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Posts posted by mariaki


    Plein Soleil (1960): In a taut, expertly crafted thriller Delon is Ripley, an emissary sent by a wealthy American industrialist to save his son, errant playboy Phillipe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), from a life of decadence in Rome.

    Insinuating himself into Greenleaf's existence, Ripley practices his signature and dresses up in his clothes before attempting to steal his life, his girl and most importantly his money.



    Excellent choice!  I was thinking about Hitchcock when I last saw this film a few months ago. Aside from the story which I think Hitch would have liked, there's gorgeous use of color and definite fetishistic focus on the perfect beauty of  Alain Delon.

  2. Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much  (1963) is clearly a Hitchcock homage, and one of those transnational films mentioned in the class.  It has interesting camera angles, lots of shadow and silhouettes, outdoor and well-known locations in Rome, a man who may be a good guy or a bad guy helping the woman, and more.  Here's the


    Welles' A Touch of Evil (1958) is another that comes to mind. 


    And finally, Shutter Island (Scorsese, 2010)

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  3. How deep was Hitchcock's level of interest in the work of Freud, Jung and psychoanalysis in general?  Did he read their works and consult with experts? Or was it just fashionable psychobabble?   Watching Marnie so close to Vertigo really hits home that he had an interest in the theories and vocabulary of the field, as does also his comment on the subliminal effects of music and color.

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  4. From the start, I wonder if an element of British class structure is going to be in this film.  Using the medieval heraldry for London to identify the place seems pedantic.  Why is any identification needed?  As soon as the bridge comes into view, the 1972 audience will know the location. There's something upper-crusty about that heraldic icon- not to mention the regal music.  


    We come to a well-dressed upper class politician, probably a member of parliament, who is quoting romantic nature poetry from Wordsworth and promising the river will be cleaned up so the brown trout and this bird and the other will be back. In other words, a return to idealized times.  He says the water will be "cleared of the waste products of our society" (you know - those long hairs who practice free love)  a few seconds before a woman's corpse makes its appearance.   It's also noteworthy that he specifies all the water "above this point" will be clear. This specificity makes me wonder about the rest of the river.  Is this a class thing?  Clean here, dump there?


    The majority of people in the crowd are members of the press. Only the back edge of the crowd seems to be the general public.  This is a press moment more than a true interaction of representative class and the people being represented. Just something that highlights a little class separation again.  

  5. The notes on the Daily Dose begin with a quote from T.S. Eliot which suddenly made me position Hitchcock in the Modernist era.  In a way, he is an Imagist in that he shows instead of tells and has nothing that is without meaning in his shots.  In another way, he is a Surrealist, not in his visual style but in the shared surrealist concept of busyness of the unconscious and how it can impact our surface world. I also feel that his narrative is moved along by use of existing texts- the monogrammed matchbook cover, the neon hotel sign, a newspaper headline, a name in hotel guest book, etc. (Was it Foreign Correspondent that allowed us to view teletype ribbon as it was being printed?) This reminds me of the way some Modernist artists- Picasso comes to mind- worked printed materials of urban life into collages- another bit for us to assemble meaning. 

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  6. I am ashamed to say I haven't seen this film and greatly look forward to it because from the reading in our Daily Dose I am very intrigued.


     I am going to hazard a guess that Hitch's direct camera look in his cameo is an act of self-reflexivity.   In the reading we learned that the critics panned the fake backdrop paintings and poor quality rear projection. We know in some film styles total realism is not always a goal and those aspects disparaged by critics might have been by choice rather than poor technique. I think my hypothesis is furthered by the clear intertextual references to other films. In addition to a recurring motif of a woman with money illicitly gained, I agree with Professor Edwards about the drain shot harkening back to Psycho.  The first ID that we see, the one she had just used, was "Marion", again from Psycho. The shot at a station, walking away from the back, waist down, is Strangers on a Train. And a key close-up is in many films- Dial M For Murder, Psycho, North by Northwest and Notorious come quickly to mind.


    I can't wait to see more and try to figure out why Hitchcock might have been in a self-referencing frame of mind, why he would choose that for this film- if he did. 

  7. Prior to The Birds, there were other films about nature gone wrong, often connected to radiation. In many that I can recall, humans unambiguously win in the end and show the ultimate superiority of human intelligence.  However, The Birds is not just apocalyptic but almost anti-Enlightenment in its refusal to spell out cause and effect and its nightmarish unresolved ending. We humans think we are in control of nature and that our God-given superiority gives us the right to express mastery over  other lower order species. We have great logical capabilities, like Mitch's law degree, and we are confident of our success, like Melanie's undaunted determination to pursue Mitch. But in the end, neither looks nor money, not logic nor expertise will suffice to save us from what we don't know that we don't know or from what is simply random absurdity.  And Hitch is reminding us that any at moment, in places where we least expect it, illogical absurdity can complete crush rationalism and collapse our sense of civilized superiority.


    Does anyone else think of 1968 Night of the Living Dead with the refugees boarded up in a house?   

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  8. The graphics in the opening sequence are about one splitting apart and two coming together. It's a visual interpretation of an individual (a name in the title) being torn apart and the complementary action of two parts of person forming a whole.  Together with the  music, the whole opening is really angst-filled.  The music has a driving forcefulness that hints at speed- a linear movement that makes me feel the urge to flee or to hurry to get somewhere before its too late.  Then it slows just a little and a thinner higher melody is worrying and nagging, not soothing. 


    I think the specificity of day and time is more important than the city because  a weekday afternoon  immediately establishes the rendezvous as illicit. When there are secrets to keep, things are only going to get more complicated.  Going through the window to move into the interior shot is such a fabulous touch!  We again are put in the position of voyeur. Our eyes even need a few seconds to get used to the gloom, at first not seeing the objects in the room, after being "out" in the noonday sun! 

  9. Before I finish the lesson and reply to the assigned discussion questions, I wanted to comment on the Osborne interviews which were so revealing.  


    Both Novak and Saint commented on how Hitchcock was concerned with every detail of outward appearance much more so than the internal character. I think this points to the fact that the interior of the men is what drives the films this week. The women remind me of all the furniture in the room that Fred Astaire dances with. They exist for the man to interact with as catalysts, obstacles, frenemies on the hero's journey.  Of course, the women are hugely important to the films but not their depth of character as much as how the men react to them. Detailed appearance is important because we have to read the women the same way the men do.


    Novak thought it odd that Hitchcock watched her through the camera, but to me, that makes perfect sense.  He is looking at the message expressed in the frame, not the wide set. What is in that frame is what makes the movie- the matchbook, the color of a sweater, the skyline, the books in the bookcase.  I'm not saying that the women are only of equal important to a book of matches or the color of a sweater, but I feel that Hitch designs the women, much more so than an average dressing of a character,  so that every minute detail adds to the meaning conveyed in the mise-en-scene. 


    It was also quite interesting how both Saint and Novak discussed their wardrobe. It seems Hitch believed "clothes make the 'man'" because the actors described how putting on certain clothes- the external formation- caused their character to form internally. The idea of him sitting on a plush sofa in Bergdorf's as a bunch of models stroll by is such a chuckle.


     I have seen Saint being interviewed by Osborne before, but never Novak. Her fragility brought a tear to my eye. I loved her and Stewart in Bell, Book, and Candle also. 

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  10. Got to see it Chris!  Very enjoyable and odd how well it fits!  




    [this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]


    I became so intrigued thinking about the relationship between Bernard Hermann's wonderful score for Vertigo and Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan and Isolde that I made a video (just for fun) replacing Hermann's music in the climactic transformation scene with the Wagner.




    In Wagner's Tristan and Isolde the two characters' love remains unfulfilled until First Tristan and then she (Isolde) dies and their love can finally be 

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  11. Chris thanks for all this work!  You've brought together two of my favorites- Hitchcock and Wagner! Both artists plumbed the depth of emotion and the psyche, both tapped into the primal conflicts and desires of human existence.  I won't pretend to understand all the musical examples you gave, but I do understand Wagnerian "non-resolution" and his use of motif, you got me to hear those touches in our Daily Dose as well. The video you made seems to have been removed. Any way to remedy that? 



    [this is a partial quote of my daily dose on Saul Bass' credits for Vertigo.]


    I became so intrigued thinking about the relationship between Bernard Hermann's wonderful score for Vertigo and Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan and Isolde that I made a video (just for fun) replacing Hermann's music in the climactic transformation scene with the Wagner.




    In Wagner's Tristan and Isolde the two characters' love remains unfulfilled until First Tristan and then she (Isolde) dies and their love can finally be consummated. Isolde sings this most famous aria talking about Tristan rising from death to join her in love:


    Softly and gently

    how he smiles,

    how his eyes

    fondly open

    —do you see, friends?

    do you not see?

    how he shines

    ever brighter.


    rising higher

    Do you not see?


    [...and ends...]


    to drown,

    to founder –

    unconscious –

    Utmost bliss!


    How similar is THAT to Scotty's feeling for the 'reborn' Madeline at that moment. Even the ideas of 'drowning', the 'smiles' and 'eyes' (think of the opening credit sequence by Saul Bass), of foundering (a ship that sinks into an abyss). I find this comparison fascinating, but most importantly the idea that 'death' will bring them together. (This is why the music is called 'Liebestod' - Literally 'love death').


    The parallel to the death and 'rebirth' of Madeline, and Scotty finally being able to 'consummate' his love with her (and now he actually has her all to himself for she is no longer Gavin's wife) is clearly visible to me.


    Anyway, I made the video just for fun. Take into consideration that film scores are written to be precisely timed to hit certain beats in a film - a line of dialogue, a specific edit, a close up or zoom, the length of the shot, etc. - I did not want to re-cut the scene or edit the Wagner (both would be sacrilege to do). So I fit it in as best I could.


    Again, this is just for fun and in no way am I saying the Hermann is not good. I honestly believe Hermann's Vertigo scores is one of the best film scores ever written.


    Anyway, hope you like it.

  12. Vertigo is a film I can watch every year (and I do) and find something new. Nothing in the mise-en-scene is by accident or unimportant and the film can be read on so many levels. It's a wonderful puzzle. I love what Scorsese said about the "quiet moments" in this film.  There so much visually going on that quiet moments are genuinely needed to take it all in and digest it. And one of the most amazing quiet moments in any film is when Madelaine/ Judy walks out of that crummy hotel bathroom into the green light.  


    Trying to look at the titles with fresh eyes, I find myself perplexed with the b/w face. I think a woman's face with darting eyes takes us off on the wrong path as far as predicting what the film is about-- if we take the image literally, that is. However, if we just go with the feelings that this face image gives us, we are set up to enter the Scotty's dizzy and confusing world. 


    So, the first face image is the  truncated shot which is very creative. I may be wrong, but that is more of what is happening in European cinema at that time, not in Hollywood. It reminds me of Bergman or some director like that. The off-centering immediately establishes a sense of imbalance. 


    The second face shot I want to mention is when Jimmy Stewart's name is is associated with the female lips. Our brain really wants to create an association between any image that is shown in tandem with text,  so it's jarring to see the man's name over the woman's lips- jarring and odd. Again, we experience a sense of imbalance, perfect for the mood of the film. 





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  13. " Why would this incredible woman exert so much effort on this not so attractive or attentive man? I came to think that Jeff became something of a "cause" for Lisa....her chance to get the guy who didn't want to be gotten. The only problem for her is, it's not working. So she's got to go to great lengths and even put her life in danger to impress him.  Now why Jeff isn't crazy about Lisa....that's just inexplicable."


    I agree this is the wonder of the film! Regarding Lisa, the idea of a "cause" is a good one.  Women in her class did pick causes to work on, they didn't they?  I need to see this again to pay close attention to the dialog, but she could also be attracted to him because of who he WAS, not who he is now. In her society position, she must meet a lot of "the right boys", i.e., boring sons of bankers and guys poised to take over daddy's chemical factory who all go to the same club and vacation at the same spot. We know from her action in the film that she is an adventure-seeker herself.  Maybe that was her attraction to him. Doesn't she imply that she can travel with him but he tells her no?


    Regarding Jeff's feelings towards Lisa- there are Freudian readings of this film that have to do with impotency, preference for voyeurism over agency, and most definitely, the symbolism of that giant long-lensed camera that he seems to have as an extension of his body!  Is he feeling less of a man now that he can't have his foreign adventures and prove his manliness? His costuming too serves him up as an invalid with a frailty that seems to go beyond a busted leg. He's got a gorgeous woman right next to him and yet Miss Torso seems to equally hold his attention. Something telling for me is that awesome POV shot when Lisa's close up face moves toward the camera, presumably to kiss Jeff. She is beautiful and yet there is a a sense of menace at the same time!  "We" are trapped and can't move!     

  14. Everyone has done such a thorough job on our questions this week that I would like to take the opportunity to bring up something else.


    In an earlier discussion between the professors, both agreed that Gregory Peck just "didn't work" as a Hitchcock lead male. Deep down I knew I had always felt that Peck was an odd man out and hearing our professors say that got me wondering why.  Was he too good looking? Cary Grant is about as good looking as they come. Was he too "every man"?  Jimmy Stewart was America's "every man."  


    I've come to the conclusion that Peck was just too upright and earnest.  Aside from "Duel In The Sun", I can't think of any role of the period in which he was a bad guy or even in which he needed to give off multi-layered complex vibes. I don't even think his Ahab was multi-layered; instead, Peck gives a more "what you see is what you get," perhaps a more straightforward affect than a Hitchcock man needs. Peck is perfect for "The Yearling" and "Mockingbird", - of course- "Gentleman's Agreement."  


    When I go back to Jimmy Stewart, I see he doesn't have the physical presence that Peck has. He's lanky and not too broad-shouldered (which is why Stewart was perfect for "High Noon." * He doesn't necessarily look like a strong character.)   He therefore makes a good Hitchcock type because he will be weak enough, psychologically, physically,  when needed.  I mean, try to imagine Peck wearing a robe stuck in the wheelchair in "Rear Window."  I can't.   


    Peck's charm is notched at the right level, handsome, but natural with his style,  not overplayed like Grant's whose charm than can be iced up to cut- as he does in "Notorious."  Grant's ability to make his  face freeze with a half smile and flat dead eyes gives him a edge you wouldn't think was there by watching only his comedies. 


    Just my take on why Peck doesn't seem like a Hitchcockian protagonist- he doesn't muster the weakness or dark side that is needed. 


    *My edit the morning after waking up at 3:00 am with a thought:   Silly me,  Stewart wasn't in High Noon!  That was Gary Cooper, so I need to rethink this.  How about using Mr Smith Goes to Washington as an example instead of a man who doesn't necessarily appear strong, who can be played by others, but ....? 

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  15. There was a bit of moralizing at the very end of Shadow of a Doubt, I thought. It was an  interesting counterbalance to Hitchcock's oftentimes bleak view of humanity. During Uncle Charlie's funeral when the niece and detective are outside talking, the detective says something along the lines of (paraphrase here)  "The world is not as bad as that, but it seems to go crazy now and then, like your Uncle Charlie, and needs to be watched."    I actually found this quite a hopeful message even though I was ultimately disturbed that an innocent man would always be blamed for Charlie's crimes. I also wondered if this was possibly a reference to the war that was currently underway and which was invisible in this film. 

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  16. "Shadow of a Doubt," "Little Foxes, Mrs. Miniver, "Pride of the Yankees," and "Best Years of Our Lives," have one thing in common: one of Hollywood's most underappreciated and talented actresses, Teresa Wright!


    To star in one of these films, would be a highlight in anyone's career, but to star in all five!  


    I don't know why her film career did not last a long time, but she is in five of greatest films ever made.


    ------I was thinking about this last night while watching the film.  She is wonderful in those films and often plays a character who at first seems simply young and carefree but ends up exhibiting her strength in a trying circumstance.  

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  17. Bergman's a mess in this scene, definitely playing against type. First, she is not lit for glamour. Though she still gets some nice hair highlights and a tear near the end that looks like a diamond beneath her eye, she doesn't quite have the star lighting that generally emphasizes her luminous beauty.  


    More notable, in my opinion, is what her look tells us about her character.  What kind of woman goes to bed in last night's party clothes?  THAT kind!  And in her dishabille we see her unattractively picking something off her tongue and handling her hair rat- things you don't expect to see a star do.   Grant, on the other, is sleekly and sharply put together, so creased and slicked back that he looks like a cut out. Grant being Grant, in other words. The pairing says he's a man with the upper hand who's got it all together, while poor Ingrid is at a definite disadvantage.


    I have to say the shot where she's framed in the door, listening to the recording of herself and her father is just a gorgeous bit of acting.  The look on her face changes several times, leading to the end of the scene where she tries again to "hang tough," spitting out "I didn't turn him in."  It's a great reaction shot and shows the wonderful softness beneath the tougher exterior. No wonder Hitchcock wanted her in his films.  


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  18.  Uncle Charlie has a way with women; he is able to garner their sympathy and even when she learns the two men are not Charlie's friends, she all the more concerned with him.  She picks up the money and pulls down the shade, so he can take a long nap. That's just what you need she tells him, a long rest.  


    What an awesome point this is!  It is so crucial to the film- to his crimes and to his ability to fool his sister and his niece- and there it is, right in the first couple of minutes.  Even though he seems a little menacing  to us, laying there on his bed in the dark, his landlady clearly has no trouble mothering him.  

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  19. 1)  He seems to be involved in something shady as he is renting a room yet he clearly has money.  So much so that he doesn't even bother to put it away, giving the indication that it isn't important to him or that it doesn't matter if it is lost.  He also has a temper that we clearly see when he finds out about the men that came looking for him.  As he stands there contemplating whether to confront them or wait for them, he throws the glass in what appears to be anger at the fact that he is being backed into a corner.  I think it would also be safe to assume that Charlie isn't afraid in that his decision is to go out and face the men to see what they do. 


    Your response here made me think more deeply about what these elements show us of the character. I think they add to make him more psychopathic, less of a "accidental bad guy" and more clearly a criminal who flies into violence in a moment, who seems crazily fearless as he brazenly nearly brushes against the men in the street.  I particularly love your point about the money laying around like "it isn't important to him."  Later on when he gives his "I hate rich widows" speech at his sister's dinner table, we actually do get the sense that it isn't about money at all but more about a irrational hatred. 

  20. I've read somewhere that "if it's gonna be noir, you gotta have Venetian blinds."  They add that shadowy, barred look to a space, linear reminders of the dark mixed in with the light, and more importantly, a visual metaphor of imprisonment, of not being able to escape one's fate.


     In the opening clip of Shadow of a Doubt that we saw, I was taken aback by the motif of "bars" in a single shot. I've attached a snip I grabbed from our class video, a single still.  From the white lines on the landlady's dress, to the slats in the rocker, the pinstripes in his suit, the stripes on the pillow and the shadow of the window pane (and more!) this can't be accidental.  I believe it exemplifies Hitch's attention to every detail of mise-en-scene and his tight collaboration with the visual designers. 


    The strains of "The Merry Widow Waltz" are wonderfully woven within the scene as well. Audiences at the time would have been more familiar with the waltz tune than audiences today though I'm not sure if the earlier  Lubitsch film of the same name had the waltz in it or not. But the music plays incongruously with the kids playing ball and the "Rooms to Rent" sign. Later in his room when Cotten decides to go outside, the motif is heard again in a light music box style which is an attention-grabbing juxtaposition to the already known danger of the situation.   I love Hitch's far-ranging use of music- nothing seems out of bounds.  Here he's grabbing something from the 19th century, and a contrast that comes to mind is the dissonant screeching of sound in Psycho, sounds clear pilfered from modernist/avant-garde composers.  

    Looking forward to Shadow of a Doubt tonight! 



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