Analysis Project # 2

Filed under: Analysis Project — emodjsteph at 1:50 am on Friday, December 9, 2011

In thinking of “the male gaze” and representations of gender, I decided to analyze the infamous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. From the moment we first see Marion in the shower, the camera is the male gaze, objectifying and nearly raping her. She is naked in the shower, vulnerable and weak meanwhile still remaining sexualized. Marion is blissfully unaware of the camera’s, our and the male gaze on her, putting her in an even more vulnerable position. Marion doesn’t consent to being looked at, but the camera doesn’t care, like the unforgiving male gaze can be. More than just having the camera and the audience’s eyes on her, the killer can see Marion but she cannot see him.

In one shot, you can see both Marion and the killer in frame at the same time. They start out roughly the same size but as the camera zooms in on the silhouette of the killer, Marion becomes smaller and the killer becomes larger. This change of scale represents the killer’s physical presence over Marion, who becomes no more than prey to be slaughtered by a predator. Hitchcock uses zooming in here as well as a way to physically guide the audience’s attention where he wants it, taking advantage of the power he has as a director that means we see the story as he chooses to show it to us. The camera is aggressively guiding the audience’s eyes, asserting dominance as if it were a man controlling a woman.

The blurry silhouette of the killer through the shower curtain is a good visual representative of the fact that the audience doesn’t know who it is. As the killer approaches and gets closer, the figure becomes less blurred and when they draw the curtain back, it’s expected that their identity will be discovered. Hitchcock throws the audience for a loop by still concealing the killer’s identity after falsely promising to expose it, seeing as the killer is in shadows and is still just a silhouette. It does hint at the identity, suggesting it is the mother but it continues to remain uncertain. This is a reminder that we only see what Hitchcock allows us to see and we are passive to him, the way Marion is passive to the killer and to everyone’s eyes.

The sudden high pitched dramatic music startles and throws off the audience, just like the killer does to Marion. The controlling relationships between the killer and Marion, the camera and Marion, man and woman, and Hitchcock and the audience are all mirrored in the cluster of techniques in this one scene. The sudden cut to a close up of Marion’s mouth as she is screaming in terror is showing the male’s view on the connection between sex and violence.

When the camera is at a low angle and looking up at the killer, it puts the audience back in Marion’s position – the weak woman looking up at the powerful implied man. This low angle makes the killer seem physically imposing to the audience, making them seem more frightening. The quick jump cuts mimic the stabbing motions of the knife as well as create a frenzied feeling to the scene. The techniques Hitchcock uses all tend to effect the senses, drawing us in physically to the movie.

Shots flash across the screen almost faster than you can really make them out and amongst the shots are some from a high angle, looking down at the whole scene. Marion’s naked body is very briefly visible in quick flashes, seamlessly weaving in a sexual tone to the murder scene. There is one shot of a close up of her stomach and the knife placed awkwardly by her hip. The knife in the shot, as well as metaphorically throughout the whole scene, is a phallic symbol. Like the way a man rapes a woman, the killer is repeatedly thrusting the knife into Marion’s body against her will. Sex and violence is directly paralleled in these rapid jump cuts.

The diagonal direction the water is flowing constantly flips from shot to shot, creating visual tension – another sensual sense Hitchcock uses as a story telling technique. There is so much going on in this scene that it physically feels more tense and frightening than it may look. The way the camera looks at Marion is constantly sexualized, creating a cognitive dissonance over comparing sex to murder.

The scene ends with Marion dying in a terribly unrealistic and dramatic way – slowly, drawn out, frozen and looking beautiful even after having just been stabbed to death. The way Marion slides down the wall slowly, her face looking blank yet beautiful is a very strange way to portray a victim of a violent murder. It is this male gaze that is unable to view the female without sexualizing her that inspires this bizarre death scene.

Filed under: Movie Viewing — emodjsteph at 10:13 pm on Saturday, December 3, 2011

I’d never seen Psycho or any Hitchcock movie for that matter, before watching it in class. I didn’t know anything about it other than there was an infamous death scene in the shower where a woman gets stabbed to death, and even that I’d never actually seen before. It was a truly unique experience watching it for the first time and I’m really glad we watched it in class because I can’t say I would have ever watched it otherwise. I think not knowing anything about the movie or what to expect made it that much more interesting because I really was taken on a ride while Hitchcock played with my mind. Psychological thrillers are my favorite so this was right up my alley.

Initially, it seems like the movie is about Marion stealing the $40,000 and I would consider this a red herring beautifully created by the writing and supported with Hitchcock’s techniques. The attention paid on the money, including close ups and longer shots, helps support this red herring that we’re watching a movie about Marion and her theft. I find a lot of times in psychological thrillers you can predict the twist correctly long before it happens but that didn’t really happen to me with this film. I predicted that Norman would end up being the killer but I certainly didn’t expect the split personality and decaying corpse.

 

Breathless [À bout de souffle]

Filed under: Movie Viewing — emodjsteph at 4:03 pm on Saturday, November 26, 2011

This movie has to be my favorite out of all the ones we’ve watched so far this semester. I have a few modern French movies that I’ve seen and enjoyed and I was really surprised with how modern Breathless seemed considering it was released half a century ago. The costuming, styling and set all seemed relatively modern French. I was utterly enamored by Jean Seberg’s performance and her character which did take up a lot of my attention while watching but I think that allure was a crucial part of Patricia’s character. The same way Michel was entranced by her, I felt I was as well and I think the documentary-esque feel of the film helps with this. With the natural lighting, handheld camera and on location shooting, the line between film and observing real life becomes blurred and it is easy to feel Patricia’s, as well as Michel’s charm.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s use of a wheelchair for the tracking shot.

I absolutely loved the hotel scene between Patricia and Michel because I loved the entire interactions between the two characters. It could be my romantic fascination with lovers in Paris, especially from earlier on in the century, but I really felt like the scene was a good look into the relationship between these characters. It was also nice because at first it seemed like the movie was going to be focused more on Michel running from the police, but it ended up focusing more on their relationship which I was far more interested in.

I also really liked this line from the movie because I think the idea of someone’s greatest ambition being to become immortal and then die is fascinating. Since immortality is impossible, it alone as an ambition would be big but to die while being immortal is even more impossible. The amount of ambition that one person could have to want to do the impossible of the impossible is a really interesting thought to me.

The biggest take away for me from this movie I think has to be my discovery of Jean Seberg and as much as I enjoyed this movie, I think this was the best part in the end.

Scene Analysis: from Umberto D

Filed under: Analysis Project — emodjsteph at 6:50 pm on Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scene analysis: from Umberto D (dir. Vittorio de Sica, 1952)

16 shots from the scene on the street when Umberto attempts to overcome his pride by begging for money before running into his friend

Shot 1

–       MS

–       Camera is straight on and pans to follow Umberto walking Flike, stopping when they reach the end of the short, curved wall

–       People are walking down the street, all in the opposite direction of Umberto. When Umberto stops, he is in front of strong, vertical columns that run along an angled line to a vanishing point off to the right, in frame. There are no more people in frame at this point

–       Natural lighting makes it look about mid-day

–       Non diegetic music (plays throughout the scene) emphasizes his internal conflict over resorting to begging for money

–       Long take

–       Strong, large column overpower Umberto’s figure

–       Camera slowly zooms in for a tighter shot of Umberto

–       We see Umberto’s dilemma about begging in the actor’s face and hand motions

–       Straight cut to a reverse shot

 

Shot 2

–       CU

–       Camera is straight on

–       Short take

–       Street visible in background – store fronts, people walking

–       Umberto’s figure takes up almost the whole right half of the shot

–       A man walks along the same short wall towards the camera. At the last second, Umberto extends his hand to him. The man walks around him, crossing between Umberto and the camera, leading into the transition

–       Straight cut to reverse shot

Shot 3

–       MS

–       Camera straight on – similar to the end of shot 1 with columns and vanishing point

–       Man pulls out money and hands it to Umberto, but he turns his hand over at the last second to reject it. Umberto looks away, up at the left hand top corner of the frame, diagonally away from the man’s face

–       The man walks away along the line, towards the vanishing point until he walks out of frame, leaving Umberto alone again in front of the columns

–       Shot take

–       Straight cut

Shot 4

–       Same camera work as shot 2

–       People still walking down the street behind Umberto as he continues to struggle with himself

–       Short take

–       Straight cut

Shot 5

–       Same as shot 3

–       Camera pans down as Umberto bends down to give Flike his hat

–       Short take

–       Straight cut

Shot 6

–       LS

–       Row of columns no longer in the back. Now the columns take up more than half of the frame and the rushed perspective makes the closest column much larger than the furthest

–       Umberto bending down to put the hat in Flike’s mouth makes him even smaller in front of the large columns

–       More people in the street in the background – the world moving on around him

–       Deep depth of field emphasizes how small Umberto looks hiding behind a column

–       Everything in this shot is moving except for the columns and Flike (people, cars, Umberto are all moving)

–       A man walks across frame from left to right, cutting in front of the camera

–       The depth of field makes all the people in the shot look very small

–       Straight cut

Shot 7

–       CU

–       Strong, vertical lines, both columns and Umberto standing upright

–       Umberto is hiding and looking out onto the street to watch Flike and the people walking down the street

–       Umberto is just left of center of the frame – asymmetrical

–       Camera is straight on

–       The concrete and chipping texture of the column is clearly visible

–       Straight cut

Shot 8

–       CU

–       Camera – low angle

–       Close up on Flike begging and looking back at Umberto

–       Wall is taller than Flike and the man walking across the background is the same size as Flike’s figure

–       More shallow depth of field – Flike and the wall are in focus whereas the street and people in the background are not

–       Straight cut

Shot 9

–       Same as shot 7

–       Umberto tells Flike to be still – first diegetic sound of the scene and the non diegetic music is still playing

–       Straight cut

Shot 10

–       Same as shot 8

–       Film quality doesn’t look as high as in shot 8

–       Flike is still begging

–       Straight cut

Shot 11

–       Same as shots 7 & 9

–       Umberto pretends to be reading, presumably having spotted someone off screen that is looking at him and/or Flike

–       Film quality is similar to shot 10

–       Straight cut

Shot 12

–       Same as shot 6

–       3 men walk up the street, along the right edge of the frame and across, in front of the camera again like the man in shot 6 except they go from right to left

–       None of the men give Flike money

–       Straight cut

Shot 13

–       Same as shots 7, 9 & 11

–       Straight cut

Shot 14

–       MS

–       Camera above the curved wall – wall takes up the bottom of the frame

–       View of further up along the same street

–       Cars are driving down the street, people walking, shops in the background

–       Umberto’s friend walks along the curved wall, towards the camera

–       Straight cut

Shot 15

–       Same as shots 7, 9, 11 & 13

–       Umberto recognizes his friend, puts away his handkerchief and comes out from behind the column, ending his attempt at begging for money

–       Straight cut

Shot 16

–       Same as shots 6 & 12

–       Commendatore stops to ask Flike what he’s doing there and Umberto rushes over to greet him, ready to pretend he hadn’t put Flike up to his begging

–       Umberto goes from being very small next to the column to being a normal size again next to the other man

The main stylistic decision that stands out the most to me is the long shot following a character’s movements with no dialogue, much like the first shot in this analysis that was nearly 45 seconds long. This neorealist technique is an effective way to connect the viewer to the character in more than one way. A long, continuous shot feels more like observing life in real time and with the lack of dialogue, the viewer is then left with little to focus on other than the character themselves.

The disconnection between Umberto and everyone else shown in this scene is also reoccurring throughout the film in similar ways. People walking around the street quicker, in different directions than Umberto and riding in vehicles are all used repeatedly to reinforce the idea that Umberto is disjointed from everyone. Similarly, height differences are used in this scene and at other times in the movie to show the difference in power between Umberto (who has no money and thus no power) and others, such as right after this scene when Umberto is standing on the street and the Commendatore in on the bus, leaning out of the window to look and reach down to Umberto. Texture is also used in this scene as well as other places in the movie to show the various stages of decay and deterioration that both Umberto’s life and the country of Italy is going through at the time. The columns are very textured, especially in the close up shots when he is hiding behind one, you can really see the texture. The columns are in good shape but in the beginning stages of chipping away and fading, whereas the landlady’s renovations of the building is a clearer and ongoing symbolism.

Some of these are techniques are subtle, but in scenes like this – which there are plenty of – it makes sense that the filmmakers would make this choice. It forces the viewer to look harder and analyze more of what’s in the frame to put together more pieces of the puzzle, like one does in real life. This connection between film and real life, trying to have film emulate real life rather than fantasize it, is what makes these technique choices make sense.

 

Double Indemnity

Filed under: Movie Viewing — emodjsteph at 6:21 pm on Thursday, October 6, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this movie (as seems to be the pattern in this class). I knew very little about film noir as a genre other than the intense amount of shadows but like other black and white films, I just assumed I wouldn’t enjoy it. In regards to the plot, the pacing and the dialogue, I found the movie easy enough to follow and comprehend which made it enjoyable and I really liked Barbara Stanwyck’s performance.

I found it more difficult to take as many notes as usual because I was mostly caught in in following the plot while watching it, but the few notes I made were on different uses of symbolism. After Walter tells Phyllis he’ll help her with her husband, the rug is messed up and Walter fixes it with his foot. This could symbolize his wanting to fix her problems and the subtly they need to kill her husband with. If someone tripped over a messed up rug, it would be obvious and messy – how she would kill her husband. Walter knows better and knows that they would have to be a lot more discrete.

Throughout the movie, Walter always has a match ready and lights it for other people and himself, which I felt showed his confidence in always having the solution to any problem. Even towards the end when things are starting to crumble in his plan, he still lights matches for people, trying to keep his control.

Lastly, in a scene where the two of them are discussing Phyllis’ husband and they acknowledge him as ‘the wall between them’, the open door is between them as a physical symbol of this as it separates them like they claim her husband is.

Blog Challenge #1: Observing Citizen Kane

Filed under: Uncategorized — emodjsteph at 3:43 pm on Saturday, September 24, 2011

There are a lot of interesting techniques used in the scene where Kane signs the papers of his surrender. First there is the size difference between the three actors – one is very close to the camera, the next further away and lastly there is Kane that is the furthest from the camera yet looks the biggest while standing and the focus is on him when he is centered in the frame. The echoing of Kane’s voice as he walks across the room to the window shows the distance between the actors and the window appears a normal size until Kane walks over to it. With the use of deep focus, we then realize the window’s actual size when Kane stand under it. In this scene, Kane walks along the center of the frame on the z axis and this keeps the viewer’s eye on him, even if he isn’t the one speaking. This technique is used repeatedly throughout the movie.

Every time this technique was used, as far as I can remember, the focus is on Kane but towards the end there is another scene where his wife leaves and she walks along the z axis of the frame. I thought that was interesting because it was the first time someone finally took the attention off of Kane which I felt really reflected the scene well. I really like this technique because it really helps enforce that Kane is always the center of attention, thus in the center of the frame even if he isn’t the one speaking, except for when the one time his wife takes that attention and power from him.

The Lady Eve

Filed under: Movie Viewing — emodjsteph at 8:52 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2011

I was surprised that I actually enjoyed this movie. It’s probably because I like romantic comedies and not gangster movies, but I liked this much more than I did The Public Enemy. I also had fun trying to spot biblical references while watching, though the snakes and the apple in the title sequence were fairly obvious.

The woman from the opening scene was the perfect juxtaposition to the female lead – the first woman was silent and submissive to the man whereas the lead is confident and in control of her sexuality. The overt female sexuality throughout the film was surprising but interesting. Whereas we’re used to plenty of objectification of women today, there was objectification of men that was certainly pretty entertaining. I felt like as compared to the bible, the powerful female sexuality represents Eve’s seduction and temptation of Adam and the amazon was a reference to the Garden of Eden. Also when Eve changes her voice and accent, it reminded me that in the bible, it’s mentioned that the devil speaks in many different tongues, which would further support the idea that she represents wicked temptation.

I had some difficult following Eve’s motives, initially I thought her plan was for revenge but then when she ends up with him anyway I was lost. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised how how much I liked the movie.

The Public Enemy

Filed under: Movie Viewing — emodjsteph at 10:21 pm on Saturday, September 3, 2011

I’d like to start this off by saying I am not a fan of old movies. As a general rule, I don’t enjoy watching movies that were made before the 90’s. I also don’t really like anything that has to do with gangsters and have never seen a gangster movie. So, with that said, I didn’t anticipate liking this movie very much but I tried to keep as open of a mind as possible.

For a majority of the film, I was very distracted by noting all the differences between the actors, acting styles, speech and costuming. As someone that tends to look at things from a sociological or psychological point of view, I got very caught up in noting the differences of beauty standards between then and now. It was a bit difficult to try and bring my mind back to focus on the movie itself because the plot didn’t do much to hold my attention. I did enjoy the characterizations and got the impression that the film might have been a little ahead of its time in regards to how they took the time to develop the characters rather than just the plot, but that’s a pretty ignorant assumption seeing as I’ve never watched a movie this old before.

It took some time but I was eventually able to watch the movie without focusing on how drastically different it is from movies made today, and it was then that I was able to almost begin enjoying it. There were certainly funny moments and Tom was a considerably interesting character to follow. I did notice that while we were told before the viewing that there was quite a bit of violence, I was surprised to notice that almost all of the violence was off screen or implied. In the spanking scene towards the beginning, you don’t see the spanking itself – just the set up and a tight shot on the boy’s face reacting to the hits. In almost every scene where someone was shot by a gun, you saw the person shooting, heard the gunshot and then it’d cut to the person falling. As far as I could recall, there was only one time that you actually see someone getting shot on camera and I believe that was when Matt and Tom get shot at and Matt dies. To an extent, that made that death scene stand out quite a bit more to me and I’m unsure if that was an artistic or stylistic choice or not.

All in all, I was surprised I didn’t really dislike the movie. The sexuality, violence and conflicts were similar enough to movies today, though executed differently due to the time period and available technology back then. This helped keep my interest somewhat but my complete lack of interest in the gangster genre probably didn’t help matters too much.

There was a point I wanted to make in class but didn’t get to though so I guess I’ll put it here. We were discussing the public’s fascination and interest with gangster movies and the point that people like to root for the main character even if they’re a criminal because we can partly identify with the desire to lash out and do whatever we want regardless of the consequences, but then cheer when the criminal gets locked up or killed because we feel like justice is served. It’s a conflict between wanting to be a good citizen and wanting the freedom of doing whatever you want, even if it’s against the law. This very strongly reminded me of the Showtime show, Dexter, which I love and watch.

I know it’s not an old film, but it’s a good modern example of this same sort of fascination. In case you don’t know anything about Dexter, a very brief explanation of the show is it centers around Dexter Morgan, a serial killer that only murders murderers, rapists, etc. He works for Miami Metro as a blood splatter analyst and hides his secret from everyone around him. He is very careful and selective about the people he murders and does extensive research to ensure that they deserve to be killed in order to avenge their victims and protect others.

 

What is most interesting about the show is the constant sort of tug of war the viewer feels towards Dexter. Clearly he is a murderer and that should make him a bad guy but he only kills people that hurt and kill other people, so is he really a bad guy or just a vigilante? You root for Dexter in his kills and fear for him when his safety is in jeopardy and he might get caught. It is similar to how I feel most people feel when watching gangster movies, that part of you that roots for the character that you know you probably shouldn’t be rooting for.

 

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