Psycho (1960)

There isn’t enough to say about Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological masterpiece psycho. Psycho is one of the most discussed films in the history of modern cinema. This is with good reason of course. I, like the billions of others, am going to attempt to discuss the film. I mean why not discuss Psycho, it really was THAT good.

The film stars Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, and Janet Leigh as Marion Crane. Perkins in his career defining role, plays a psychopathic motel owner. He and his lovable “mother” run the property and live in a house directly across from the motel. Perkins and Leigh meet under interesting circumstances. Leigh’s character Marion steals a large some of money from her workplace, and leaves for greener pastures. She stops at a motel in the midst of her escape for rest, it just so happens she had to stop at the Bates Motel. Wheres a Holiday Inn when you need one! I’m sure she was thinking that while getting brutally murdered by Norman *Cough*…..his mother.

I loved Hitchcock’s use of foreshadowing in the film. Before being hacked to death in the shower by Bates, Marion happened to experience a taste of Hitchcock’s masterful foreshadow technique. Rather she fell victim to it. On her drive following the car switch, it began to rain. A torrential downpour plagued Marion while she was driving, and she did what we all would have down while driving in a thunderstorm, use our windshield wipers. So there she was looking at a windshield with water plastering all over it, and a wiper screeching back and forth, wiping the water away. Look/Sound Familiar? Just a few short scenes later Marion finds herself looking eye to eye with a shower head pouring water onto her face, and there comes Bates with the knife. The rain meant to signify the shower, and the wipers meant to signify Bates’ thrashing knife. Now how awesome is that.

This was definitely spoken about trillions of times before, but who cares! I love the movie, and have seen it along with many other Hitchock films numerous times before, but now I get to talk about it.

Great movie, one of my top five favorite Hitchcock films along with Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Birds, and Dial M for Murder. I know its not the conventional top 5 Hitchcock movies but  Grace Kelly happens to be my favorite actress of all time. Put Vertigo and The Man who knew to Much (1956) on the list too. Hitchcock plus Jimmy Stewart (and/or Grace Kelly)=unforgettable classics.

Film Noir

Throughout my years of studying and watching film, the one genre that never seems to let me down is the “Film Noir.” Though it was short-lived, it has had a  lasting effect on American cinema. The idea of dark narration, and most notably the “Femme Fatale” are two of the many aspects of the genre that peek my attention. We saw Jacques Tourneur’s   Out of the Past a few weeks ago and since then I cant get the notion of Film Noir out of my head.

Iv’e never heard of the idea of a ‘Film Noir’ until a few weeks ago when we explored the idea in class. It has now come to my attention that some of my favorite films can be clasified under the ‘Film Noir’ column. My favorite ‘Film Noir’ happens to be The Killers (1946) directed by Robert Siodmik, and starring Burt Lancaster and my favorite “Femme Fatale,” and one of my favorite actresses of all time the beautiful Ava Gardner. I love the idea of a seductive female who cant seem to care for anyone but herself, as much as you think she cares for you or anyhting else…she doesn’t.

The dark lighting, increase in shadows, and narrative voice overs, guide the film, and make the genre so unique. It takes superior writing and camera work to create a succesful film noir production. For all of you who enjoyed Out of the Past or the genre in general, should take the time to see see The Killers. Film Noir is a great genre, and I will continue to watch them, but this time I’ll know its a Film Noir and not just another drama!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was a great sci-fi thriller film, about a doctor who learns that his town is being overrun by ‘clones’ of the townspeople. The film was directed by Don Siegel, and stars Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles J. Bennell, and Dana Wynter as Becky Driscoll. This was by far my favorite version of the film, although I did enjoy the (1978) version as well. The Invasion (2007) was watchable just because of the actors, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. If anyone but Nicole Kidman would have played the lead role as Carol Bennell, I probably wouldn’t have survived the 99 minute run-time.

What i particularly loved about the film was its decision to use black and white opposed to color in the making of the film. The black and white texture truly added a certain horror oriented essence to the film. If the film was made in color rather than black and white it would not have had such a vast dramatic effect on me. This is evident in the scene where Dr. Bennell witnesses his “pod” morphing into an exact replica of himself, which he then chooses to destroy. The “pod” transformation was a gruesome one, not because of blood and gory gruesomeness like that of a Saw-esque film would have featured, but because of its element of curiosity. The film shows you as much of the transformation as it should, while the black and white effect adds an extra punch. Black and white adds a blur effect, perfect for horror films. It adds suspicion due to the dark lighting, and its ominous feel leaves you on the edge of your seat.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original that is, made the Sci-Fi genre proud. It not only had its share of suspense and thrills, but it also had a psychological aspect to it that made it so utterly enjoyable. The first few minutes and last few minutes of the film were a great addition in that it added extra suspense to the movie. Will the doctor believe him? Will anyone believe him? Can we really discern crazy from sane? All great questions and observations that the film and Don Siegel explored so well.

“Film Analysis” MDST 144

Citizen Kane, (Orson Welles, 1941, an RKO production) is sought after by many as histories greatest cinematic achievement. It’s an intricate task to dispute the films artistic genius. Every infinitesimal aspect of Citizen Kane, ranging from the lighting to the camera work undoubtedly displays a vast shift in the process of film making at the start of the 1940’s. Director Orson Welles not only succeeds at telling a remarkable story, he shows it to us, the viewer, as well. The film is about a newspaper mogul, Charles Foster Kane, and his extraordinary yet depressing life. The common tale of a man who has it all and loses everything is seen in Citizen Kane, in addition to much more.

Citizen Kane wasn’t as well received at the box office as most would have thought. The film did win the Academy Award for best Screenplay, but lost out in both the best director, and best film categories. This was mainly because of the fact that the film encompassed a certain dark aura, clearly visible to the viewing public. In that particular point in history Americans were being faced with the greatest hardship of all, the Great Depression. The American people wanted to see joyous films in order to escape their harsh realities, not a film about a man brought up with riches, and then essentially dies with nothing but himself. Americans wanted to see fantasy productions such as The Wizard of Oz. They certainly did not want to pay for a film that expressed such realism, as Citizen Kane conveyed. The mere fact that the audience just simply could not relate to the film and its main character Charles Foster Kane, caused Citizen Kane to experience quite a blow at the box office. Some say if the film was released ten years after it had been originally released it would have been more well received than it is today. This notion is quite hard to believe.

Citizen Kane completely contradicted Americas current economic reality. Although the scene I will be discussing does in fact show the main character Charles Foster Kane  experiencing a substantial budget cut due to the Depression, he still cant be placed in the same category as the majority of the United States. He was a wealthy individual who wouldn’t be substantially effected by the Great Depression. Rather a marginal dent would  bestow upon the way he spends his money. Kane’s predicament was entirely unlike the majority of America during the Depression, rendering him seemingly unidentifiable to the public when this film was released.

Charles Foster Kane had just spoken to Thatcher, his guardian, and told him that he would lose a million this year, next year, and for the next sixty years. The scene is rather cheerful, the non-diegetic sound increases in volume to a moderately happier tune. This scene ends with a smile by Kane and follows into a more dramatic scene in the film, my favorite scene, mostly due to its swift dialogue. The non-diegetic sound ascends louder, changing into a more depressing tone. The back round noise ends quickly because we are about to hear some sad news. There is one single shot to the scene. Bernstein, Kane’s general manager, reads off a news letter with special notice to Mr.Kane. The camera frames the notice, exhibiting an extreme close-up of the letter. Welles darkens the room, portraying a fabulous exposition of mis-en scene. Welles places himself next to the window, where a gloomy shadow towers over him, as well as three massive windows. The windows, and the large space of the room was meant to signify how irrelevant the lives of Thatcher and Kane truly are in relation to the Great Depression. The shadow, and dimness was meant to signify the harsh realities of the Great Depression.

Orson Welles uses an over the shoulder shot of Bernstein reading the notice to Mr. Kane showing the expressions of both Thatcher and Kane. It was imperative to show both the reactions of Kane and Thatcher during this scene because the notice was regarding their money and well being. The scene consisted of long pauses, and harsh dialogue, a seemingly obvious ominous effect was meant to be shown. Towards the end of the scene Kane says some outrageous yet revealing words, “I always gagged on the silver spoon.” These words really do reveal the essence of Welles character. He also has a rather revealing conversation with Thatcher. Charles Foster Kane: “You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been really rich, I might have been a really great man” Thatcher: “Don’t you think you are? Charles Foster Kane: “I think I did pretty well under the circumstances.” ‘Circumstances’, a rather interesting way of insinuating wealth. Any sane American during the Great Depression would have done whatever they had to in order to achieve wealth, but Kane had the inability to appreciate the vast world of riches.

This scene was vital to the character developments of Kane and Thatcher. It illustrated Kane’s displeasure with his wealth. Displeasure with wealth, what an inconceivable notion, especially for Americans to try and contemplate during the hardest of all economic periods in United States history.

Citizen Kane was a well made, fantastic film. Orson Welles ability to demonstrate a single characters entire personality without revealing the slightest thing about his personality was utterly magnificent. Citizen Kane expresses superb cinematography, art direction, and other significant cinematic elements, while still managing to tie its plot culturally in historical context. The film is one that can both educate us on the art of cinema, and historically as well. That is precisely what makes Citizen Kane the classic film that it is today.

Film Theory 341W Blog journal (Week 1)

David Weddle expresses nothing but the truth regarding Film Theory in his article Lights, Camera, Action. Marxism, Semiotics, Narratology. The study of film should not consist of constant psychological tension and intellectual narcissism. Rather film study should be about the beauty of the characters, plot, and direction. The correlation between a film and culture should also play a vital role in film study. The use of baffling terminology as a replacement to what is already understood by many students of film in order to demonstrate intelligence is quite preposterous. Weddle states in his article that timeless cinematic terms such as ‘story’ and ‘plot’ have been replaced by ‘fabula’ and ‘syuzhet.’ It is almost as if Film Theory has surged as its own subject matter altogether. As if Film study has been divided into two categories, “Film” and “Film theory”.

“Going to the movies” can be categorized into multiple view points. Am I taking pleasure in a night out with my friends by enjoying fine cinema, or am I entrancing my sub-conscious into a vivid faux-reality. Well, my years of watching and studying the cinema would tell me its a time to strain my mind intellectually, like reading a book or studying fine art, while still mustering up some enjoyment.  Film theory would title my time at the movies as something completely different. Most likely a word Ive never heard before. This doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t take interest and merit into the insight of Film Theory. I, like Dvid Weddle, believe that Film theory does make some very valid points regarding cinema, but the way the points are made can be immensely infuriating, and surely succeeds at the undermining of my intelligence.

One of my concerns regarding my intellectual voyage into the vast realms of  Film Theory is the new terminology I will undoubtedly encounter. The countless psychoanalytic theories are most certainly going to make me lose some sleep. I want to look deeper into the infinite world of film, and Film Theory can achieve that goal for me.

The Auteur Theory is a relatively interesting outlook on film production to me. I admire Screenwriters and Directors, as to who deserves more credit, I do not know. Directors mold a script into a “masterpiece.” If William Shakespeares ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was made into an utter work of pure genius on film, is it the director or the initial writer who should be credited for the films success? Does the same apply to adaptations molded into screenplays? I will learn all of this and more throughout my time in this Film Theory course.

“M” Insight

“M”, a remarkable film directed by Fritz Lang, truly captures the essence of suspense. Every aspect of the film from the lighting to the camera work undoubtedly illustrates astonishing craftsmanship, especially for such an early film as “M” was. “M” flourishes on so many cinematic levels. It not only chills the spine, it tests the mind as well.

The cast is led by a sensational Peter Lorre, as Hans Beckert, a mad child murderer. He lures young girls to him by offering them the two most “important” things to a child, candy and kindness. Peter Lorre’s character is developed superbly. Although, Lorre’s character is never seen murdering a child or doing any sort of activity that would be viewed as beyond the boundaries of society, he still is recognized by the viewing public as an immensely disturbed killer. How is this so? A characters development can only be produced by the actions he/ or her take part in….or don’t take part in. Lorre’s character is predominantly fueled by the viewers imagination. We don’t need to witness a gruesome child murder in order to inform ourselves on whats transpiring in the plot. The subtleties of a film compel creativity and imagination. Subtleties such as,  a balloon getting tangled in a wire, or the whistling of a man, are all we really need to hear or see. Director Fritz Lang does a great job of doing so.

“M” was quite a film, a masterpiece in fact. From start to finish I felt a certain tense feeling. The dark aura of the storyline and art direction made “M” the thrilling classic that it is.  The last 25 minutes or so really did take a toll on me. The constant struggle to find the culprit, and then the “murder trial” of the alleged killer was sensational. Tense moments like the final few scenes of “M” really can define a film, and make it unforgettable. When a movie has the ability to really stress your intelligence and your body as well, you gotta love it.

The “Public Enemy”

“The Public Enemy,” starring James Cagney and Jean Harlow was a sensational film depicting the lives of two gangsters during the prohibition era. Before I begin discussing what I found particularly interesting about the film I would just like to point out the scene in the beginning of the film, where hours before the prohibition law was to be enforced, countless Americans hurried to stock up on as much booze as the can lay their hands on. One woman even carried her child while strolling the liquor she had purchased in her baby carriage. The reason this scene struck my attention was because only a few days before watching “The Public Enemy” I had watched “Boardwalk Empire” on HBO. “Boardwalk Empire”, a television series about gangsters during the prohibition, much like “The Public Enemy”, used an almost identical scene to convey the same point; Americans thrive on the consumption of alcohol. It’s amazing how nearly 80 years later (1931-2010) directors are using the same methods in film to accentuate the same point.

Now onto the deeper stuff…”Good vs Evil” ,”Right vs Wrong,” what do these words really mean? James Cagney’s character, Tom Powers, on the surface was meant to be construed as the evil doing Public Enemy. His brother Mike, meant to signify the good, the noble, the proper American citizen. Obviously I don’t condone crime or any other wrongdoings, but the year was 1931,  times were tough. An honest buck wasn’t easy to come by. Immigration was at a high, and the promise of the “American Dream” was surely surfacing at that specific place in time. Gangsters were not what they are today. “Classy” would be one word to describe the Gangster in the 1930’s. Take Tom’s friend Matt Doyle for example, a proper dressed, well manored, man of his word. Soooo he may have murdered some people behind the scenes…It was all for a common cause, to make a living. It is easy for us to say now in our modern “swell” times that simply working in a factory and making the “honest buck” would have been the better way to carry out your life. To start a family, and live out a noble life, rather than to die in infamy as a notorious gangster. Tom and Matt may have been meant to convey the evil of society, but some may identify them as visionaries. Men who will stop at nothing until they reach their goal, find their proper place in this world.

“Which would be worse, to live as a monster or die as a good man?,” a line from the 2009 film “Shutter Island,” directed by Martin Scorsese. At this point in the movie the main character Teddy Daniels (Leo DiCaprio) discovered his true identity as a so called “monster.” He chooses death over salvation, just like Cagney’s character Tom who witnesses the death’s of so many close to him, including his best friend. The “rational” man would have just moved on with his life, in a sense “started over.” But no, not Cagney, he seemed to never learn his lesson. Toward the end of the film we see Cagney’s demise, his death was meant to signify life in 1930’s America brought to you by the United States Government. Do bad thing and expect to be punished.

“The Public Enemy” was a great film, I really did enjoy it.

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