Alfred Hitchcock and Vertigo

May 22, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock’s directing style has been well known as very unique. His style consists of settings that are very conservative such as the average neighborhood that one might live in. He’s known for throwing his audience over the top with suspense. Rather than trying to focus on a movie being scary he relies more on suspense and the effect that it achieves. In his films there is always something dark beneath the surface that could possibly come at you.

His narrative deals with subjects that are considered taboo such as sex and death. His techniques work hand in hand with his narratives. For example, he tends to use voyeurism and the male gaze as a way of seeing another character through the eyes of the character whom is doing the watching. This is done through the use of binoculars, peep holes, windows, and such.
Another characteristic of his films is seen in his use of the “uncanny”. This is a way of showing the bizarreness of something which you wouldn’t normally think of as bizarre. For example someone that you would expect to act a certain way is acting in a very unfamiliar and perhaps disturbing way. Which leads to further narrative that he uses such as the doppelganger. The doppleganger is the use of a double in which the second entity is considered to not be the exact copy. Usually the copy is a ghost or a disturbing figure in which tends to make the idea of the scene more frightening. His style consists of very well executed montages as well. One of his most historical and successful uses of the montage is seen in Psycho, with the legendary shower scene.

In Vertigo, we get to examine his style in more depth. His narrative is very strong consisting of a man whom lost his wife, and expresses his refusal to let her go by disturbingly trying to convert another one woman into looking like her as much as possible. He uses the male gaze, suspense, traditional neighborhood settings, harsh treatment of the female character and many more tactics that make Hitchcock the best at what he does.

French New Wave and Jean Luc Godard

May 22, 2010

The French New Wave was definitely a significant time in the history of film. The movement steered itself far away from the conventions of the classic Hollywood studio system. Instead of films being shot in a studio they were instead shot on location in a very low budget manner. This was the time right after World War II, when film makers didn’t have a good amount of funds and were basically forced to work with what they had.

Fortunately for them they still managed to produce great cinema without having to rely on expensive production equipment. In fact much of the new wave conventions were a result of low budget production. For example there was no form of unity as we would regularly see in the Hollywood studio. Much of what we see is enough to remind us that were actually watching a movie and something fictional.
For example we see the use of jump cuts rather often. This is when a character is seen in one position in a shot, and then is seen in another position in the very next shot with no form of unity. Giving us the sense that what we see is quick moving images. This was a way of saving on budget expense as well because it actually shortened the length of a film. It allowed the film maker to leave out any unnecessary shots. We also see much use of the tracking shot which at times had a shopping cart in order to replace the actual dolly which was another way to save on budget expense. Much of the camera work was hand held and very direct. These films were dealing with political issues and had amateur actors at times.

For example in Godard’s Breathless we see many low budget but very effective techniques. He uses the jump cut in many scenes. Two specific scenes are the car scene when the position of Patricia’s head moves from side to side, and another is when Michel and Patricia are lying in bed and he describes the beauty of several of her body parts. Godard’s style is definitely unique and effective in creating very good cinema. Breathless truly displays his great sense of style in terms of technique, narrative, and addressing his audience.

Indian Cinema and Satyajit Ray

May 22, 2010

Indian cinema has been a very interesting contribution to film history since it’s start in 1913. Indian cinema emerged with narratives such as mythological, social issues, tension between tradition and such. It’s influence came from the Hollywood studio, but only in technology not in narrative. The idea was to take the conventions from the Hollywood studio and merge them with narratives of their own.

A great deal of films had playback singers in them. These so called playback singers were actually considered to be a very important part of Indian cinema. They basically recorded songs in which actors would later lip sing on screen. The audience would be well aware that the songs are being lip sung by the actors but still enjoyed the concept very much. These playback singers were very popular and well known by audiences. They were considered to be celebrities just as much as the actors.

A very popular and significant director in Indian cinema is Satyajit Ray. He really set himself apart from other Indian directors of his time in the sense that he focused on very humanistic films. He shot on location, using non-professional actors, and showed great concern in lower and middle class people. His films were shot in Bengali. Most of his influence came from European cinema, particularly Italian neorealism. We could actually see how his films are very related to Italian neorealism, for reasons such as the low budget, on location, and non professional actor characteristics.
He was also considered a composer because he shot his own films rather than using a cinematographer. He wrote his own screenplays, and designed sets. His skills in Indian cinema were definitely very well rounded which made him such a unique figure for his time.

Orson Welles

March 23, 2010

I have never seen The Casebook, however I have seen Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, and have a good idea of his great directing style. This interview was really enjoyable to read because it’s almost as if Peter Bogdanovich is picking Orson Welles’s brain apart.

Peter Bogdanovich starts the interview by asking Orson how it was to work side by side with a very popular American composer. Orson responds by basically saying they were very intimate in the construction of the film. Everything had to be mutual before it went into the film. This shows that Orson is a real team player and an open minded fellow. It’s always nice to see collaboration between two people whom are both excellent in their field of work.

I really like the part of the interview when Orson talks about the cameraman Gregg Toland. He has no problem giving him a great deal of credibility for his contribution to the film. I’m sure many can agree that one brilliant mind can be a great attribution to something but several great minds can be much more. We realize this very much in this interview when we see how every part of Orson’s films was a result of different great contributions. The cameraman Gregg Toland’s photography is what Orson owes a lot to as he quotes.

Another general but interesting question that Peter Bogdanovich asks Orson is “why did you want so much depth of focus”. Orson elaborates by stating that “in life you see everything in focus at the same time, so why not in movies?” It definitely seems like a wise tactic to use when trying to emphasize on detail.
Orson also has no problem in showing confidence during the interview. He’s asked “how do you decide where you’re going to put the camera and he responds by saying “I know instantly where it goes. There’s never a moment of doubt.” Orson’s language gives you a sense that what he does almost comes natural to him.

Overall, this interview is very interesting. I don’t know much about directing myself but learned how someone whom is considered one of the best directors of his time is able to construct his films.

Yasujiro Ozu

March 22, 2010

Yasujiro Ozu’s life history is very interesting. A young mischievous Japanese boy whom ended up finding himself and revealing his wonderful talent of directing to the world. Nick Wrigley starts off his article by describing how Ozu was an alcoholic with no direction in his life until he came across his love for film. He was a true rebel. In fact his entrance into the field of cinema was another act of him being a rebel. His father opposed of it and it was considered to be a career that not too many people were fond of. However, he still pursued it. He mentions that Ozu claimed to have a great interest in American film which impacted a great deal of his career but nevertheless wasn’t the style of directing that he adapted.

Ozu claimed that even though he was influenced by great American directors, he never copied anyone’s style and didn’t need any teachers. Supposedly everything he knew was self taught from experience. This claim seems to be very valid because his style of directing does differ very much from traditional American directing in the sense that he expresses factors such as time and space differently. We see how the camera is always very low usually from the torso down as oppose to the American style which is usually from the torso up.

His use of the camera being low doesn’t necessarily qualify as a low angle shot but rather a sense that were closer to the ground. This style of directing works very good when portraying life in Japan where they have a different lifestyle such as eating on a very low table rather than a high one with chairs.

One thing mentioned in the article that I found really interesting is the fact that his films have nothing to do with the life he lived. The reason for why I find this really significant is because it’s much easier to direct a story about something you know rather than something you don’t know much about. His films portrayed college, office, and marital life, none of which he experienced in his own life. He was considered a true Japanese director. Most of his films portrayed the lives of middle class people in Japan. He made it extremely easy for his Japanese audience to be able to relate to.

Italian Neorealism

March 12, 2010

Italian Neorealism was definitely a form of cinema that set itself apart from others. It was very genuine in the sense that it’s goals were not to just satisfy their audience, but do it in a way in which shows Italy’s social history of that time. Yes, the film studio, camera angles, and actor professionalism might have not been up to par with others of their time, but they still managed to pull of being compared to the top most well known films such as Nosferatu, and Potemkin in Bazin’s article.

It’s very understandable that when one can relate to a film, it becomes much more enjoyable and interesting to watch. At the time of Post World War II, is when these films were mainly released. They were shot on location in poor neighborhoods by unprofessional actors, and were very intriguing for the people of this time to watch. These films mainly conveyed the story of the tough times that people in Italy were going through, such as the occupation of Rome by the Germans.

Even though the hardships of working class Italians at that time was a true reflection of post World War II, it eventually came to an end. Americans were filming much more optimistic storylines and this became an encouragement for Italy to end realism and change their form of cinema. I focused this blog mainly on Italian realism because different forms of cinema are definitely what makes things interesting. If everything was like Hollywood today, or what I like to refer to as mainstream cinema, the industry would be a little more boring. Actors and actresses taking on roles to prove they can take on multiple roles just to seek fame isn’t as genuine as someone actually experiencing something true and using that to convey his or her story through cinema.

Like anything, Italian realism has its pros and cons. It was a low budget quick way of delivering the message of what the Italian people of that time were experiencing after World War II, but it also wasn’t a form of cinema that had too much long term value to it. Eventually the Italians had to give up realism because portraying emotions of pessimistic thoughts from the post war isn’t something that’s in the interest of people who wanted a change and some optimism in their futures. Bazin’s article mainly focuses on the pros and cons as well, talking about how it was mostly poor budget but then again managed to have Italian neorealism films compared to some of the best films ever made.

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