Analysis #2 Psycho

Psycho (1960) which was widely known as the “First Slasher Film” and a thriller, is also a strong signifier of Gender and Power. Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who understood better then anyone the nature of cinema as an art form. In the beginning of the film the theme of gender, power, and the way women are portrayed is quite evident. Marion Crane who is the Protagonist, is seen in the opening scene wearing white, which signifies her presumed purity (even though it is unmistakable she just had sex) in bed with her boyfriend Sam. This is were we as viewers are alerted to the customary Gender-power structure between Man and Women for the first time in the film. I will discuss and analyze the scene where Marion has decided to steal her boss’s money, in the process of getting dressed, and ready to depart in accordance with Lauren Mulvey’s “Theory of the Male Gaze“.

According to Lauren Mulvey “The Male Gaze is demonstrated in the media when women are positioned as objects for male enjoyment through three things; The look of the camera, the look of the spectator, and the appearance of the women themselves“. Hitchcock chose Janet Leigh to play Marion who was blonde, which according to the stereotype are attractive, and desirable, as well as often perceived as relying on looks instead of intelligence. In two of the first three scenes of Psycho Marion was in her bra. This pertains to the appearance aspect of the Male Gaze, where she was dressed in a simple level to attract stares from the viewers. You can observe Marion slowly getting tired of being objectified, and being submissive to a “powerful” male, as a client (Mr. Cassidy) in her office attempts to flirt with her, and entice her with his financial power, this is the tipping point for Marion.

On to the scene I wish to analyze, where Marion decides to steal Mr. Cassidy’s money. Contrary to the first scene in a bedroom with Sam, this time Marion is alone and wearing black. She wants to get rid of the conventional role of a female, and begin to take up more of an aggressive, male type of role. Here she packs her bags, which now includes a black purse as well as dark clothing which signifies authority, seriousness, and even evilness. This is all a major contrast from the white Marion wore in the opening scene. In this scene as well is where the viewer realizes that Hitchcock has set up a point blank correlation between masculinity and money.

The Camera begins the scene by showing Marion in her closet first looking at the money on the bed then into the closet. The camera then pans down to show the viewer the money laying on her neatly made bed. The camera then tits to the left to show her suitcase she is packing to leave with. Throughout the scene she constantly keeps looking at the money, scared as if someone is watching her. This highlights Hitchcocks point of the viewer being a Voyeur. A Voyeur is “the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other activity usually considered to be of a private nature”.   The part of the scene I enjoyed the most is when she is getting dressed while looking in the mirror (she see‘s the person she has become), then she abruptly turns to see if the money is still there on the bed in the white envelope. She constantly is looking around, and while there are no characters in the film watching her here (unlike many other scenes), we the viewer are. The last thing Marion packs in the scene, is the $40,000, into her pocketbook, this may have been the first time Marion felt she had power and was in control, but in the end this was the last thing Marion was able to perform.

Marion never had a problem starting something, whether it was her relationship with Sam or be it stealing Mr. Cassidy’s money, the problem always was finishing the act. She never was able to marry Sam, where she was eventually killed, and was not successful at stealing the $40,000 as well. Hitchcock wanted us to view Marion as an evil person on the surface, and once she tried to break the barriers of her Gender role, she was killed by Norman.

In Psycho, (as well as many other of his films) Hitchcock does a phenomenal job of  bringing us the viewer to light as a Voyeur, whenever we watch a film, or more explicitly in the scene i detailed. Marion was scared she was being watched, but did not know from whom, and ultimately it was us the viewer who got Marion killed, because she “had” to die as a consequence of her actions.

The Bicycle Thief- Extra Credit Assignment (MoMA)

 

The Bicycle Thief (Also known as Bicycle Thieves) was an Italian Neorealist Film (which took place over the span of three days), directed by Vittorio De Sica in 1948. It was a moderate success in Italy and a huge hit all over the world. I recently went to the MoMA, to a screening of it and enjoyed it greatly. It kept me on the edge of my seat and when it was over it felt as if time flew right on by.

Italian Neorealism is a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class, filmed on location, frequently using non professional actors. They mostly show the difficult economic and moral conditions of post World War Two Italy, reflecting the changes in the Italian psyche and the conditions of everyday live. Italian Neorealist has had an incredible impact on American Filmmaking.
Though Bicycle Thieves was an Italian Neorealist film in also used conventional editing for example in two scenes, the Restaurant scene and the final scene of Antonio Ricci stealing the bicycle. These were the two most pivotal scenes in the film. The restaurant scene showed Antonio Ricci and his son Bruno sitting down in a restaurant ordering food. They were trying to order Pizza and the waiter was telling them there is no Pizza being served here. This scene illustrated that they truly have never been to a restaurant before and they don’t even know how to eat. The shots of the other child in the restaurant from a more upper class family just proves that. In addition there were no close-ups in the film up until the restaurant scene. This was done on purpose to make us feel even more connected to the characters then we were beforehand and to make it more emotional. In the final scene Antonio decides to steal a bicycle and unlike the incident where his Bicycle was stolen, everyone came to help the man whose bike was taken by Antonio Ricci.
One thing I noticed was the mentioning of God in the film. This brings in the debate of “Is there free will or is everything predetermined“? Ricci for the most part of the film dismissed God, while his wife Maria was quite the opposite. This brings up the question of In a huge city like Rome, how can Antonio and Bruno find the thief and the accomplice both in the same day? Is it a coincidence? It feels more real to us the viewer because its random and there is chance involved. This is why the film appears more realist, because it has a mix of both free will and everything is predetermined in it. In addition the subject matter of the film makes it more realist. You never would see a Hollywood film about poor people. You could not tell the same story in the United States, that is why it feels more real to us the viewer. Another component of how this is different then a Hollywood film is, it is a lot harder to get a feel for who directed it, as in comparison you could of tell right away when watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Italian Neorealism is as close to the “Real world” as you can get.

Another interesting aspect of Bicycle Thieves is the fact that no one will help Antonio Ricci out of the situation he is in. He gets involved with the mainstream and non mainstream institutions and neither will come to his aid. For example, when he went to the cops they took down his info, but told him he is going to have to find it himself, it is “Just a Bicycle” which it clearly wasn’t to Antonio. Antonio also got involved with the Church, Government, Mafia, and Communists. One funny aspect was the scene with the Communists when they were rehearsing and arguing over the word “Gente” which means people. They couldn’t agree on how to say it. The fact that Antonio could not fit in into any of these institutions was a social criticism, and as well a criticism of Fascism.

Another great thing about Bicycle Thieves is the fact that you can watch it 60 years later and it still works because of a Father (Antonio) son (Bruno) storyline. Its an entry point for us all into the movie. Antonio and Bruno were both non professional actors while Maria (Antonio’s wife) was.

One thing I really liked in Bicycle Thieves was the on location shooting. In Italian Neorealism you have to actually find the location. You can’t shoot in a two bedroom and say it’s a one bedroom. If you want to shoot in a one bedroom you have to find a one bedroom. This is another component that makes the movie feel so real. There are no props in these movies, and they only use the available lights. In addition, there were long takes very few close-ups (except during the restaurant and final scene), and more documentary like and less stylized. The use of point of view shots were also avoided with the exception of the Restaurant and final scene. There was also an emphasis on the use of handheld cameras. Another great thing De Sica did was respect accidents, for example on one of the days of shooting it was not suppose to rain and it did, but they shot it and put it in the movie anyway. This was the scene when they were in the truck looking for the bicycle and had one of the actors improvise by saying “Why does it always have to rain on Sundays?” The dialogue sound was dubbed, that is why you can notice the mouths of the actors sometimes moving with the sound a little off.

In the end, like most Italian Neorealist films, there was a sense of lack of closure in Bicycle Thieves. After they let Bruno and Antonio go after he was caught stealing the bike you get a sense they are going to starve over time, and this is just one story out of many similar stories in Italy at the time. These were the social issues the people were dealing with at the time with no end in site.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed seeing the film at the Museum of Modern Art. It was the first time I have ever watched a film there ( I have been to the IFC center, and Film Forum) and definitely plan on going again in the near future.

Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960) directed by Alfred Hitchcock is an absolute classic. It is widely known for inventing the slasher film.  Hitchcock was an Auteur who flourished under this system. He understood better then anyone the nature of cinema as an art form.

In Psycho Marion Crane was fated by Water.  A great use of foreshadowing in the movie was during the scene where Marion was driving in the pouring rain, the windshield wipers and pouring rain foreshadowed how she would die later in the movie. The rain was the water coming down from the shower, and the windshield wipers echoed the motion of the knife of Norman Bates stabbing her in the shower.

Hitchcock wanted us to view Marion as a “Bad/Evil” person. The film started off showing Marion in a room, in her underwear with an unmarried/recently divorced man, it is implied they just had sex. She wore white in this scene but later on when she stole her bosses money her clothes switched to black.

Hitchcock does a great job, by making you sympathize with Norman Bates. When he put Marion’s car in the swamp it took awhile for it to go underwater with the car stopping midway. I am sure many people were rooting for it to go down completely, and not get stuck midway. This is just proving Hitchcock’s idea of the personality of moviegoers, how we are all “Psychos”.

Another main theme of Psycho was “Voyeurism” and the objectifying of women. Every person in the movie from Norman Bates, to the cop was objectifying Marion. Some cases where more subtle then others but the main idea was every man was doing it.

One thing I notice after every screening in Psycho is the long scene of Norman Bates cleaning up after murdering Marion in the shower scene. It was such a long scene it felt as if it was happening in real time. I have some ideas as to why Hitchcock emphasised this but am interested in hearing if anyone has any ideas themselves?

In the ending you have a Dr. recapping why Norman did what he did, and summing up what we just saw. In reality, in that last scene nothing was said and it was basically the Dr going around in circles. This was done on purpose by Hitchcock as was everything else in this well made classic!

 

 

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) directed by Don Siegel was one movie that could truly define science fiction/Horror in the 1950’s. Siegel did a great job with storytelling, and keeping you on the edge of your seat from the beginning of the film until the very last minute of it. The music in the movie definitely had a lot to do with that, as in many Horror movies. It starred Kevin McCarthy, as Dr. Miles J. Bennell, and Dana Wynter, as Becky Driscoll. The movie followed a small-town doctor, who soon discovers that his not so exciting town has been taken over by zombies who are lacking in the emotions department.

The role of Communism and the fear of a  takeover plays a key role in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The fear of someone who is not from the same place we are, taking over our way of life is clearly shown in the movie, as well as many other themes (Even though actor Kevin McCarthy denies that any “Political Allegory was intended”). In the film, the people in the town are hit with a widespread epidemic like never before seen. When they wake up, they evolve into mindless robots, with the inability to live freely, which happens to be the ideals of the American dream. This is all to thank from “pea pods” that “give birth” to new born human beings into the world.

One thing I found particulary interesting was in the scene where Becky, and Dr Bennell are looking out the window (Long Shot) and see the people all of a sudden ascend to the town square. This to me was by far the spookiest scene in the movie, and the irony in that is it took place during the morning/daytime. I have seen plenty of Horror and Sci-Fi films from the likes of Saw to The Exorcist, but this scene to me is as spooky as it gets.

Another observation I had that piqued my interest was the fact that the movie was in Black and White, when color was actually readily available in 1956. I think it added to the intrigue of the film and this was definitely done on purpose. One reason for this could be how black and white can be seen as mundane and dull similarly to Communism while color(s) are vivid and exciting, like living in a place were the right to ones free will is exercised (for example America).

All in all, i really enjoyed the movie, it set its main points foward about Communism without coming across as a form of “Preaching”. Like Director Don Siegel said “The political reference to Senator McCarthy and totalitarianism was inescapable but I tried not to emphasize it because I feel that motion pictures are primarily to entertain and I did not want to preach” In the case of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Siegel without a doubt succeeded.

Analysis Project #1 Shot by Shot Breakdown of a Scene (Double Indemnity)

Double Indemnity (1944) 

Scene
This scene is from Double Indemnity.
In this scene Keyes is telling Walter that having two people
commit a murder is ten times twice as dangerous,
and are stuck together no matter what (1 minute long, 8 shots).

Shot 1 (2 Seconds)

Framing:  Medium Shot

Camera Placement: Low Angle Shot

Composition: Keyes is standing in front of the door,
on the left side of the shot. A coat rack with a jacket
and hat on it, is on the right side of the shot. Keyes
throws his hands up in the air and is also holding a cigar.
In addition on the door there are two names
which are clear, and visible.

Lighting: Shadow of the coat rack on the wall.
Also able to see Keyes clearly.

Depth of Field: Deep 

Camera Movement: None

Sound: Dietetic sound; Keyes talking. 

Straight Cut 

Shot 2 (11 Seconds)
Framing: Two Shot

Camera Placement: Straight on

Composition: Walter is in the foreground,
Keyes is in the background of the shot.
We see Keyes full body. Walter at first has
his back to Keyes, then turns around to
look at him while Keyes is speaking.
Walter sits down on the desk, and
Keyes walks towards Walter while speaking to him.

Lighting: Shadows on Walters back, and the back of his head.
Also shadows from the window shades forming on Keyes. 

Depth of Field: Deep

Camera Movement: Shows the back of Walter while
Keyes is speaking, until Keyes says someone else
(Walter) is involved in the murder.

Sound: Dietetic sound; Keyes talking.

Straight Cut 

Shot 3 (7 seconds)
Framing:  Medium Close Up

Camera Placement: Straight on

Composition: Camera is placed on
Walter chewing a match. All the focus is on walter as the
stuff in the background are hard to make out.

Lighting: Shadows from the window shade on the
wall, but no real shadows on Walter other then the
shadow of his own hand on his jacket. No real shadows
on Walter because Keyes is on to him.

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: Focusing on Walter as Keyes
 is talking about who he think did the
murder in the Dietrichson case.

Sound: Dietetic sound; Keyes speaking.

Straight Cut 

Shot 4 (20 seconds)
Framing: Medium-Close up

Camera Placement: Straight on

Composition: Keyes is telling Walter that it is
impossible to get away with murder, especially
when two people are involved, because they have to
stick together, you can’t just jump off like a trolley ride,
and the last stop is the cemetery. 

Lighting: Less shadows in this shot. Names in the door
are barely legible. 

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: None 

Sound: Dietetic sound; Keyes speaking.

Straight Cut 

Shot 5 (6 seconds)
Framing: Medium Shot  

Camera Placement: Over the Shoulder

Composition: Keyes lifts up the insurance claim
and says he will “throw it right back at her“.
Walters back is to the shot. Keyes grabs his
cigar looking for a match.

Lighting: Two names on the door are legible again.
No shadows on the walls. Shadow of window
shade on Keyes.  

Depth of Field: Deep

Camera Movement: Keyes checks his pocket
for a match.

Sound: Dietetic sound; Keyes speaking.

Straight Cut 

Shot 6 (5 Seconds)
Framing: Medium Close Up

Camera Placement: Straight on

Composition: Walter taking the match out of his
mouth to light a match for Keyes cigar.

Lighting: Walter is in deep focus, while the
stuff behind him is covered in shadows.  

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: None 

Sound: Dietetic Sound; Keyes talking

Straight Cut 

Shot 7 (10 Seconds)
Framing: Medium Close Up

Camera Placement: Straight on

Composition: Keyes lighting his own cigar. He also
points to Walter when he says “And that someone else“.

Lighting: One dark shadow over the wall and door
 behind Keyes, which makes the names on the
door illegible once again.  

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: Keyes moved from the
right of the shot to the left.

Sound: Dietetic Sound; Keyes talking,
and the lighting of the match.

Dissolve to the next scene

The reason i chose this scene from Double Indemnity is i believe even though it is only 1 minute in length, and Keyes is the lone speaker here, it is none the less packed with loads of information and stylistic decisions that relate to the entire film. One thing i enjoyed was throughout the film including in this scene, Walter was always there to light Keyes cigar. Being able to light your own cigar is viewed as a manly characteristic and Keyes was always relying on Walter to do it for him. In the begining of the film, Walter lights it for him completely, but as time goes on in the film and as Keyes starts to uncover the murder and whose behind it, he slowly begins to be able to do it himself. Finally it culminates at the end when Keyes lights Walters final smoke.

Another major theme in Double Indemnity was the idea of two of everything (happens in pairs). Which in this scene was brought to the forefront. Keyes was discussing how whenever two people are involved in something it always comes out “Sooner rather then later”. Some examples of the pattern of “Two’s” in the film was the two names on the door in this scene, or how the “accident” they construct happens between the two rails of a train station. Some other examples of this symbolism, is the fact that Phyllis Dietrichson was part of two murders, and Walter was involved and persuaded by two women throughout the course of the film (Lola and Phyllis). Keyes also discusses how the two murders are on a straight path/line, and can not jump off like a trolley car, there is only one stop and that’s to the cemetery. The straight line aspect was always very intriguing to me as Wilder used that throughout the film. For example when Walter went bowling, he rolled the pins straight down an alley to relax. But in the end there was nothing straight or easy for Walter as he was battling two sides.

Something i thought Wilder did beautifully was his use of lighting. Whenever he did caste a shadow upon someone or something it was done for a purpose and a meaning. In this scene when Keyes was talking and uncovering the murder, the shadow was no longer on Walter because Keyes was on to him. My favorite touch to the scene was in the final shot when Keyes was lighting his own cigar, and saying how he wants her to sue them,  he said “she’ll be digging her own grave” for her and the person she did it with while pointing and looking at Walter.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane Directed by Orson Welles, was way ahead of its time. One reason why i enjoyed it so much is because of how good of a job Orson Welles does at telling the story of Charles Kane’s life. The movie begins at the end of Charles Foster Kane’s life and shows his last breathless moment. After this moment, Welles takes you through Charles life from beginning to end through the highly subjective views of people Charles associated himself with.

One thing that became clear to me was the inventive use of lighting and shadowing in Citizen Kane.

For example in this scene above (this was after the reports were shown), “News on the March” a news reel detailing the life of Charles Kane. The lighting here, and the amazing use of shadows is casting doubt upon what the reporters are talking and speculating about. The reporters were discussing how they will add to this story of his life, and by using these methods Welles is telling us to not really trust them. In addition Welles is trying to show us that these news reporters are not the focal point of the film as you can not clearly see who they are, and are essentially faceless.

Another use of Shadowing in Citizen Kane that stood out to me, was when Susan and Charles were arguing it went back and forth until his shadow was cast upon her, and he got the final word in, showing how what Susan has said is unimportant. And to further illustrate this point, Welles used mostly High angle shots whenever he showed Susan (looking down on her) and Low Angle shots (showing how powerful he is) for the majority of time when he was shown.

(Charles Shadow over Susan)

One other thing i found particularly interesting was how the film began with the “No Trespassing” sign and drew us into his life in the beginning, and ended showing us the “No Trespassing” sign and it took us out. We as an audience find out what “Rosebud” meant but the people trying to figure it out in the movie do not, and this is evident by showing us the smoke (from burning his some of his possessions including his sled) leaving Xanadu at the end of the film.

(Xanadu at the end of Citizen Kane)

I believe you see and learn something new with every time you watch Citizen Kane, that is why to me it is timeless, and will remain an all time classic!

Summer at the Movies 2011

Whatever genre it may of been, the movies of Summer 2011 flew right on by without leaving a lasting impression. The majority of the movies that came out this summer, left me leaving the theater not only confused, but angry as to how the quality can be so poor, how the studios and screenwriters can allow such movies with such glaring plot holes out to the viewing public, and how sad it makes me that the future of films is looking bleak. But obviously the answer is simple if it makes money that’s all that matters to some of the Studio heads, and the first thing that comes to mind is

How can this make Over 1 billion?!

Transformers: Dark Of the Moon made 1.1 Billion worldwide (3D sales helped that figure). How is that possible you may ask?! Well your answer is as good as mine. The latest edition of Tranformers is as commercial as you can get. Yes it will make money but does Michael Bay really want this abomination to be what he is remembered by?! A movie that needs an explosion every half second to keep you from falling asleep! This movie left many, myself included shocked hoping that this is not what the future of cinema is all about.

Now onto the Super Hero Movies that came out this summer. If i had to rank them, it would be 1.Captain America 2.Thor 3. Green Lantern. None of them would be a movie i would see a second time. I actually had high expectations for Captain America as i am a big fan of World War two movies, but the feeling i had when i left the theater was this movie was made for the sole purpose of being a springboard for “The Avengers” (Same can be said about Thor). Green Lantern was a poorly acted movie, with pretty good CGI and an ok plot.

 

There were plenty of other movies i did not like, but ill move on to some of the Movies i enjoyed.

                 Rise of The Planet of The Apes was a movie i enjoyed from beginning to end and thought it had a strong script and i believe the casting was right on que. I loved how even though this was a prequel they connected it to the original Planet of the Apes without being corny. For example when Caesar the chimp in one scene was playing with a doll of the Statue of Liberty (where in the original the Apes were in NYC not a foreign planet). Also the first words Charlton Heston in the original said to an ape was “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”  In Rise of the Planet of The Apes, when Caesar (Ape) and the villain Tom Felton had a stare down, the exchange went like this;  Tom ” Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!” Caesar: “NO!” Those were the first words in the movie Caesar the ape communicated. So in both films the first time Casesar and Charlton Heston spoke, they spoke with the human saying the same thing. Even though i have seen the original Planet of the Apes Multiple times, i have only seen it at home, never in theaters. This Summer it was playing July 8-14 at Film Forum, and if i knew before hand i would of definitely went. I have been to film forum before and it is a cool place to see a movie, i highly reccomend it, and am hoping they plan on screening it again there soon in the near future.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRG6ahCs_t0

In the end here are some other movies from this past summer that i liked and disliked:

Liked: Cowboys and Aliens, The Change Up, Horrible Bosses, 30 Minutes or Less

Disliked: Friends with Benifits, Our Idiot Brother, Crazy Stupid Love, Super 8

Indifferent: Final Destination 5, Crazy Stupid Love

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Let Me Introduce Myself

Hey Everyone.

My Name is Andrew Livingston (as you can tell by looking at the top of the page), and i am a Media Studies Major. Simply put i am enamored with movies. I love going to the movies, watching them at home, and discussing them with my family and friends. As many others, i have seen my share of  good films, and films i wished i had never seen.

In my next post i will give a one sentence review on most if not all the movies i saw in Theaters over the summer.

I am excited for this semester, and the opportunity to blog about what we watch and discuss in class, and what other films i watch outside of class.

Thanks for taking the time to read my page!

-Andrew

 

 

 

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar