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SSO School Fall Semester: Here's Looking at You, Kid

Discussion of the actors, directors and film-makers who 'made it all happen'

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ChiO
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SSO School Fall Semester: Here's Looking at You, Kid

Postby ChiO » August 4th, 2008, 9:39 am

As the TCM Summer School on John Ford's Westerns drew to a close, DeanCutter asked me to moderate a Fall Semester. We thought it may be beneficial to have the TCM and SSO Fall Semesters run concurrently, so...the Fall Semester Session, beginning Tuesday, September 2, is –

Here’s Looking At You, Kid: Voyeurism – Implicating and Transforming the Audience

“Everything's perverted in a different way.” – Alfred Hitchcock

We all like to look. Even when we avert our eyes, we still like to sneak a peek. There is a fascination with observation and a pleasure derived from the tension between attempting to maintain our privacy while invading another’s privacy. Watching movies fulfills this basic urge. Watching others watching others heightens the tension. The suggested films each use voyeurism as a key theme of the narrative, from purportedly innocent impersonal watching from afar (Rear Window) to the sinister personal view (Peeping Tom), from the transformation of the voyeur into his object (The King of Comedy) to the transformation of the voyeur’s perception of reality (Videodrome) to the symbiotic relationship between the voyeur and the exhibitionist and their attempt to break the barriers between them (The Hole). The audience vicariously shares the thrill felt by the film’s voyeur and then is implicated as a co-conspirator in the act of voyeurism, causing us to reflect on the real reasons we watch movies and transforming our relationship with that film reality.

Here are a few suggested films that may be useful in a discussion:

Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (Roger Corman, 1963)
Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982)
Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)
The Hole (Tsai Ming-liang, 1998)
Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
Phone Booth (Joel Schumacher, 2002)
Cache (Michael Haneke, 2005)

Each of the above should be available for rental. Over the next month, if you think of other films that fit into this topic, or even a movie that has voyeurism as a significant plot point rather than as a major theme (for example, 2001: A Space Odyssey), that are available for rental or will be shown on TCM, post it here so we have a chance to watch it and use it in the discussion. I will intermittently post some discussion topics over the next month as well.

Remember: This is a class where peeking at your neighbor is not only permitted, it is required.

And I'll be watching you.

See you in September.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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Re: SSO School Fall Semester: Here's Looking at You, Kid

Postby srowley75 » August 4th, 2008, 11:23 am

ChiO wrote:Over the next month, if you think of other films that fit into this topic, or even a movie that has voyeurism as a significant plot point rather than as a major theme (for example, 2001: A Space Odyssey), that are available for rental or will be shown on TCM, post it here so we have a chance to watch it and use it in the discussion.


Looks like it will be an interesting discussion.

In light of what you've posted, one of the first films I thought to add was Psycho. For those who've seen the trailer, maybe you remember the moment when Hitchcock, while walking through the Bates motel, approaches the picture that conceals Norman's peephole and says "This picture...has great significance." [Of course, the picture is itself significant as well - I forget the name of it at the moment, but I remember it's a mythological allusion.]

I also think of Being There's famous line, "I like to watch."

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Postby mrsl » August 4th, 2008, 1:13 pm

srowley wrote:

. . . . . "Looks like it will be an interesting discussion". . . . . . .

I say: Looks like it will be sick and demented. Why must you choose to discuss peoples' perversions instead of normal ideas and choices?

Comedy: How to enjoy life by exposure to comedic movies.

Mystery: How to commit the perfect crime/murder, and then investigate it.

Biography: Films already made and/or lives you would like to see as bios.

Racism: Risky but could be interesting if handled properly.

I know, I sound like the old biddy next door who peeks out of her closed drapes all the time, but I'm so tired of seeing discussions about sickness and dementia, it would be so nice to tune into a good old fashioned discussion about the size of Joan Crawfords' shoulder pads.

Anne
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Postby Dewey1960 » August 4th, 2008, 1:41 pm

Anne sez: Looks like it will be sick and demented. Why must you choose to discuss peoples' perversions instead of normal ideas and choices?

Today's weather forecast: heavy rain on Professor ChiO's parade.
Anne, I think all of us here are capable of determining what is "sick and demented" for ourselves. Personally I don't find anything sick or demented about engaging in grown-up discussions about any of the various aspects of film, regardless of how seemingly unpleasant they may seem to be on the surface. Unless, of course we're talking about Joan Crawford's shoulder pads. Now that's sick!
Last edited by Dewey1960 on August 4th, 2008, 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby srowley75 » August 4th, 2008, 2:11 pm

ChiO:

You probably already know about this, but it might be interesting to check out some of Laura Mulvey's criticism. We read an essay of hers in my lit theory class. Can't remember what it said exactly (it's been almost 7 years now) but I remember some of what she wrote touched on this topic. Anyway, I remember when I was reading her essay (included in the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, I believe) immediately I thought that one of the films she was talking about was Peeping Tom, though she didn't mention any specific titles (at least not that I recall). And then I looked on the box for the Criterion edition of PT and, lo and behold, included in the extras was an audio essay by Mulvey.

-Stephen

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Postby moira finnie » August 4th, 2008, 2:47 pm

Anne, I'd love to see you present any one of the course ideas you've come up with, but I don't think that exploring the ways of seeing and our perception of film and images is "sick". As a movie fan, you and I and all of us practice looking every day. Heck, as a person, it is inescapable as human nature--especially in an electronic age.

Granted, there's an inevitable element of sexuality in perception, and some films, such as Rear Window and Peeping Tom explore the bounds between seeing, feeling, understanding our experiences and acting on them. If that makes you uncomfortable, I understand, though I think there are some cultural and biological differences in how we process what we see that you could certainly add to in any discussion.

I don't think that ChiO is advocating watching people have sex, if that is what might be bothering you. Films such as The Conversation, Network, or any of Hitchcock's films explored how our modern cultural obsession for watching life (often at the cost of participating fully in it), has affected us as an audience. As females, we both have different experiences with the objectification that is seamlessly woven into the life of our largely patriarchal society, including the way that films are made and the myths and injustices they sometimes perpetuate. We can also recognize the ambivalent nature of movies and male and female roles portrayed in films and I'd like to see you and anyone else express their valid viewpoint in a civil manner.

I think that this is a challenging and valid idea that those members who choose to participate can explore here in an adult manner without losing our friendly manner and making this site R rated. While I suggested some classic films to possibly explore over here on TCM's board, I still think that it is valid to have a variety of "courses" for different areas of film--not necessarily all older films.

I really hope that you work on your ideas about different "courses" too.

ChiO,
You might want to add John Berger's brief but seminal art history work on Ways of Seeing to the mix for this idea. While I don't necessarily agree with everything the guy said, he's very thought provoking and he looks at painting and perception in a still refreshing way. I think it might be stimulating when applied to the moving image as well. It is still in print inexpensively and there is an online version here too.
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Postby ChiO » August 4th, 2008, 3:55 pm

Anne (as the one brave enough to suggest a protest): I certainly do not intend the discussion to be R-rated or dwell on the overtly "sick and demented". That is the point of Hitchcock's quote -- “Everything's perverted in a different way.” -- wherein I think he is emphasizing the "everything".

It has become such an article of (film)faith, to the point of being a cliche, that the act of watching a film is an act of voyeurism -- whether it is wishing we were on that South Seas island on the screen to admiring Joan Crawford's shoulder pads to seeing "How to commit the perfect crime/murder". Why is that? Why do we like to watch, even if each of us likes to watch different genres, styles or actors? And what are the implications for each of us as James Stewart surreptitiously watches Raymond Burr and others, and he engages Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and us in watching him watch them?

Moira stated far better than I: "Films such as The Conversation, Network, or any of Hitchcock's films explored how our modern cultural obsession for watching life (often at the cost of participating fully in it), has affected us as an audience."

At any rate, the only practical difference between this thread and any other is that I will attempt to moderate it by asking questions within the broad scope of the topic, and some of those questions may be based on some of the suggested films (Why did I suggest those? Because I've seen them and -- I'll admit it -- like them, to varying degrees.). And that's why I solicited other movie suggestions, any era, any genre -- to help define scope and to give everyone who wants to participate an opportunity to see the movies that may come up in any discussion.

To the extent that I wanted to be provacative to drum up interest, I think I may have succeeded in the "provocative"; "interest", we'll wait and see.

Dewey: It is overcast, dreary and rainy here in Chicago today...but there ain't no parade.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » August 4th, 2008, 6:37 pm

Nice to see a film subject being discussed in depth. This is what I always hoped SSO would become.

Other films that might be useful for discussion:

The Decalogue (1988)
Kieślowski's modern day take on the Ten Commandments deals not only with God's viewpoint of us, but our perceptions of others. If you want an actual literal take, Volume Six (Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery), and Volume Nine (Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors Wife) deliver the goods in more ways than one.

Contempt (1963)
Godard's use of film to document disintegrating love while making another film completes the circle from viewer to artist.

Pushover (1954)
This noir was released the same year as Rear Window, but is a much deeper work revealing that sometimes the predator is indeed the prey. Will be showing on TCM this month on Kim Novak's day with some other film called Vertigo. Might I suggest a field trip?

Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1971)
Deep Red (1976)
Dario Argento's films are in essence, about sight and point of view. Is what we see reality or illusion? Do we see the truth or what we want to see?

Man Bites Dog (1992)
Like Funny Games, Man Bites Dog is a stinging satire of our obsessions with violence. It might be hypocritical to watch a violent film that criticizes violence, but what a way to hammer a point home.

Place de la République (1974)
Louis Malle sets up a camera in a Paris square and starts filming. We view people we have never met through the lens and learn about their lives.

Taxi Driver (1976)
Travis is an unwilling observer who wants to be part of society, but is unable to find any place in it. The solution? Here is a man that stood up...

Claire's Knee (1970)
Not a story of fetishism, but motivation. Claire's Knee is truly one of those wheel within wheel films where everything is not what it seems and those who think they are clever only end up fooling themselves.

8 1/2 (1963)
Fellini's journey of self discovery picks up where La Dolce Vita (an interesting voyeuristic film in itself) leaves off. Where the previous film's view was external, 8 1/2 looks to the internal, or spiritual.

Persona (1966)
Perhaps the ultimate voyeur/obsession/possession film. We could talk this one ten ways till Sunday!
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on August 4th, 2008, 11:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby mrsl » August 4th, 2008, 7:40 pm

As usual I've dug my pit and all I can say is when I saw moiras' list and explanation over on TCM, I felt it was an adult and interesting idea for a thread, but with Chi0, it seemed more like he was headed for the provacative aspects of movie viewing. I've seen exactly one movie on his list where I've seen all but two of moiras.

I would have liked the John Ford classes to go on a little longer with more people becoming involved but so many have left the site, it's hard to carry on a conversation anymore. Then to find out the very next choice would be my least favorite subject of discussion, I was disappointed to find it was one I could not contribute to.

So, again, I apologize - I should have kept my big mouth shut, there are plenty of other threads to join in with.

Anne
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Postby moira finnie » August 5th, 2008, 3:16 pm

Well, Anne, I think it is a bit harder to have classes--even interesting ones such as Lynn and ChiO have put together for us--in the midst of Summer. I suspect that many of us will post more once the temperature goes down, school in the real world gets back in session, and our brains can do something more than recall how to make iced tea.

Worry not. We all have something to contribute. :wink:
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Postby inglis » August 5th, 2008, 11:23 pm

mrsl wrote:As usual I've dug my pit and all I can say is when I saw moiras' list and explanation over on TCM, I felt it was an adult and interesting idea for a thread, but with Chi0, it seemed more like he was headed for the provacative aspects of movie viewing. I've seen exactly one movie on his list where I've seen all but two of moiras.

I would have liked the John Ford classes to go on a little longer with more people becoming involved but so many have left the site, it's hard to carry on a conversation anymore. Then to find out the very next choice would be my least favorite subject of discussion, I was disappointed to find it was one I could not contribute to.

So, again, I apologize - I should have kept my big mouth shut, there are plenty of other threads to join in with.Hi Anne I was away for the weekend and I was sorry to see the John Ford class end .I was wanting to learn more and get into more of his movies as well .I hope that maybe in the fall we can do it again .I am not all up tp speed on this new class but I will be watching ( a little pun there) ,Carol :lol:

Anne

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Postby mrsl » August 6th, 2008, 9:02 am

Moira said:

. . . Well, Anne, I think it is a bit harder to have classes--even interesting ones such as Lynn and ChiO have put together for us--in the midst of Summer. I suspect that many of us will post more once the temperature goes down, school in the real world gets back in session, and our brains can do something more than recall how to make iced tea. . .


I understand about summer and different life styles. I personally hate and despise Illinois weather . . . you can't sit outside at night because of the bugs and mosquitoes, you can't picnic in the forest preserve even though they have tables and outhouses because someone like me who is terrified of dogs can't handle all the dogs who run loose. Apparently Illinois has no rules regarding dogs in public places. I hate the humidity in summer and the snow and ice in winter, but because my daughter is here with my grandkids, I don't return to the West as I would like to do.

What gets me though, is so many of the people who used to post here have all returned to TCM and are carrying on conversations over there, and if they are not there, they have dropped out of these two sites altogether, so it really isn't the weather. I have tried to open new threads, but the movies I write about just don't seem to gather any interest except for one or two people, as the John Ford thing proved, so it's not just me, it's anything.

When our moderators announced they were leaving to return to TCM, how can you expect people to be anxious to remain here, knowing the people who basically helped Jon start this site were leaving after less than a year? If it wasn't so dangerous, I would start a rant thread, but I learn my lessons well.

Anne
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Postby MichiganJ » August 6th, 2008, 10:00 am

I would suggest considering Brian DePalma’s Body Double as a film that would fit in nicely with the proposed themes of the class.
Pedro Almodóvar’s Kika might also fit the bill.

Already a lot of thought-provoking films on the list, but as an adjunct to the “watching” voyeur, there are also a lot of intriguing films featuring “listening” voyeurs.
Just off the top of my head:
Blow Out (DePalma, again...sorry)
Red (Kieslowski)
The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
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Postby srowley75 » August 6th, 2008, 10:04 am

I'm ashamed I didn't think of the Argento films. Y'all are built with hard drives that are a lot faster than mine.

Since I've already branded myself as the forum perv, what with my initial "sounds like it'll be fun" post and my "Disney's Story of Menstruation" thread in the General Chat forum, may I also suggest another albeit salacious title that eventually came to my foggy though still functioning mind: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). The picture isn't necessarily about voyeurism, but it is an essential plot point. Basically, the film concerns how fascism deceived people into detaching themselves from their fellowmen, until they ironically - and perhaps without realizing it - began to view the repulsive and the base as normal and even desirable. All of the people in the movie either behave like animals (the fascist torturers) or are robbed of their humanity (the child victims). Voyeurism in this film seems to illustrate this detachment that points to the soullessness at the heart of fascism, which takes a sadistic pleasure in the debasement and humiliation of others. Have to admit, I only recently saw it for the first time, so more rumination from my end would certainly be in order.

And though other films aren't necessarily about voyeurism per se, or contain scenes where people spy on others, there are those that have a voyeuristic air about them - sorry to be so inarticulate, but I can't really explain it better than that right now. For example, I can't help but feel that way about Polanski's Repulsion (1965). True, the act of watching a film is itself somewhat voyeuristic, but films like these truly make you feel like you're peering through someone's keyhole.

Well, better get back to bed...I've a whole night of wandering about the darkened streets to look forward to...

-Stephen
Last edited by srowley75 on August 6th, 2008, 8:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.


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