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Rebecca in NYC

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Everything posted by Rebecca in NYC

  1. I might be going out on a limb here, but in my view, one of the best creative teams these days is in TV (not film). I'm referring to everyone involved in bringing Breaking Bad (and Better Call Saul) to the small screen. I can see Hitchcock collaborating with Vince Gilligan b/c he shares his interest in dark characters, his ability to beautifully showcase landscapes (New Mexico) and his ability to create truly believable anti-heros (Walter White). I would argue that Norman Bates is something of an anti-hero. Wes Gehring (sp?) touched on this when, in discussing Psycho, he pointed out that we actually *want* the car to sink fully into the swamp; we somehow want to protect Norman from getting caught. Why is that? Walter White is similar in that he's a meth-making murderer yet somehow we like him, he makes us laugh (pizza on the roof), he is a fully flushed out character with depth. It's confounding, and it works. It's masterful story telling. I cheated and googled "Academy Awards Best Costume Design" to look at this list of winners and nominations over the years. Edith Head has far and away the most nominations! I don't think there is another Edith Head; she's in a league of her own. That said, BEFORE googling this, the first movie that came to mind was "Gangs of New York" - for having some of the most memorable and historically accurate costumes. They were designed by Sandy Powell. Given her connection to Martin Scorsese, and his reverence for Hitchcock, this seems a logical suggestion.
  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. Marnie is either confused herself, and/or trying to confuse others, with who she is. The different IDs is the most obvious supporting evidence of this. But I really like the use of two suitcases: one is packed very tidily whereas the other has belongings tossed in, nothing folded or much cared for. I believe it is the tidy Marnie, the fastidious version of her that’s at the train station. I say that because of her perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable dress. 2. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? I’m no musician and unsure if I have the vocabulary to explain this accurately, but it seems to me that each music “clause” repeats itself – one for the sloppy Marnie and the other for the tidy Marnie. I hope that makes sense! 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? Yes! He looks right at the camera. And he appears so early on, and is so very obvious. I believe the direct look into the camera could be a form of taking his last bow.
  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? The most obvious answer is the flirtation between Melanie and Mitch in the pet store, as Melanie pretends to work there. It is very suggestive and flirtatious, far from scary. We learn that Melanie is highbrow and upper crust. Who can walk so elegantly in stilettos and a superbly tailored suit across a busy street in a major city? And what about that fabulous handbag? I can never stop myself from noticing it J We learn that Mitch has an 11-year old sister (really?) and he wants to give her lovebirds as a gift. Lovebirds? How convenient that he wants to give lovebirds and happens to find a lovely woman, the alleged shopkeeper, to sell them to him. This is comical in its absurdity, but it works as a perfect opening b/c we’re completely off guard about what’s to come…… 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? The sound effects in the pet shop are in direct contrast to the sound effects from the gulls before Melanie goes in the shop; the former are more lighthearted whereas the latter are more ominous. I had to close my eyes and just listen to the sound to really understand how much contrast there is between the two. 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. I’ve watched it 3 times and I can’t think of anything intelligent to say about this cameo! Are the two dogs “love dogs”? Is there a suggestion about certain things being better in pairs??
  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 score is irritating; it grates on your nerves. The graphic design – lines going sideways and then lines going up and down – to me, create confusion. The opening leaves me in a hyper state of sorts; I find I want the music to STOP (which I’m sure is intentional). This introduces the idea of Norman’s confusion about his sexual/gender identity, and about the state of his mental health [disclaimer – I am not a qualified medical or psychotherapy practitioner! I’m making this argument based on multiple viewings of this film]. I find this tricky b/c sexual/gender identity is NOT a mental illness. 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? I have always been intrigued by the specificity of the day and time w/o a year – what IS he trying to convey? I presume, like many have said, that he’s suggesting Marion is almost finished with her work week and if she knocks off a few hours early, she can being to proceed with her “plan” w/o her absence being terribly noticeable until late Monday morning when she doesn’t show up at work. At the same time, I think the general nature of the day and time (w/o the year) leaves the context vague, as if to suggest that anyone at any time is capable of crime – if desperate or unhappy enough. Hitch MUST have been a Peeping Tom, or had a strong desire to be, don’t you think? There sure are a lot of hints at looking out – or looking in – at people in their private lives. This shot reminds me of the Daily Dose for Rear Window. It also reminds me of some shots in the movie, The Window, directed by Agostino (?) who collaborated with Hitchcock in earlier films. I highly recommend The Window! 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 opening scene lets you know that Marion isn’t happy playing by the rules, or possibly that she’s just not happy with her life, with the status quo, and is looking for happiness and excitement elsewhere. It establishes her as a rebel, but one who looks very “normal” and conventional.
  5. It’s very late and I’ve had a long day, but instead of going to bed I’m posting my reaction to the title design sequence for Vertigo. This is a compliment to your wonderful course, Prof. Edwards! 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. I think the film is about mental illness if I’m focusing solely on the sounds and images (I’ve seen it several times – trying to put that aside). The sounds are eerie and the extreme close-ups of a single human eye are jarring and yet you can’t look away. The swirls in motion evoke a sense of confusion. It’s a very compelling opening. 2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. See above – the extreme close-up of the human eye. If it’s true you can see into someone’s soul through their eye, up close at this range, it feels as if you could almost dissect who they are, what makes them tick, and hear what they’re thinking (unhealthy thoughts?). 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 score is brilliant. When the names of the actors pop onto the screen in a sudden motion with the music equally jarring (I’m tired and can’t find another adjective just now) it’s a perfect pairing.
  6. 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 camera shot is luring us towards the window, luring us to look out and see the outside world from our safe space indoors. It’s as Hitchcock himself said, that none of us can resist the temptation of looking out at our neighbors, that few of us look away and resist by asserting other people’s lives are none of our business. As you know from my profile name, I live in NYC. It is near impossible not to look! And try to see more than you’re supposed to!! 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? We learn that Jeff thrives on being close to danger and extreme situations; he does this through his photography, which, given it’s his profession, excuses him to get very, very close to real danger. We have Jeff’s backstory through the camera on the table, the photos of explosions and cars and also through the woman on the magazine cover. We learn his name from what’s written on his leg cast. Herein lies the reason this course is so eye opening – I’ve seen this movie multiple times, and never realized, much less appreciated, how much I learned about the story line in the first 2.5 minutes w/o dialogue! 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? Yes, it reminds me I’m an immobile spectator b/c I have no control over how much I see beyond what the film allows me to see. I want to know more about what the interiors of these apartments look like. In fact, I saw this in a movie theater when TCM ran it a year or so ago for this very reason. I could see more detail and it was great fun! 4. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? I’ll cop to having looked up the word “cinematic”, to be absolutely clear I understand the meaning. “Filmed and presented as a motion picture”, motion as in “moving”. Yes, if by this comment Hitchcock meant that watching the film for us as immobile spectators (to borrow your phrase, Prof Edwards) is one that is exceptionally captivating and alluring, then yes, I absolutely agree. This is a flawless film in my view!
  7. LawrenceA - Hitchcock is the Master of Suspense, and you are the Master of "How to Change Your Profile Picture on the TCM Message Board"! Thanks!!
  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. I’m taking creative license with this question. In lieu of answering “how many”, I’m going to comment on one of the first things to actually cross (touch, really), and one of my personal favorite things in the opening scene – the shoes. There are many striking differences between the pairs of shoes Guy and Bruno are wearing. I see them as symbolic of the men’s two styles, personalities and ways. Bruno’s shoes are spectators and evoke the jazz era. They are flashy and fun, and also a little dangerous in a fashion context (are they appropriate for a first class* passenger?). Guy’s shoes are clean and tidy, but not very daring. They are “safe”, in a fashion context. *are they in first class? A first class dining car? Or is that how stylishly everyone traveled then? If so, I am letting out a big SIGH as I write from a current business trip on which there are no such frills. 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. Refer to my comments above about the shoes. Bruno is in contrast to Guy in that: one, he is extroverted and claims not to “talk much” when, in actual fact, he is gregarious and quite talkative. Guy is somewhat introverted, polite, a little sheepish, especially for someone who is a tennis star. There is a notable contrast between the first few minutes where everything is filmed and shown roughly “below the knee”, if you will, and then as soon as the shoes touch – wham – you’re in a lighted train car with all the “bells and whistles” of a first class [dining] car. Also, forgive me for introducing current political references into the conversation, but even in comparison to a recent 29-second handshake that took place in Paris, that is one weird “hand shake” between those two men! (Does Guy even actually shake?!) 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? Can I confess I barely noticed? It is rather zippy and lighthearted while they’re in the car. I believe my subconscious picked that up. I love this film!!!
  9. 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. The money haphazardly lying about suggests he is on the run, and yet he is very casually smoking a cigar and appears to be very calm. When the Mrs. Martin comments about “not having much trouble that way”, meaning HONESTY, he looks down almost in shame. You know he’s far from honest. When he tells Mrs. Martin he may go down and meet them in person, or he may not, he conveys he wants to remain in control of whatever is going on; it’s his decision whether or not to see his “friends”. You sense he is very deliberate and always wants control. He is also a very snazzy dresser, another way of conveying his deliberateness. 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 room becomes almost black (noir) after the woman pulls the shade down. Also the music/score – it is very different before Mrs Martin pulls down the share. It is lighter and more joyful. But as soon as the shade comes down the tone (set by the music and absence of light) changes remarkably. Also, the score has a big impact on the sinister feel of parts of this scene, parts that are noir in tone and first impressions (the mood). 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? It is everything in this scene! Imagine watching it without the score. The effect is one of an ominous feeling. The crescendo is akin to a surge of fear rising up in your chest. I love the one tiny moment in the score where hear just enough of the Merry Widow tune to connect that song with Uncle Charlie. Fantastic!
  10. 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 opening scene differs greatly; it isn’t as frenetic, action packed or scary. Instead, it is mellow, intriguing and has a lot more images and fewer people. 2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? Possibly the camera angle leading up to our first glance at Laurence Olivier on the cliff. The sense of dread upon seeing the immediate drop to the ocean. 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 name Manderley is repeated over and over, and then you actually see it, in a dilapidated state. You know it plays a central role in what’s about to unfold. The flashback and voiceover piques your curiosity – you think to yourself, “what happened to this grand house? Why is it abandoned and dilapidated? Where is the grandeur it once knew?” I particularly like the *name* of this movie
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