Psycho

November 13th, 2010

I consider myself to be a big film-buff, so the fact that I’d never seen a film by Alfred Hitchcock was embarrassing. That’s why I was really looking forward to seeing “Psycho”. However, now that I’ve seen one of Hitchcock’s films, I don’t think I ever want to see another one again.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I thought the movie was bad (far from it). It’s just that it, for lack of a better term, scared me half to death. A very dear friend of mine said to me that Alfred Hitchcock was like “the Stephen King of that time.” Quite frankly, I can see why. The suspense that occurs on the screen, combined with Bernard Herrmann’s score, might be able to give someone a heart attack.
Speaking of the music, in my opinion, Bernard Herrmann’s score is one of the scariest elements of the film. As the professor said, the audience can’t hear any stabbing noises during the shower scene; it’s almost as if the music is what’s stabbing Marion. To be quite honest, the score really does seem powerful enough to stab someone; and, as we learned from “Written on the Wind”, sometimes music can appear to have an effect on someone’s death.
During the film, I noticed a lot of voyeurism. An obvious example would when Norman watches Marion through a peephole. Some not-so-obvious examples would be when Arbogast looks in the window while Sam and Lila are talking, and when Norman looks out the window at Sam and Lila arriving at the Bates Motel. Also, I agree with what the professor said, about how the audiences of a movie are voyeurs. I mean, we’re watching these characters, and they don’t know we’re there.
I believe that Hitchcock is an auteur, that there’s a uniqueness to his movies which makes it clear to the world that these movies are his. I don’t know exactly what it is, whether it’s the frequent use of shadows, or the chilling musical score, or even the numerous shots of birds. But I do know that there’s some kind of signature he leaves on all his movies.
Also, I consider “Psycho” to be somewhat legendary. According to the Thomson article, prior to the release of “Psycho”, movies made audiences feel safe. This was the first film to make audiences feel unsafe. According to another friend of mine, at the time of the film’s release, women were afraid to take showers.
Do you agree? Can this movie scare someone almost to death? Can music really appear to kill someone? Are film viewers voyeurs? Does Hitchcock leave a signature on his films?

Written on the Wind

November 7th, 2010

Before we saw “Written on the Wind” in class, I looked it up online. To be perfectly honest, I did not understand the significance of this movie, which made the professor choose to show it in class. Then, during the professor’s lecture, I realized that the significance of the movie was its director. Douglas Sirk is an amazing director; from the way he portrays characters, to the way his movies end. I really like the way his characters are one extreme or the other, either very good or very bad.
Kyle Hadley is a drunk, paranoid, who is overly concerned about his ability to father children. His assumption, when told the good news that his wife is expecting their child, that he is not the father, makes him unlikable. His further actions of attacking her and causing her to lose their child, clearly makes him a villain. His sister Marylee is promiscuous, who is obsessed with marrying her childhood friend Mitch who does not love her. Her blackmail of Mitch to marry her or she will turn him in makes her equally evil.
I’m sure there are people out there who don’t think “Written on the Wind” had a happy ending, but I do. In my opinion, Kyle and Marylee Hadley were bad people, and they deserved what they got. I know it may seem a bit cruel of me to say that someone deserved to get shot, but even though I think death is very tragic, I just can’t bring myself to feel sorry for him.
On the other hand, I do feel a little sorry for Marylee, but only because of her epiphany at the end. In the end, though she begins to testify against Mitch, she decides to do the right thing and tell the truth. It is unclear to me, whether she is not truly evil or did she see the wrong in her ways?
Do you agree? Did Kyle and Marylee get what they deserved? Were they evil, or does everyone have some good and bad within them?

Early Summer

October 24th, 2010

I’m a big fan of Japanese culture, and I was really excited to watch “Early Summer.” It was a really great movie. I loved the opening credits, and the first scene, with the family eating breakfast together. There was a peaceful feeling, but some suspense that something might occur to break them apart. This came true when Noriko marries and moves away from her family.

It’s interesting that the movie is about a woman who is forced to marry. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the fact that there were new laws in Japan at the time, which dictated how films were to be made. These laws prohibited certain subjects, and favored others; and those who broke these laws were deemed “war criminals”.

However, despite these laws, most Japanese filmmakers thought that things were better under the Occupation Forces than they had been under their own military. They believed that they were given freedom of creation, even with these strict new laws. To me, that parallels the fact that, at the beginning of the movie, Noriko doesn’t really complain about her arranged marriage, even though it feels very restrictive to the viewer. It is interesting that though Noriko seems to be okay with her arranged marriage in the beginning, that she, in the end, marries a man of her choosing. It feels like in a country that would consider those who broke the laws pertaining to filmmaking as “war criminals, that her family would object more to her non-arranged marriage.

I was also struck by the  extreme misbehavior of the two boys. They seemed to disregard their parents completely. Even the most innocent request of washing their faces was not obeyed. I was especially fascinated by the scene when the younger boy, Isamu, told the older relative that he loved him for candy, and when he was finished giving him candy, he told him bluntly that he hated him. It felt to me that the film was making a stark contrast within one family between the obedience of Noriko and the disobedience of the boys.

Do you agree? Do you see parallels between the Japanese censorship laws and Noriko’s arranged marriage? Do you feel there was a specific message to the story of the boys’ misbehavior?

Out of the Past

October 11th, 2010

            It is ironic that “Out of the Past” is considered one of the greatest film noirs of all time, because at certain points in the movie, it does not feel like a film noir. During the opening credits, it has a kind of “Gone with the Wind” feel to it; the credits are played over clips of the peaceful mountain community (very reminiscent of the southern plantation clips used in “Gone with the Wind”), and there’s a very beautiful, somewhat romantic soundtrack.

            However, for the majority of the film, it is exactly what I would imagine a film noir to be like. It employs all of the stylistics mentioned in Paul Schrader’s article, including the majority of scenes being lit for night, a large number of scenes involving water (There’s a scene at the beach, a scene where it’s raining, and the scene where Joe falls into the river.), a romantic narration, and a complex chronological order (there’s a use of flashbacks).

            Also, I found several points from Jenny Place’s article interesting. Whenever we see Anne, the ‘good girl’, there always seems to be a light on her (for example, watch “Out of the Past (1947) – Robert Mitchum” starting at about 1:15; notice how there’s a light on Anne’s face, whereas Jeff’s face is in shadow). On the other hand, when we first see Kathie, the ‘femme fatale’, she’s completely bathed in darkness, and you can only see her silhouette (as you can see at 0:20 of “Out of the Past 1947 introduction of Jane Greer”). The filmmaker clearly sends the message of good versus evil with his use of lighting.

            In my opinion, black and white is essential in making a good film noir. It really highlights the use of shadows, and it helps to illustrate the film’s dark themes.

            I also found one of the Professor’s points very interesting, about how the deaf-mute boy was an interesting framing device. As some of you may know, a framing device is the same single action, scene, event, setting, or any element of significance at both the beginning and end of a movie. It is interesting that a character that cannot talk is used as a framing device, because most of the film’s dialogue is lies. In that way, he is the one “truthful” character as he is unable to lie.

            Typically, I prefer films with happy endings. Though this film did not have a happy ending, I really enjoyed “Out of the Past”. It felt to me that the ending was the correct one, which matched some of the darker theme of the film. Do you agree or disagree with my opinions? Do you think that a good film noir has to be completely dark, or can there be some beautiful scenes?

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