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Daily Dose #4: Depends on Your Point of View (Scene from Downhill)


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Each POV shot puts the viewer in middle of the story. When the boys walk into the room, I can feel their eyes trying to convey every thought and feeling they are having as they take the long walk of foreboding towards the headmaster (me). The shot itself is interesting too because I just watched Hitchcock talk about the counterpoint of a performance. A girl who is sobbing and saying not to laugh. So it is that when we have to take a bitter medicine we want to get it over with fast, but that walk of the boys is so long and slow. I also liked the way the girl shares her memory with the superimposed montage. Clever!

 

Hitchcock uses these techniques to tell different sides of a story. The feelings of the boys at being summoned, the girl with her accusation, the headmaster who has to deal with, probably for the umpteenth time, boys in trouble. When we are engaged in a story in our real lives with friends or family, I think of how many times my head swings back and forth listening to the information being related. Hitch is fantastic at the "ball's in your court" POV to further the understanding for the viewer.

 

The connection that jumps out is the use of the narrowing of a shot to emphasize a feeling or point. The narrowing of the shot on the stairs and the one on the legs in Pleasure Garden to the dark halo around the girl's face in Downhill. Even when we see her looking at the camera between the back of the heads of the two boys, we focus in on her stare and her thoughts.

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I just viewed Downhill and found it mesmerizing. Not sure if that is because there was literally no sound on the copy I watched and having my own background music, but it is a wonderful story told in a classic Hitchcock manner with techniques used throughout his career including a focus on technology, wonderful visual angles and descriptive montages. Although I have seen almost all of his talkies, I only just watched these three movies for the first time and I am glad that I have. It really lays the foundation for his future.

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I have NOT seen this silent film before, so this will be based on the clip only.

 

I did like the quote "the visual and the sound should be counterpointed" from today's video and it works with this clip (even though there is no sound)

 

I am feeling doom and uncertainty with Roddy and Tim as they slowly approach the stern headmaster. We know we've done something wrong and we don't know why we have been summoned.

 

The same also applies when the girl approaches. She looks visibly upset and we don't know how she will react to them. Will she physically or verbally attack them? We seem to anticipate her striking somehow.

 

The limited number of intertitles also adds to the tension as only those good at lip reading would be able to know what they are saying.

 

Hitchcock added the tracking shot to give us a foreboding feeling as if we are in just as much trouble as Roddy and Tim are. It further adds suspense and would have the squeamish biting their fingernails off.

 

The themes of damsels in distress (chorus girl with overzealous gent in The Pleasure Garden and wannabe chorus girl getting pickpocketed, girl murdered and hysterical woman witnessing it in The Lodger and the wife in The Ring trying to be friendly to her husband's rival) are what I saw primarily in the first films.

 

Disappointed that there was no music soundtrack. Like I have said in previous posts, the score drives the film for me (and no silent film is truly silent except in this case).

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I think from Hitchcock's POV tracking and dolly shots, he creates a momentum between individuals without dialogue and music. The shots even feel like the process of interrogation towards somebody, or the time it takes to admit one's fate. The effect, reinforcing the POV, remains sympathetic towards the characters, at least the two boys in these scene. There is a fear that isn't easy to escape, and Hitchcock creates this force of intimidation by using the tracking and dolly shots.

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1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots/ POV tracking shots in this scene?

 

The effect of watching the POV dolly shots and tracking shots gives the audience the feeling of a gliding effect in a motionless way. The effect makes the person in the foreground look larger and the person in the background is blurred out in the normal lens. It kind of feels reminiscent with Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946). I also love the depth of field that Hitchcock experiments in this film.

 

2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? 

 

To give us that surrounded feeling of anxiety, and to also let the audience in on the action of the character's motivation and internal thoughts. The visual storytelling makes one feel as if they are part of the story by bringing them closer to what goes on in the narrative that drives the story out of the ballpark.

 

3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples.

 

In The Pleasure Garden, Hitchcock was able to use the camera to move from row to row to explore the different male characteristics and class distinctions. The Lodger, focused used the wrong man theme, involving a man who can be the criminal, but is turned out to be innocent. The Ring used an extensive montage sequence and the use of Extreme Close Up of the main character's mental consciousness and internal thoughts circling his head. One thing that I noticed that came before this was the innocent man motif, and the gliding camera effect facing backward and forward in the reverse camera shots from one character to another in the POV shots.

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1.     The German Expressionist movement in film making along with visual art increasingly moved toward the personal psychological aspect of inviting the viewer to feel what the subjects of the paintings/films felt. In this clip from Downhill, the “push” shot is used to invite the viewer into a 1st person POV. Hitchcock wants you to feel the anxiety of these two young men entering the room as if you were them. And this is exactly what tracking shots are supposed to do; bring motion, physical and psychological realism to a scene. Personally, within this shot I felt that Hitchcock uses it to also create his classic sense of “vertigo” as if to say, “look out things are about to spin out of control”.  With the absence of the sound, it is imperative that shot selection creates “buy-in” for the audience.


 


2.      Question 1 and 2 were answered together. As far as visual motifs go, Hitchcock again provides us with the montage imagery, in this case to signal a flashback (what became almost a requirement later within film noir). Within this flashback we see a spinning record player and dancing feet. Like in The Lodger and in The Pleasure Garden, Hitchcock is using these techniques to show how the emotions of a moment can create delirium, and a frenzy of unaccounted for actions where the characters are victims of their own circumstance. Moreover, I keep seeing the victimization of women in these films. With Downhill, the female character here is perhaps taking on one of the first femme fatale roles. More than likely this common thread is due to his wife and the women Hitchcock worked with. 


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The POV dolly shots in the scene from DOWNHILL give us all a sense of unease. First of all it looks so unnatural that we empathize with the character’s feeling that what is about to take place just cannot be truth. It makes us motion-sick because it throws us off-balance. We as the viewer are still, yet we feel as if we are rolling through the scene (and well, we don’t walk on wheels). It reminds me of the murder scene in PSYCHO where the detective is stabbed at the top of the stairs and his fall down the stairs seems to be filmed on a diagonal dolly of sorts. The surreal look of this technique enhances the “this-can’t-be-happening” feel.

 

Elements seen in previous clips from Hitchcock include the flipping back and forth in the quick editing shots indicating a rising conflict (in this case between the boys, the female, and the headmaster), a montage of multiple visual elements in a somewhat dizzying or dreamlike manner (the "Closing at 10:00 on Wed." for example is even seen twice in the same shot on different scales), and the close-up of the face revealing the intenseness of the character’s eyes, demonstrating their mood/expression/intention (also seen in PSYCHO when Norman is peeping into Marion's room, and of course Marion's eye "crying" after her murder ). I feel the montage sequence in this clip further acts to explain the backstory as it serves as a narrative flashback making it a precursor to film noir.

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I thought the POV dolly shots were actually very subtle.  These were not long, drawn out shots -- but they had an impact nonetheless.  I too (like others) got this sense of dread as the young woman moved toward the two boys.  She was in the center and everything else just dropped away.  You can't help but be anxious when watching this.  As for why Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot, it's clear that he is working with film in a new way.  Cameras were so static at this time -- people came into the scene and left it, and there were cuts from wide shots to medium shots.  Hitchcock is taking some of the NEW vocabulary of film and incorporating it, even though there are limitations.  By using a POV shot, he really CAN get inside the head of the characters, and you see and feel what they are experiencing on an emotional level.  It's a powerful technique even in this primitive form.

 

I don't know why we see yet another spinning turntable (I'd never noticed that little item before) except to suggest there was music involved in the recounting of her story.  We see a clumsy dancer stepping on her feet, but they move over the rug to another room and one's imagination takes hold.  The montage is used in several films as a form of flashback, and Hitchcock used it very effectively.  We get extreme closeups in all the clips we've watched so far, and a lot of cutting back and forth for reaction shots.  By using these techniques, Hitchcock makes you see what he wants you to see (even if it's a ruse). 

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I have not seen Downhill but there are several things going on in the scene we have seen that make me want to see it.

 

We see money moving from a male hand to a female one in the double exposure part of the scene. Does this imply the woman is a prostitute? Is she? The intertitle that identifies that the boy has a very wealthy father implies that the girl may be just a fortune seeker? Is she? Is she really pregnant? If she is, who is the father? Is he some poor guy who has nothing to offer the girl? While the picture is probably not a thriller, there are certainly mysteries here to be solved.

 

One thing that struck me immediately in the scene is the size of the dean's office. It's huge and totally unrealistic. What dean would have an office that size? But the effect of this enormous office dramatically is quite powerful. As someone else pointed out, there is a long walk involved to the dean's desk. The walk is quite ominous because of its length. By the way, why do both boys seem unaware of the girl sitting against the back wall ever though they pass right by her when walking to the desk? That struck me as very strange.

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1.  The POV shots clearly put the viewer into the heads of the main characters.  The long walk        

     towards the stern looking headmaster, via the tracking and dolly shots, creates a sense of

     dread and fear in the minds of the viewers, as well.

 

2. I think Hitchcock wishes to convey emotions and move the narrative forward, so the audience 

    knows something bad is about to happen to the main character in this film.

 

3. The most striking image, to me, is the closeup of the face of the angry woman.  Hitchcock also used

    a closeup shot of the face of the female victim in The Lodger.  The montage used to convey the

    untrue story (fantasy) the woman is telling of her seduction reminds me of the montage used in The

    Ring to convey the main character's fantasy of his wife's seduction by The Champ.

 

Can't wait to see the entire film.  Love Novello!

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I agree with Strauss when he says that he feels like he is "on the tracks with him and the camera" when dolly shots are used. But in addition, for me, it feels like it immerses you in the story more than just a camera simply observing. During some shots, you feel like the girl, while in others, you feel like the two schoolmates. For example, the shot of the girl approaching them makes you feel nervous for the characters she is trying to take advantage of. This leads into the second question. I think Hitchcock used this technique to emphasize the drama and suspense of which boy she will pick.

 

Visual techniques used in this film and others previously discussed include montage editing and the dolly shots. We see a montage of what the girl is thinking in Downhill and of course the dolly shots, which reminds me of the men in the audience at the beginning of Pleasure Garden. Also, the girl in Downhill is not playing a victim, which reminds me of the chorus girl in Pleasure Garden.

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1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots/POV tracking shots in this scene.

The POV dolly and tracking shots put me right into the action of the shot. I could feel apprehension as the female actress drew closer and closer to the two students. Even though the camera was tracking and moving from the perspective of the waitress, I felt like the story would be told from the students’ point of view. I haven’t seen Downhill, but that’s what I’m guessing about the direction of the story from this brief clip.

 

2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? 

I think the POV tracking shot is a way to bring viewers into the story and to focus their attention on the two students. Hitchcock could have used more close-ups to accomplish this, but the tracking shot adds variation and a bit of movement to an otherwise static scene. Almost the whole sequence takes place in the headmaster’s office, but viewers move from outside the office door into the office, and then closer and closer to the headmaster.

 

3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples.

The most noticeable technique for me was the alternating shots between all the characters. The first shot was a rather long one from outside the office door. When the students are standing inside the office, with the waitress behind them, the camera is closer to them: We see the students from head to toe, but we’re closer than we were in the first shot. When the perspective changes to the boys’ point of view, they see the headmaster from a great distance: another long shot. Later in the sequence and at various points, we see all the characters in close-up. The choker close-up is reserved for the female character (the accuser), which was true for the woman screaming at the beginning of The Lodger.

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1. POV Dolly / Tracking Shots - These methods pull us, the viewer, behind the eyes of the main characters. The dolly tracks into the young men as if dread is walking towards them, ready to confront them. They are caught in the beam of the situation and cannot look away or even move. The counter point of these two shots gives us a pulling into the situation but all one of stepping away. It's a little tease on the perspective of the situation and makes us wonder if what is said is really true. It's a visual "my word against yours." The POV for all characters makes them all guilty of something but it doesn't let us know how much of that guilt is rooted in truth, innuendo, failed bravado, etc. She is not pure. Her looks leer at the men and she comes off as a gold digger or tramp with a problem and one of these men will solve it for her at any cost.

 

2. The POV tracking establishes relationships...sometimes at a distance but almost undeniably magnetic which is why this problem might exist. The guys look like the grim reaper is moving in on them as the camera tracks towards them. They freeze and just stare. This establishes the weight of the accusation and the guilt for one or both of them. The tracking away almost gives us a chance to breath/exhale as we get a broader view of the immediate location. It's a reality check. It's not last night anymore. It broad daylight. The tracking techniques allow all characters to contribute to the dynamic of the relationships presented before us and fill in what can only be surmised if we read between the lines of the dialogue cards.

 

3. The montage with visual images superimposing over one another make this seem dreamlike. Quick cuts back and forth keep us on uneven footing. The money changing hands reinforces what is implied. The close up of her face, in this film and in the Pleasure Garden plays opposite the ogling old pen and in Downhill, the young men. . Hitch likes creating tension between men and women in direct and implied ways.

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The absence of a soundtrack threw me off a bit. I've never seen Downhill, so I watched this clip several times. The POV shots, the tracking, puts me IN the film; rather than observer, I feel like I am in the scene. There's also a kind of suspense, or suspension of belief, in this device. 

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   . . . Signs conveying unusual or specific information (Closing Wednesday at 10:00! Why Wednesday? 

    Is it somehow more shameful that it happened on a regular weekday?)" . . .

 

I also wondered about the significance of the sign. At one point it says, "Closing Wednesday at 1:00" and then there's another sign that says, "Closed." I guess that could show the passage of time, but surely there's more to it than that. Maybe viewing the entire film will answer those kinds of questions.

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Q: 1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene? 

A: The way the shot is constructed makes me feel nervous. I'm in the two boys' shoes and the headmaster's office seems huge and the walk to his desk takes forever.

Q: 2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? 

A: It adds to the tension and suspense of the scene. You feel like you're in the heads of the two guys in the room. It intensifies the nervous tension.

3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure GardenThe Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples. 

A: In all the films there is a feeling of closing in or confinement: the murder victim in The Lodger; the chorus girls coming down the spiral staircase in The Pleasure Garden; and the fighter sitting alone in The Ring.

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Okay, I said that I'm not a fan of silent films because I like the whole package, but in this completely silent scene, I was paying more attention to facial expressions and body language of the four characters. I've never seen this movie, but it seemed to me that the young woman was lying, that Ivor Novello's companion was extremely nervous about what she was going to say, and Ivor Novello's character was completely confused about why he was there.

 

The tracking shots gave me an ominous feeling. Especially when we saw the expression of the president (?) the young men were going to see. We, as the audience, get the feeling that there is something very bad going to happen. Then to be able to see the girl in the chair behind the young men, knowing they have not seen her, the expression on her face shows us the trap is set.

 

I once taught The Story of Movies, created by The Film Foundation, IBM, and TCM. It was designed for junior high and high school students. I think it was stated in one of the training videos that the camera is showing the audience where to look, so the tracking shots are leading the audience to pay attention to very specific things. The slow tracking shot of the president mimics the boys approach to his desk. If it was a happy occasion, they would probably walk faster. But we see by his face, this is an extremely serious situation. The slow movement helps us feel that.

 

In The Pleasure Garden, we have that tracking shot of the front row of mostly male audience members watching the dance. In The Lodger, we see the woman screaming as she is being strangled, from the POV of the murderer, and in The Ring, we see what both the husband and wife see when they are looking at each other's reflection in the same mirror. Also, both Downhill and The Ring have montage sequences.

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The entrance of the boys provide a Pov that you are the one accused and the motion of the woman coming to them, implies the viewer is accused as well. The sense of motion does give unbalanced feel to the audience as vertigo. This is minimal effect 4 me, but the sense you are involved makes the technique work.

 

Hitch must have used every trick in the book, visable, sound, color, motion, etc. If you can get audiences involved you can get success.

 

Superimpositions, in the ring and downhill. All, so far, use facial closeups to speak volumes.

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1. In your own words, please describe the effect of wattching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene?

 

The POV dolly shots and tracking shots put me into the scene. I could feel the trepidation as the young men walked towards the dean's desk. While the track shot made me wonder what's going on(?) as it went from the young lady back to the dean's face.

 

2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling?

 

I think Hitchcock uses the technique of a tracking shot to convey confusion in this scene. He wants those watching it to understand the confusion of the character.

 

3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples.

 

Hitchcock used the montage in the Pleasure Garden and this film I noticed the spinning recording to convey the speed of how quickly life can take a turn. I thought the use of the wronged man theme here is a better plot twist than in The Lodger, but one which he uses effectively throughout his career.

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  1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene? 

Watching these POV tracking shots create two different effects. The first is obviously that of making me feel that I am seeing and feeling things as the character is. The second and more important effect is that the pacing of the moving camera adds a tension as the camera moves towards the subject as if there would be a collision or climax when the tracking comes to an end.

  1. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? 

Hitchcock uses POV shots in general to try and put the spectator in the mind of the character. So we not only see what the character sees but we also feel what the character feels. This allows us (the audience) to be more than detached observers of an event. It makes us feel that we are a contributor to the events that we see happening on screen.

 

I have one last observation. I noticed that approximately 45 seconds into the clip Hitchcock used rack focusing to change the focus from the male character to the sitting female character. I was wondering if this technique of rack focusing had been used before and by whom? I welcome any answers.

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1. The POV shots brings the audience right into the shot and give us a feeling of anxiety.

2. I believe those type of shots not only pull the audience into the scene but make the scene flow smoothly and convey whatever emotion the character is feeling.

3.The camera tracking and the POV shots are evident in all the films we saw so far; the spinning record in The Ring and Downhill, the CU's of the faces, eyes, and lips. Superimposing images over other images (The Ring and The Lodger) all are signature effects of Hitchcock.

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1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene?

I am drawn into the scene, no longer a spectator, but a participant. The judgment the headmaster makes will be my judgment, the penalty/punishment the student receives will be mine.

 

2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling?

As we are drawn into the scene with the POV shot, we better understand the different emotions the characters are displaying, because they essentially become our emotions. It makes for a better understanding of the story.

 

3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples.

The technique of showing thoughts visually, the girl reliving the time she supposedly got pregnant, and in The Ring, the husbands runaway thoughts of his wife succumbing to the charms of his rival. Both instances the thought pattern crescendos into a verbal outburst by the character...and only we know the cause.

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1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene?  The POV shots make us identify more with the characters. We are, in effect, seeing through their eyes.

2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? He uses the shots to better engage us with the characters and the story.

3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples. The montage, the visuals used for characters thoughts and ideas, as shown with the superimposed images here and in The Ring.

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The POV dolly shots in the scene from DOWNHILL give us all a sense of unease. First of all it looks so unnatural that we empathize with the character’s feeling that what is about to take place just cannot be truth. It makes us motion-sick because it throws us off-balance. We as the viewer are still, yet we feel as if we are rolling through the scene (and well, we don’t walk on wheels). It reminds me of the murder scene in PSYCHO where the detective is stabbed at the top of the stairs and his fall down the stairs seems to be filmed on a diagonal dolly of sorts. The surreal look of this technique enhances the “this-can’t-be-happening” feel.

 

Elements seen in previous clips from Hitchcock include the flipping back and forth in the quick editing shots indicating a rising conflict (in this case between the boys, the female, and the headmaster), a montage of multiple visual elements in a somewhat dizzying or dreamlike manner (the "Closing at 10:00 on Wed." for example is even seen twice in the same shot on different scales), and the close-up of the face revealing the intenseness of the character’s eyes, demonstrating their mood/expression/intention (also seen in PSYCHO when Norman is peeping into Marion's room, and of course Marion's eye "crying" after her murder ). I feel the montage sequence in this clip further acts to explain the backstory as it serves as a narrative flashback making it a precursor to film noir.

Good call!  And not unlike "this-can't-be happening" feel when James Stewart is falling near the end of Rear Window and again when experiencing sickening symptoms of vertigo while climbing the church bell tower in Vertigo

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Watching the POV shots had an interesting effect on me. First, when the shot comes closer to the accused, there is a  feeling of suspense. Its done roughly though, I felt however its a rough woman, falsely accusing someone or so it seems as she is so unsure. That's my impression as she takes forever to lay her blame. It has to be false.

 

I love the POV shot where there is superimposed / layered shots. Its unique even to this day. Not done very much and it draws my attention to the story through her distorted eyes. Its brilliant!

 

The connection I noticed from The Pleasure Garden to The Ring and this film, Downhill is that in each film, there is a common theme of  a man  having to prove his innocence due to a woman wreaking havoc. Visually, there is lots of action yet the focus is to single out a wronged man.

 

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