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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #21: Criss Cross (Opening Scene from Strangers on a Train)

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If Film Noir is Noir by virtue of the emotional response it is designed to elicit, than Hitchcock is indeed in a unique class.  The mere utterance of the words - Hitchcock or Hitchcock film - elicits an immediate, emotional, gut wrenching, uneasy, and disturbed quality of feeling.  It is a feeling we ALL share, instantly, like a communal tasting.   

 

Noteworthy, a person need not see numerous Hitchcock films for an imprint on their psyche.  One need only experience ONE Hitchcock film - and a person can identify with that old, Hitchcock feeling!

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When I first saw the feet, I assumed the flashy shoes would belong to the younger man. When we finally see the two men, it is the slightly older man who wears the flashy shoes. Bruno then shows the tie clip which even he admits is not in great taste. You start to get an idea of the man. He's a bit flashy--why? He doesn't seem confident. He immediatly latches on to the Farley character. It isn't until that moment when you get a creepy feeling. Just that short time tells you Farley Granger--Guy--is going to have problems with Bruno. Even their names tell you about their character. It's not a surprise when you find out Bruno is creepy and Guy will be his victim.

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If the shoe fits, walk in it

Alfred HItchcock's purposes and rhythm are different than other films noir in that he uses the visual motif of shoes, legs walking, and styles of luggage and clothes along with music to imply the character of each male person introduced.  The man with the black and white wing-tips and striped trousers strolled to a jazzy rhythm while the man in the modest dark loafers and solid pants walks to a more energetic rhythm; the music changes for each male indicating his personality.  The music changes to a menacing, dark tone when we view the multiple crossing of railroad tracks; now, we sense a foreboding mood that is connected to the essence of the story--the crisscross of lives.

The noir element of the contrast of dark and light is presented at the very beginning with the high arch of the entrance to the railway station.  From a bright view of the capitol building, a dark car enters the archway, and the sense of noir is established.  The view of shoes and legs is similar to The Hitch-Hiker and Kiss Me Deadly in giving the viewer the idea that the story is one that is subtle and hidden; it will be revealed a little bit at a time, and therefore, the viewer is pulled into the plot through a curiosity of intrigue. 

In a demented sense, this scene of Strangers on a Train visually plays out a well-known quote from To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus teaches Scout understanding of another person by walking around in someone else's shoes.  Even though Mockingbird comes a decade later in 1960, from 2015 one can think of the Mockingbird quote and get a creepy feeling that he/she would not want to walk around in a killer's shoes.

This opening scene of  Strangers on a Train is reflective of Laura.  Bruno recognizes Guy from his exposure in the media just as Waldo Leddeker recognizes the detective.  Bruno wants to be "known" and remembered, hence his showing is name tie-clip, just as Waldo proclaims his renown for his radio show.  Both men have a need to achieve some type of fame, or more precisely, infamy.

Hitchcock is noted as a "special case"  given that Hitchcock is unique in his genius as he is in his cameo appearances in his own films.  His movies transparently bear his distinctive imprint of his creativity; the viewer has the innate sense that the film is Hitchcock.  As for the discussion in the context of film noir, Hitchcock does present a special case in that he uses comedy as well as despair and horror to draw the audience into his web of suspense.  His films are not totally dark from beginning to end.  In a very Shakespearean fashion, HItchcock provides some comic relief amid a dark plot while other film noir director stay in the dismal grittiness of the story throughout the entire film with no brief moments of relief.

 

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In the opening scenes of Kiss Me, Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, even before the credits have rolled, something visually interesting and unconventional is being shown: a woman running down a dark road and reversed credits, and a sole and predator hitchhiker thumbing a ride on a deserted highway before murdering a woman in cold blood. 

 

In contrast, Strangers on a Train has a more conventional stationary opening as the credits scroll forward, then we have the more visually interesting shots of two lives colliding via shoes on a train. Also, the music is typical and there is a humor to it, sort of like a meet-cute. It still is a sinister wrongdoer entering the life an otherwise average person, but it isn't foreboding or high contrast. It's not at night in a seedy environment, there is no sharp dialogue followed by a scream. It's in the middle of the day on a public transport where two people's feet accidentally bump under the table.

 

Hitchcock's films often are stylistically noir (i.e. Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, Marnie) or have common themes, like an average man wrongly accused (The 39 Steps, SaboteurThe Wrong Man) or mixed up in a darker world due to one misstep or bad timing (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, North By Northwest). In this particular film, the latter category definitely resonates.

 

Hitchcock absolute deserves special consideration in the noir discussion. While the content matches with other noirs of the period, the style is at times a little more subtle, and the themes of cynicism, amorality, sexuality, and distrust are infused with a humor, an absurdity, and a suspensful, slick energy.

 

Note: The men of Hitchcock's film also tend to be more conventionally attractive (i.e. Grant, Olivier, McCrea, Clift, Milland, Newman) or have a veneer of innocence (Cummings, Stewart, Clift, Perkins, Walker, Granger), not counting noir regulars like Joseph Cotten.

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For me, Strangers on a Train is top-tier Hitchcock. While we don't get something as exasperating or dramatic in this opening scene, we do get, as Dr. Edwards points out, a criss-crossing pattern that not only let's us know that these two characters will eventually meet, but that we should also eventually compare them. Just from his editing choices, we'll simply have to acknowledge that Farley Granger and Robert Walker's characters will intersect.

 

Going all the way back to The Lady Vanishes, trains serve as an important symbol of an incoming force--characters, situations, etc.--that the protagonists must deal with. We see that in later films, too, such as Laughton's The Night of the Hunter. This cross-cutting in editing, then, sort of confuses us into determining which character, or characters, will be this force. We can kind of guess it's Bruno (Robert Walker), but we'll just have to see where this train takes us.

 

I'd also like to point out how Hitch plays with our expectations. I think we expect that Bruno, with his spiffy shoes, is an important figure with money. But then we learn that he gets lavish and monogrammed pieces of clothing from his mother. He's a talker and interested in others, but we don't really know anything about his occupation or social status. Farley Granger's character, however, is a tennis star but wears ordinary clothes; perhaps he doesn't want to draw attention to himself by doing this, but he's still instantly recognizable. He seems humble, whereas Bruno does not. It's an interesting play of expectation, which Hitch was always masterful at.

 

I wouldn't necessarily say that Hitch was a noir director, but he certainly has noir influences in many of his films, such as Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent, The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train, Psycho, North by Northwest, Rear Window, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 & 1956), Suspicion, Spellbound, Notorious, and others. As we learned, many of his earlier films would be classified as a thriller or detective story, and a lot of those elements can be found in film noir. I think it's safe to say that many of his films do retain those elements. Whether or not they're films noir, though, is debatable, of course. He'll always be the Master of Suspense.

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The opening isn't overtly noir.  There is no dramatic low-key lighting, back lighting or dutch angle camera shots.  The noirness in the narrative two strangers fatefully meeting.

 

The credits roll over a view from a coolly lit tunnel into the bright sun (like a train looking out a tunnel).  With out the title a viewer may well have drawn the conclusion a train was going to be the setting of the film.  The low-angle shot introduces our protagonists but keeps them as estranged from us as they are from each other.  Our only clue to who they are, their shoes.  They allow us to begin profiling them and this engages us in the movie immediately. Both are men's shoes, one pair an expensive brand so a well to do man, the other ordinary, so an ordinary man.  It's not until they finally meet via a fateful kick that we get to see there face.

 

The shot of the train leaving the station also fits the noir style.  Discordant tracks criss cross the screen building suspense in the viewer since he has no idea where he's going.

 

Alfred Hitchcock is a special case in the pantheon of great directors be it noir or any other style of film.  His art stands out above them all.  While he certainly uses the many characteristics we've discussed as facets of noir film in many of his films' I feel he uses them because they're they best way to tell his story and keep his viewers involved in the story.  So while he certainly has films which belong in the noir cycle I think Alfred was trying to something holistically different with his movies than say Lange, Wells, Mann or any of the other great noir directors.  So yeah, that makes him special.

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Not much to add here to what most people have said... when compared to Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, Strangers on a Train's opening feels light and jovial. There is a jaunty music, and the pace feels breezy.

 

An interesting thing is how, aside of their shoes and luggage, Hitchcock keeps each of the characters out of view until they meet each other. So we discover Bruno at the same time than Guy, and viceversa.

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The saying that begins, "Oh what a tangled web we weave," is what I think when I see the train tracks criss cross.   

When I think of a Hitchcock film, I think suspense - not noir.  I believe Hitchcock is a special case because he uses sounds, music, lighting and costume to depict ordinary people as ordinary people in ordinary circumstances and does not create the illusions that we usually see in noir.  He does not put the characters in black to show their noir hearts.  In this scene we see the two men in different colors than we would expect in a noir film.  They board a train but unlike the loud and raucous train in La Bete Humaine, this train is just a train.  The music and scenery has a gentle nature to it just as the zither music in The Third Man is unlike what we expect for a film noir. 

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I can see where Hitchcock's direction might be considered a little different than most noir. His openings don't smack of danger right away; they generally start with ordinary situations that then develop into dangerous ones. He still puts the nuances in, though, that give you some information about what's in store---a lot of crossing in this opening (crossing a concourse, train tracks crossing, legs crossing), showing two men of different style and purpose, and the indication that one's gong to be a liar (Bruno tells Guy he doesn't talk much, but he's already started doing that and is obviously not going to leave Guy alone during the trip).

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A lot of the films noir we have seen in the daily doses up to this point have launched right into the darker material, especially considering Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker. Christina is running for her life, half-naked down the highway, so desperate for a way out, she throws herself in front of a car that easily could have killed her. Roy and Gilbert immediately find that it would have been better not to be good Samaritans and pick up a man who's had car trouble in the middle of the night. Hitchcock's films tend to open on the ordinary and slowly ratchet up the tension. What else to expect from the master of suspense? But even though you are not hit right away with the impending sense of doom, like many films noir, there is plenty of symbolism in that opening sequence that can be a sign of things to come, usually for worse.

 

The theme of criss-cross is present right from the beginning following the opening credits. Two train passengers arrive at the station, once in fancy dress and shoes and the other in more business casual attire. They both are heading towards one another from opposite ends of the frame. The music is almost whimsical, but also provides a sense of marching to one's destiny, a random encounter that will change the lives of both these two men, a common staple in film noir. Even when they head to the back of the frame to board the train, Guy and Bruno approach from different direction. The two ships passing in the night are about to collide. The enter the train car from opposite ends, still using the same directions: right to left for Bruno and left to right for Guy. Then a casual bump of the shoes we have been following since the start of the film and our characters have criss-crossed into each other's lives. Bruno moves from his side of the train over to Guy's, giving us a sense of how the man will invade Guy's life from here on out while Guy tolerates him with mild annoyance. In this regard, Bruno is practically the femme fatale of the film, in his attempt to lead Guy away from the straight (no pun intended) and narrow and into the darker realms of human behavior.

 

Hitchcock is a special case because while his films aren't exactly like the others we have discussed so far during this course, there are plenty of similarities with the styles of film noir that have been covered. You have a femme fatale leading the protagonist into dark and lurid behavior. Guy is trapped by his circumstances and is bonded to Bruno through a murder pact. There is a creeping sense of paranoia as Bruno stalks Guy later in the film. Hitchcock using great and memorable visuals of everyday occurrences to unsettle the audience, such as Bruno as a lone dark figure on the steps on the Jefferson Memorial, similar to a blot on the pure soul, or during a tennis match where all the spectators shift their glance back and forth as they follow the play while Bruno looks straight ahead. The Hitchcock style is not pure film noir, but there are strong elements woven into the fabric which help to elevate his films among the rest.

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I can see where Hitchcock's direction might be considered a little different than most noir. His openings don't smack of danger right away; they generally start with ordinary situations that then develop into dangerous ones. He still puts the nuances in, though, that give you some information about what's in store---a lot of crossing in this opening (crossing a concourse, train tracks crossing, legs crossing), showing two men of different style and purpose, and the indication that one's gong to be a liar (Bruno tells Guy he doesn't talk much, but he's already started doing that and is obviously not going to leave Guy alone during the trip).

 

Yes! I'm glad you picked up on these subtle cues of difference, some of which I didn't notice either on first blush until revisting. This opening also has lots of doubling, which continues to a huge degree until after Hitch's cameo, e.g. double scotch and hitchcock seemingly carrying a double bass instrument onto the train. The shoes, for instance, although we get clues early on that though there are formal similarities and forms of the same thing, the styling of them is quite different. And both the central characters are revealed at the same time, cuing us to look for how they are like eachother and yet when you look more...different. Hitchcock really set up a lot of themes for this theme very early on.

 

I'm very tempted after I'm finished with this course to plow through a lot of Hitchcock films. Hitchcock has a very trademark and recognizable style, but it's hard for me to put my finger on his voice exactly. 

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21. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: Shoe's On The Other Foot

Two pairs of shoes heading towards each other, while cross-cut with criss-crossing tracks, meet while legs cross.

"I certainly admire people who do things."

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The rhythm of the opening sequence helps define the two main characters of Strangers on a Train.  This noir begins with an unusual lightness of being, as the footwork between Bruno and Guy play against eachother’s purpose with a playful musical score.  We’re introduced to these two oil-and-water types by their:  Bruno’s two-toned flamboyant footwear contrasts with Guy’s solid, no-nonsense dark shoes.  We’re not quite sure that we’ve read the programming guide correctly - this is a noir film, right?


 


As they settle into their seats in a friendly face-off, the camera abruptly switches to the train veering off onto another track.  In an homage to noir classic La Bete Humaine, director Alfred Hitchcock signals that things are about to get pretty dicey on board.  Hitchcock’s approach to directing film noir is a seamless production, where cinematography gently coaxes us into a world where the killer fish swim in the murky depths, just beyond our view.  Always a master of the cinematic thriller, Hitchcock melds the standard noir elements of light and shadow, mood and madness into an A-list noir, leaving us to marvel until we wake up with the closing credits.


 


It’s hard to argue that Alfred Hitchcock is a ‘special case’ - after all, he had the best that money and studio support can give to a production.  A-list films don’t have that assembly-line feeling, and Hitchcock’s noirs never felt gritty, dark or constrained.  It’s the difference between a garden party at Martha’s Vineyard and a backyard BBQ in Chicago. Hitchcock’s earlier British films had more in common with a B noir, but then he didn’t have all the Hollywood movie industry luxuries at his command.  


 


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This opening scene has a brilliant musical score and I think the pace of the shoes is in tune withy the music. Indeed HHitchcock is in a class by himself as a director.  The camera work had a unique style to it and I loved it. 

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I'm actually not familiar with this film except circumstantially...there is a movie with Danny DeVito & Billy Crystal Called "Throw mama from the train" in which Danny DeVito's character, after having seen strangers on a train, is inspired to try and make the same deal with a random 'stranger' he meets (billy crystal) that he will kill the stranger's wife if the stranger will kill his mother. 

 

One of the things the daily dose write up talks about the shoes in this scene and the ones in the hitch-hiker but honestly I'm not seeing a simiarity. In the hitch-hiker for the first several minutes we don't see anything above the calf...here we almost immediately get the entire back sides of full grown people. What I did pick up on was each of the men seemed to have their own theme music as they were getting out of the cars. 

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Knowing this film, and it's not one of my favorites, I find it too edgy for me... Walker's character is just beyond creepy.  Still, watching the beginning through "Film Noir" eyes has made me see things I would never noticed before.  You watch two pairs of shoes, one flashy and one just standard getting on the train.  It already tells you a lot about the characters.  The wing tips give you the sense of someone who likes to show off, or appear bigger than they are.  The regular dress shoes make you feel as if this person is standard, not so much to take notice of.  One pair says, "Look at me," and the other says, "I'm just doing my thing, no need to notice me at all." Which is surprising when you also once you meet the two men, The one with regular shoes is a huge tennis star and the wing tipped fellow is just a "regular" man. 

 

I also like the train tracks, I never really looked at them before, but what I dug was the fact that the tracks go straight and then come to a fork.  It is  the meeting of these two men that puts it on a path of the track on the right side, but how easy it could have been for the train to take the left track, if only these two men had never met. 

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For starters, this is my favorite Hitchcock movie. Now, on to the discussion:

Unlike Kiss Me Deadly and Hitch-Hiker, there is no sense of urgency in this beginning scene. It is a simple ordinary scene of an ordinary day: two people taking a train. And yet, we sense that these two men are going to be interconnected and important to each other in this story. When the men get out of their cabs and walk to the train, the shots keep cutting, making it seem that the men are walking toward each other rather than to the train. Then cut to the crisscrossing tracks and finally the criss cross legs before we meet these two men. And yet they are different. The first man has fancy shoes, an expensive suitcase, and a stripped suit. The other man has tennis shoes, a shabby suitcase, and a solid suit. 

One of my favorite things about Hitchcock and his use of film noir is that he uses regular and familiar film noir forms and themes as MacGuffins, not important to the true telling of his story. In Notorious, the main characters are fighting Nazism by trying to find film in wine bottles. And yet we don't care about that; we care about the story of the two characters. In North by Northwest, there are spies and film and Communists and yet we don't care about that either. Hitchcock used common film noir themes to move past them and into deeper stories. 

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I definetely agree that Alfred Hitchcock must be considered a special case when we talk about film noir, just because he does not follow the rules of it. Hitchcock's filmography has his own marks in style and substance throught the years, no matter what the world was facing in a particular time. His movies deal a lot with the suspense and desperation, but that doesn't have much to do with Hollywood's mood at the time. Noir desperation in a postwar era was deeply envolved with the tough reality of men at that time. Hitchcock show the audience a dark reality of humanity all the time, and it has nothing to do with the world. The opening scene of 'Strangers on a Train', for example, deals with the unknown just like many noir films. However, the two men are not particulary motivated by desperation, bad mood, dark dilemas or fatal destiny because of their surroundings. Their actions are ruled by their own particular questions. We can see that clarly when compared with 'Kiss Me Deadly', for example. Yet, some noir elements such as uncertainty are there.

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Unlike Kiss Me Deadly and Hitch-Hiker, there is no sense of urgency in this beginning scene. It is a simple ordinary scene of an ordinary day: two people taking a train. And yet, we sense that these two men are going to be interconnected and important to each other in this story.

 

I love that you pointed this out because it is something I always loved about Hitchcock. The same can be said for Shadow of a Doubt, which also hangs on that edge between noir and his unique brand. The opening is all about a sleep little American town and a mundane, content family who are simply happy to have the favorite uncle home. Already the audience is aware that the mysterious uncle's sinister nature, but you forget as you see him easily slip into a home that could have been just like any other home at that time.

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I am a big Hitchcock fan and agree that he is a special case. I never really thought about his films in the context of film noir (I don't believe that idea was put forth in a college class I took on his films MANY years ago) but, of course many of his films have multiple film noir elements. For me, it is the feelings and emotions that speak to me like any good noir film.

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-- How is Hitchcock's rhythm and purposes different in this opening sequence, from other films noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker?

 

Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-hiker immediately overwhelm the viewer with dread, fear and characters embroiled in conflict. Hitchcock takes a more leisurely pace in introducing the dark elements of the story.

 

Hitchcock introduces two characters whose paths are about to cross using a study in contrasts. His first character is dressed flamboyantly (multicolored shoes, pinstripe pants, lobster tie with his name on it)apparently in an effort to draw attention to himself. He has no boundaries. The second character, filmed in such a way that his path crisscrosses the first, is conservatively dressed, controlled, private and reserved. The viewer knows from the moment that their shoes touch that the movie is about to bring them together. The music established a humorous and playful mood with repetitive musical expressions designed to tweek the viewers curiosity.

 

 

Not much to add to the thughts of others, although I noted that in "Strangers", unlike the other two film openings under consideration, the two characters introduced through careful mise-en-scene begin 'on equal footing' - they both arrive and move purposefully but, as others note without the urgency or tension of either "Kiss" or "Hitch-hiker" - also in both of those other films the individuals introduced are apparently at a disadvantage or in some state of needing help or rescue - so the viewer's knowledge of them begins with an emotionally heightened awareness of being 'on the back foot' so to speak. Here, we may speculate which might be the good guy or the bad guy but it could go either way and curiosity is piqued. As Dubbed (sorry, I lost the multiquote here) puts it:  " both leads in Strangers on a Train are voluntarily heading in the same direction via train. "

 

 

A grand archway lit in the opening leading out into the city, with cars parked facing inwards. Coming in or going out? A sense of a criss cross pattern in the entrance of the train station during the credits. A cab pulls in and a pair of fancy black and white wing tip shoes and pinstriped pants enter to light, jovial music. Another cab, and this time, a plain monotone shoe and pant; accompanied by a plain suitcase and tennis rackets. Both walking with authority and ease in time to the music. It's interesting how much you find about these characters just through their shoes, pants, and luggage. The shoes themselves seem to be their own character. Next we see the criss cross pattern of the train tracks. Which way? Right or left? This time, right. Is this forshadowing of what is yet to come for our two characters? The two paths of Bruno and Guy meet, first with a bump of the toe. When Bruno finds out who Guy is, he suddenly has an interest in him. There's something uncomfortable about Bruno; he's the kind of person that insists on talking to you and won't take a hint about wanting to be left alone.

 

"Oh, I certainly admire people who do things" - Bruno. He seems to be the kind of person that had everything handed to him and has other people do things for him. What is he going to want Guy to do?

 

"I don't talk much, you go ahead and read" - Bruno, as he nudges closer to Guy and peers over his shoulder.

 

There's no despair or hopelessness in this clip, like in Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, but rather an ease and fluidity.

 

Furthermore - the low wide shot from the front of the train (reminiscent of some of early cinema's 'experimental' silent films) of the tracks could be reads as suggestive of the seemingly random or haphazard turns and decisions that create circumstance, thus echoing the philosophical and psychological influences on film noir discussed in the course - and also the various lines or threads of 'truth' that will be laid down and need to be be unravelled for the narrative to reach it's conclusion. In a way, both having, one assumes, boarded the train, the lines of their individual lives begin to be woven together on a single track.....

Hitch is a very special director not special case. 

I tend to agree, auteur theory, although potentailly rich for an approach to film study has been repeatedly shown to be as problematic as it is interesting. Here, it seems to treat an individual with such 'baggage' & and his work as a special and rarified manner WITHIN an already difficult to define body of films such as noir would seem to risk falling into potentially a quite..... narrow or skewed approach to appreciating the richness of film.  Sure, consider this director along with many others who were special, but I like the more 'whole' approach demonstrated in this course of considering the 'question' of film noir from multiple places - directors, actors, the Arts, studios, society & culture......

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The opening to "Strangers on a Train" suggests there is a lot of truth to the idea that what we wear says a lot about our personalities at least as far as movies are concerned. The way the two men's feet are filmed, it gives the impression that they are walking towards each other. Bruno's shoes are very idiosyncratic, while Guy's are more plain. From this early scene in the film, we can tell Bruno is a little strange, and probably a bit of an operator judging by how he begins talking to Guy, moves to sit next to him, and then says he isn't much of talker. Right away at this point in the scene, I wondered what Bruno was up to.

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How is Hitchcock's rhythm and purposes different in this opening sequence, from other films noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker?

 

Light, jolly atmosphere, relaxed protagonists, the music is cheerful. Typical Hitch – I am sure something strange is going to happen in a minute. It always starts with a mistake and an innocent man will be involved in an international affair or simple murder. Or someone does something stupid and would have to deal with the consequences. So we wait in anticipation.

 

What are the noir elements that you notice in the opening of this film? Either in terms of style or substance?

 

It seems like Bruno wants to make contact with Guy on purpose – he recognizes him as a tennis star and becomes more friendly. Seeing this opening I could not help myself from thinking about The Mask of Dimitrios and the scene when Greenstreet „accidentally” meets Lorre, the same innocent chit-chat, but we all know he had a hidden goal.

There's no darkness, no shadows, only legs :) So, we still don't see the gentlemen's faces until the moment Bruno accidentally (?) kicks Guy's leg. The problem is Bruno is too nice to Guy, too interested and that makes us wonder whether he has some hidden agenda.

And those odd angles showing legs and suitcases... Everything is telling us something strange is going to happen within minutes. Criss-crossing legs and criss-crossing railroad tracks are a great reference to what will happen between these two gentlemen.

 

Do you agree or disagree that Alfred Hitchcock should be considered a "special case" in discussion of film noir? Why or why

 

Hitch cannot be placed in one genre, in one style, school or however you call it. He was an artist and what's more a thinking artist. He brilliantly mixed genres by using different styles, motifs in his own way. His movies are always surprising, the tension is legendary. No one mixes jolly pieces with the dark ones so gracefully and the effect is brilliant – much more tension for the shocked viewer. After seeing few Alfred's movies you always wait for something extra, just like in case of this movie – we know he chose another clever way to fool us. The plot won't be simple at all. And the message is clear – don't make any deals or agreements with a psycho, because it would certainly backfire.

 

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The visual symbolism of the “criss-cross” patterns are similar to the staging of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre’s confrontation scene from The Mask of Dimitrios. It’s apparent with the diagonal angles in the direction of the bottom right corner of the screen from diametric directions (Guy from the left and Bruno from the right). Their opposite directions and the contrasting colors of their shoes (Guy with dull, dark shoes and Bruno with shining black and white shoes) show that are on opposing sides and will be at odds with each other very soon.

 

The only visible noir elements in the opening is the dramatic music and the cluster of shadows and low key lighting of the entrance through which the taxis are passing and the streets they’re traveling on in the opening shot. After the first taxi door opens, the music, tone and lighting change completely. Even with the change in tone, there is an element of fate that is tied to Bruno and Guy’s meeting. Visually this is very apparent with the crossing railroad tracks conversing with each other at a fast pace. The tension builds right up until the two men are seated.  

 

As mentioned before, like with DOA, Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, there is an element of fate tied to the meeting of the two men in Strangers on a Train. But, unlike the other opening shots from the other movies, there is no sense of peril and doom here. Hitchcock has a lighthearted, perverse sense of humor, which often results with him toying with the ideas of danger rather than taking it seriously. This shows in many of his films, particularly when Marion Lorne mentions her psychotic son’s “silly” plan of blowing up the capitol.

 

Hitchcock’s sense of humour and other elements , similar to The Third Man (another special case, in my opinion), do indeed make his films a “special” case. There is usually very little moral ambiguity in his protagonists because it is clear who fights for what on which side. Often what is at stake (aka the “MacGuffin”) isn’t even important as admitted by Hitchcock, himself; whereas in other film noir the desired objects (usually money) could mean the difference between life and death. The ambiguities the Hitchcock films inspire are usually external because of how charismatic and entertaining the villains can be (ex: Alexander Sebastian from Notorious, Tobin from Saboteur, Bruno from Strangers on a Train). Other film noir are engrossed by the themes and environments in which they are set. Hitchcock’s films, on the other hand, are more universal, less tied to their time periods and settings; much like Shakespeare’s works.  

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