is otherworldly, almost fantastical. 2. The strong objective camera floating through the Manderley estate is a Hitchcock influence. The liberal use of closeups on Olivier is also somewhat of a signature, as Hitchcock really likes to get into the psychology of his characters. 3. We have an intimate look at the texture, shading, and distinct shape of the house as it is being thematically described by a narrator. I want to learn about the house’s history--the flashback teases the audience on what’s to come, and what will eventually lead our protagonists into the house. The narration gives an almost fairy tale like air, raising my expectations and telling me that this story is going to have an epic scale.
  14. July 6, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 8 1. The opening is rather festive, and establishes the folksy nature of the group. They are also internationally diverse. Unlike The Lodger, this film opens on a lighter note. 2. Their performances allow the audience to understand the setting better—they are the “every men,” the ones that the English speaking audience will identify with most. So through their eyes, we get to survey the environment and its characters further. 3. Iris is the brunette between two blondes—making her stand out immediately. Also, Boris shakes her hand, and she is the one to speak first on behalf of the group. She is then the one that walks beside Boris until they stop on the staircase, where she occupies the center frame and is the only one whose face is angled to the camera—everyone else has their backs to the frame. Iris even gets a tighter shot. Throughout the tracked dolly leading to the stairs, we see Boris’ profile or the back of his head pointed toward Iris, whose eyeline is tightly positioned to the camera. After the stop on the stairs, Iris leads the group to walk again.
  15. 1. Across all films, we don’t immediately see the protagonist. There is some teaser element that first grabs the viewer’s attention, whether it’s the beautiful dancers in Pleasure Garden, the screaming woman in The Lodger, the big ski slope in The Man Who Knew Too Much, or the interesting tracking shot of “Music Hall” in this particular film. How then 39 Steps deviates from the others is that the camera takes an even more subdued, objective role. We don’t see faces nor any subjective POV’s for quite a long time. We're not in anyone's head, nor do we see a replication of emotions through Hitchcock's shooting style. The camera merely captures the rendering of actions, with the most creative element being the concealment of faces in the first couple shots. 2. I have to see the entire film to understand what Rothman is talking about—after all, we don’t even see the face of our protagonist until he asks the “Canada” question. It’s difficult to know for sure what "looking innocent" entails. 3. There is a very big emphasis on the “ordinary” people aspect. The audience members aren’t a bunch of aristocrats, and the performer, while impressive, is a “typical” sideshow act one would see in any bourgeois stand-up joint. The blue-collar nature of the people is revealed through the way they ask their questions.
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