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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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Mr. Arkadin
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Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 2nd, 2008, 6:23 pm

I think there are certain ingredients that create situations that allow voyeurism to take place:

1.Distance - Distance creates speculation, which may be reality or fantasy. Voyeurism is essentially bridging the gap between two points. Distance can remove humanistic view (reducing a personality to an object) or build one where none exists.

2.Perception – while seeing is important, how we perceive things gives them context. If you’ve ever seen an optical illusion, magician, or slow motion replay cameras from different angles at sporting events, you know that many times our eyes can decieve us.

3.Point of View – While similar to perception, POV is essentially different in the fact that it can correspond with what we, or the characters see, or be a totally detached entity. POV is also an indicator to motivation. For instance, not all gaze is sexual pleasure, nor are we connected with the person watching.

When a person is using a camera, they are capturing an image. This can also be associated with possession. For instance, Mark in Peeping Tom (1960) is a collector. What is he collecting? Does ownership give him power or relief from the troubles that plague him? Another example of camera might be Contempt (1963). Dealing with the art of filmaking and Cinema's place in the world, Fritz Lang plays himself as a director creating a film version of The Odyssey. The camera not only documents the film (we see rushes and clips), but also the demise of a young screenwriter's marriage. The camera here acts as a supporting player and Godard uses many instances in panning, space, and widescreen to show the deepening gulf between man and wife.

Binoculars or telescope as Dewey said, magnify their targets. Thus as gaze is concentrated or intensified, so too is connection between viewer and the viewed. In Pushover (1954), two different men fall in love with two different women they are spying on. Lives become intermingled until the men are infatuated and their objects literally become part of their lives. In Witness to Murder and Rear Window (all made the same year!) the connection is one of polar twins, that struggle against one another while revealing similarities in their characters, resourcefulness, and abilities.

Mirrors are essentially a way for characters and even viewers to see themselves. Psycho (1960), which is filled with mirrors, uses them to indicate duality on the part of Norman, but also every other major player who are all seen as imperfect and having their own dark side. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1989), Sabina, a free spirit, keeps a full-length mirror in her living room and often has sex and dresses for role playing in front of it. In this case the mirror is a superficial device, presenting her as she wishes to be seen (powerful and sexy), but in fact, is not the reality of her heart (tender and easily hurt). Persona (1966) has Alma and Elisabeth mirroring each other and meshing separate identities to try and create a whole person from two flawed characters.

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Postby ChiO » September 3rd, 2008, 10:27 am

The sound you hear (rriipp!) is of lesson plans being discarded (Lynn warned me). A wealth of marvelous issues have been raised, so here are some observations and questions -- though further comment on the initial questions is certainly not cut off.

Binoculars/Telescope: These bridge the distance between the viewer and the viewed, making the viewed appear closer. Does that create an intimacy (at least from the voyeur's perspective) that wouldn't otherwise exist? Or, does their use accentuate that distance and act as a reminder to the voyeur (and audience) that any sense of intimacy is false?

Type of Camera: A photograph captures a moment; a movie or television camera captures a process. Does it matter? In BLOW-UP, some of the photos are for mass consumption, others for private (or very nearly so) consumption. In NETWORK, live mass consumption -- and the bigger, the better -- is clearly the goal (DEATH WATCH is similar, except the film is not shown live). In PEEPING TOM, there are photos for niche consumption and film for mass consumption (his work as a cameraman), semi-private consumption (the family film) and private consumption (the murders). What, if anything, does the use of the camera's output tell us about the voyeur, his audience, and the watcher of the movie? Ever notice that in PEEPING TOM, Mark's private room has one chair? A director's chair -- with his name on it (shiver).

Long aside: I find it fascinating that L.B. Jeffries, award-winning photojournalist in REAR WINDOW, never uses his camera as a camera. He uses his unencumbered eyes, binoculars, and a 'scope lens, but he never takes a picture. And he uses the camera's flash first as the signal for warning Lisa of coming danger, then uses it as a weapon against Lars. "Camera"/voyeurism as catalyst for danger or protection from danger, or both?

Mirror: For me, the real Yikes! moment of terror in PEEPING TOM is when we realize that the camera has a mirror on it. A mirror, often associated with narcissism or the dual nature of the person we see looking in it, becomes as, if not more, important than the movie camera. Knowing one is about die and capturing that on film is not horrific enough; the perfect horror is capturing one watching oneself die and converting the victim into a self-reflective voyeur. Which leads to...

So, Who Is the Voyeur?: I'll set aside the filmwatcher as voyeur for now, but how many other voyeurs are there? L.B. Jefferies isn't the only one in REAR WINDOW; Lisa and Stella, at first relunctantly, and then enthusiastically, join in. PEEPING TOM: who's the only person who "sees" Mark Lewis; what about Helen? PSYCHO: Norman or "his mother"? Does any film about voyeurism really have only one voyeur?

Language of Analysis: This was going to be a future topic, but -- doggone that Bryce -- it is lurking in the initial posts. Most articles I've read and discussion I've had on this topic refer to the "voyeur's object" and "his" objectification of women. Bryce wrote:
In many instances we aren't to know (the photographer's) preferred subject....

What happens to our perception of the relationship between the voyeur and the viewed person if we refer to the viewed person as the "subject" rather than the "object"? Is that an illegimate way of thinking about it? Does it make the voyeur more (perhaps, too) sympathic?

Thanks to all for keeping me engaged.
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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Mr. Arkadin
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Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 3rd, 2008, 8:37 pm

Let’s look at some of these questions one at a time and remember as Frank said: they hold different answers for different people. That is true for individual films and now might be a good time to run through some of our movie lists for examples:

Binoculars/Telescope: These bridge the distance between the viewer and the viewed, making the viewed appear closer. Does that create an intimacy (at least from the voyeur's perspective) that wouldn't otherwise exist? Or, does their use accentuate that distance and act as a reminder to the voyeur (and audience) that any sense of intimacy is false?

Since the idea of such devices is to make objects appear closer, I personally feel one develops a false sense of intimacy in relation their object. In Rear Window, Jeff becomes involved in the lives of his neighbors precisely because he has no life of his own (as he is helpless in a wheelchair, they become a substitution for his life). His concern over Miss Lonelyheart’s well-being as well as Miss Torso’s (he even has names for them!) endless parade of what seem to be suitors, are just two examples of his emotional investment in the lives of people he watches, but has never met. In The Conversation (1974), Harry’s previous failure predisposes him to consider his client’s targets as people rather than just a job. His inability to be objective (harm came to a person he once observed) causes him to misread the entire situation, causing another tragedy.


Type of Camera: A photograph captures a moment; a movie or television camera captures a process. Does it matter?

I believe it does matter. A photograph is a tiny glimpse of time suspended in space. In that space, one can take an intense look and possibly ascertain many things from facial expression, body positioning, even thoughts that would be impossible with film unless the frame was frozen or the film was slowed down. However, it is also much more easy to misread a photograph than a film, because a person is in motion and we see their habits from which we can draw conclusions. While a photograph is a possible opening to the mentality (expression translates motivation or thought) of a person, film seems more grounded in physicality (we determine who they are by their actions).

In BLOW-UP, some of the photos are for mass consumption, others for private (or very nearly so) consumption. In NETWORK, live mass consumption -- and the bigger, the better -- is clearly the goal (DEATH WATCH is similar, except the film is not shown live). In PEEPING TOM, there are photos for niche consumption and film for mass consumption (his work as a cameraman), semi-private consumption (the family film) and private consumption (the murders). What, if anything, does the use of the camera's output tell us about the voyeur, his audience, and the watcher of the movie? Ever notice that in PEEPING TOM, Mark's private room has one chair? A director's chair -- with his name on it (shiver).

Let’s take two of the films you mention, Network and Peeping Tom. A lot can be taken from just the titles as the former indicates pluralism and the latter is singular (giving rise to the question: who is really the “peeping tom”?). Both films deal with manipulation, but while Network shows us how corporations manipulate the public for monetary profit, Peeping Tom reveals Mark to be the manipulated. Thus the camera in Network is a tool to control the masses, while Mark’s camera is a living, breathing, entity that literally controls him (They cannot stand to be separated, although Helen makes him believe it might be possible for a short while.).


"Camera"/voyeurism as catalyst for danger or protection from danger, or both?

I would say both. In many instances voyeurism is seen (from the looker’ s perspective) to be passive, non-intrusive, when in fact the opposite is true. Man Bites Dog (1992) is an incredible example of this where filmmakers document the life of a serial killer and actually end up becoming involved in his crimes. Even if the subject never realizes they are being viewed, the result is that the viewer is always changed.

For me, the real Yikes! moment of terror in PEEPING TOM is when we realize that Mark's movie camera has a mirror on it. A mirror, often associated with narcissism or the dual nature of the person we see looking in it, becomes as, if not more, important than the movie camera. Knowing one is about die and capturing that on film is not horrific enough; the perfect horror is capturing one watching oneself die and converting the victim into a self-reflective voyeur. Which leads to...

An interesting thing about Mark’s mirror, is that it distorts the features of it’s viewer—-much like a funhouse device. The victim is therefore revealed to themselves in an unflattering way. A monstrosity. They are not only frightened by fear of death, but a reflection that seems to reveal their flawed souls in their faces. This is why they stay frozen. They never see the spike coming until it’s too late because they are paralyzed by a mirror that comes ever closer with their own twisted faces, horrified by what they see in themselves. Mark knows this. That’s why he must look into the mirror and accept his own death. It’s his way of facing the truth about himself, coming to grips with all he’s done, and finding some sense of understanding in the way he was made.

So, Who Is the Voyeur?: Setting aside the filmwatcher as voyeur for now, how many other voyeurs are there within the four corners of the frame? Jacques Tati used the idea to comic effect, but as any film noir fan knows, the whole world is (or is thought to be) watching. L.B. Jefferies isn't the only voyeur in REAR WINDOW; Lisa and Stella, at first are embarassed by Jefferies' voyeurism, then they relunctantly, and later enthusiastically, join in. PEEPING TOM: who's the only person who "sees" Mark Lewis; what about Helen? PSYCHO: Norman or "his mother"? Does any film about voyeurism really have only one voyeur?

Psycho is filled with voyeurism. When Sam talks with Marion about having a respectable dinner he says “and afterwards when we send (your) sister home and turn Mother’s picture to the wall?" This indication that “Mother” is watching is a grisly foreshadowing of what is to come. Marion’s employer’s customer leers at her. After she leaves town a cop (who never shows his eyes) watches her. She also arouses the suspicions of a car salesman. After all this, the Bates motel seems like a haven! The front of Norman’s house looks like a huge face that looks down upon the cabins and Mother is there in the window, waiting. I could go on here, but I doubt we have room…

Mark’s equal in Peeping Tom is clearly Helen’s mother Mrs. Stephens who lives above his viewing room ( I visit this room every night ) and is blind ( what am I seeing Mark? ). Although sightless, she reveals a superior vision to the other tenants and possibly even Mark himself as she is able to guess his thoughts.

Finally, although all films have different perspectives, a voyeur’s very nature invites discovery. To our great shame we are a society becoming obsessed with ourselves. With the rise of reality shows, MySpace/Facebook/Youtube, today’s culture enjoys being watched and will actually suffer ridicule or humiliation simply to be seen. The attentions of others have become our mirror, reflecting our own narcissism and we bask in their light.

Good Night and God Bless
P.S. Don’t EVER ask this many questions again in a single post.
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on September 5th, 2008, 6:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby bryce » September 3rd, 2008, 8:38 pm

I've gotta admit, Prof, you've got me at a loss for words regarding the, um, ahem, please excuse my French here, optical enhancement appendages. Oh, geez, I feel so rude saying that in front of the many ladies here at the Oasis! How ungentlemanly of me.

As if my severe ostentation hasn't all ready said enough, I view binoculars and telescopes as merely a superficial extension of our most powerful sense most taken for granted. Scopes, unlike cameras, possess no artistic or creative value, and are solely the tool of a voyeur (is a military scout not a voyeur?). Often in film a voyeur is all too aware of the limitations of a scope, but it is usually the first and definitely the most safe means of 'watching.' They will grow past such a crutch in short time, either through their obsession dictating further invasion into the subject's world or their having grown bold enough to allow them to advance closer to their ultimate desire, intimate contact. There lies a complication in simplifying the mind and motivations of the voyeur, but to the root of the question: it both grants intimacy and taketh it away. A most distressing proposition.

Should the voyeur take baby steps, or is all ready pre-disposed by profession or hobby, the camera is the next logical step to enhance the imagined intimacy and shorten the distance between voyeur and subject. Some voyeurs jump straight from binoculars and/or tailing to personal contact, just as some movies drop us straight into the role of voyeur as we watch a con man or stalker wiggle their way into their subject's life. Are all con men and stalkers not voyeurs at heart? Yet, all voyeurs are not cons or stalkers, now are they? I hope our Professor forgives me for asking more questions than I answer, but I believe my reasoning makes the questions worthwhile: to wield a camera, be it photographic or film, is a skill possessed not by many, especially earlier in film. This step in a voyeur's journey - the act of photographing or filming one's subject - requires talent, knowledge, and intelligence beyond that of any other part of the voyeur process. No one can deny L.B. Jeffries, Mark Lewis or Diana Christensen's intelligence, especially in comparison to other voyeurs in their respective films.

Within my ultra-obfuscated and excessively wordy thoughts lies my answer to the question of a voyeur's use of l'appareil photo, Professor ChiO. The camera is the most damning piece of evidence against the voyeur--that they are intelligent enough to know better and still they do so anyway. Worlds apart are Norman Bates and Mark Lewis. This dark intelligence, a most supreme and demented genius, I speak of is most well-represented in Diana Christensen, but I will save that dissertation for when we address Network.

Lastly, I have to cop to something here, as it seems that through my own words I've shown my true colors. I do sympathize with the voyeur, troubled and beautiful as they are. For the most part I am dodging the question of the voyeur turned sadist, though I make exception for Peeping Tom and I would love to address it when Mr. ChiO sees fit, but in regards to most film voyeurs, the intelligent and tormented souls, of both good and evil make, I sympathize. It is easy to dismiss them as craftsmen of fantasy, manipulators of their own unreality, possessive of an object inhuman through nonexistent intimacy, but it does them a disservice! They are passionate men and women, with very human faults and desires such as envy and lust. The world was once L.B. Jeffries's passion, and his brilliant observational mind was driven to voyeurism by boredom and chance. Once a voyeur, always a voyeur? Mark Lewis, whose father made his reputation in science on the manipulations of his own boy (his "subject"), seeks to make his impact on the arts (both brother and arch foe of science) by severely distorting, in the way only a troubled, tormented, disturbed artist can, the works of his own father. Mark Lewis, the voyeur. His victims, the voyeurs. His audience - us! - the voyeurs.

It may be demented, cruel, and condescending, but subject, not object, is the only way to refer to most voyeur's victims.

Thank you for what all ready is the most engaging discussion on film I've ever had online, Professor ChiO.

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Postby ChiO » September 3rd, 2008, 9:27 pm

Dewey is right (but I'll deny ever saying that): PEEPING TOM is a class unto itself.

Ark wrote:
Mark’s equal in Peeping Tom is clearly Helen’s mother Mrs. Stephens who lives above his viewing room ( I visit this room every night ) and is blind ( what am I seeing Mark? ). Although sightless, she reveals a superior vision to the other tenants and possibly even Mark himself as she is able to guess his thoughts.


And whose house is it? And who "peeps" into the very house he owns? Who is the outsider while being the ultimate insider? Looking out, but looking in?

A masterpiece. And out in the same year, but slightly before, PSYCHO. Thank you, Michael Powell.

This message (he said with a wish in his heart) is approved by The Estate of Michael Powell, Thelma Schoomaker, and Martin Scorsese.
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 » September 4th, 2008, 7:30 am

Since we are still discussing physical use of camera, take a short space here to talk about documentaries and how the camera becomes our window into various subjects. Does our perception of the subject change in the way the camera is used?

Films for discussion (feel free to add your own):

Triumph of the Will (1934)
F For Fake (1973)
The Thin Blue Line (1981)
Place de la République (1974)
Gates of Heaven (1978)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Land Without Bread (1933)
Fata Morgana (1969)
Burden of Dreams (1982)

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Postby Dewey1960 » September 4th, 2008, 8:44 am

Teach sez: I'll set aside the filmwatcher as voyeur for now, but how many other voyeurs are there? L.B. Jefferies isn't the only one in REAR WINDOW; Lisa and Stella, at first relunctantly, and then enthusiastically, join in. PEEPING TOM: who's the only person who "sees" Mark Lewis; what about Helen? PSYCHO: Norman or "his mother"? Does any film about voyeurism really have only one voyeur?

And I'm glad he did say it because I believe that ultimately voyeurism is a contagious malady, one that generally seems benign (who, really is getting hurt unless the voyeur is a psychopath?) initially and only degenerates into a problematic condition if the filmmaker deems it so---which is usually if not always. Film--and, more importantly, film-going is a communal adventure that works best at the subconscious level. In order for a film to work--particularly one that actively enlists the emotional and psychological participation of incidental characters as well as an unsuspecting audience--the director (for lack of a more convenient suspect) must be several steps ahead of that audience and must be willing to accept the lumps which come if his manipulative game is revealed early on to be a sham. This is probably why directors like Hitchcock and DePalma (we really have to get more deeply connected with him as this course rolls along) and Cronenberg and Powell and the others we've mentioned figure so prominently in this discussion: because they rarely (if ever) allow themselves the luxury of blowing their game. That was the long answer to the question "Does any film about voyeurism really have only one voyeur?" The short answer is No. (I hope I haven't strayed off topic!)

Regarding Mr. Ark's query about documentaries: I believe documentaries, by the very nature of their existence, beg the issue of voyeurism. I find Riefenstahl's films to be deplorable on one level and ideologically immature and manipulative on another. Despite their obvious contributions to history they are devoid (in my opinion) of any intrinsic aesthetic value. Errol Morris' film THE THIN BLUE LINE does possess a keen and unusually vibrant aesthetic presence, one that bravely foregoes journalistic objectivity and hurls the viewer into a nightmare of subjective reality. And by doing so, it became a film that changed the world, or at least one man's world. But it might not have accomplished this (or even have been made in the first place) had the director not chosen to force his audience so unmercifully into the plight of his subject. A brilliant companion piece to Hitchcock's masterpiece of narrative voyeurism, THE WRONG MAN.

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Postby ChiO » September 4th, 2008, 3:50 pm

Non-fiction is Lies masquerading as Truth. Fiction is Truth masquerading as Lies. -- (wish I could remember where I read or heard it)

I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours. -- Bob Dylan

Everything was a lie. There wasn't anything that wasn't. -- Orson Welles (commenting on F FOR FAKE)

The above capture my ambivalence over documentaries. A documentary often has lies, but by labelling it a "documentary", those lies are perceived by many to be truths, which I find potentially insidious. But as Dewey points out, Errol Morris is an excellent example of one who molds the "true lies" to get to a greater Truth (the anti-Michael Moore?). And, of course, there is F FOR FAKE, which Jonathan Rosenbaum has astutely observed is not a documentary, but a documentary plus essay plus fiction, and which I find to be the most exciting examination of the nature of art and reality I have ever seen. (NOTE: We must discuss F FOR FAKE, BLOW-UP and PEEPING TOM in this context down the road).

I watched PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE at Mr. Arkadin's suggestion in preparation for this thread. The willingness of people to discuss personal details on camera because, after all, "we're making a movie" was fascinating. We, along with Louis Malle, were being voyeurs, watching strangers expose their histories. It raised many questions for me that I "perceived" only because I was watching with a specific focus, but those questions are generally applicable to any documentary. While some people did refuse to talk on camera and were filmed refusing, how many others refused but whose "moment" didn't make the final cut? Malle gives us the impression that the vast majority of people were willing to talk, but could it have really been a small minority? Who has primacy in the film: Malle and I as voyeurs, or the people as exhibitionists? And why do we "perceive" them as telling us the truth any more than we perceive Malle to be telling us the truth?

Another Malle documentary on the same DVD, VIVE LE TOUR, had a profound voyeuristic moment for me. Early on, for probably 30 seconds, Malle and I are watching the bikers in the race while a voiceover says that the bikers look for family and friends in the crowd, then the camera shows the crowd looking at the bikers as the bikers look at the crowd. Try diagramming that.
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 » September 4th, 2008, 5:20 pm

ChiO wrote:Dewey is right (but I'll deny ever saying that): PEEPING TOM is a class unto itself.

Ark wrote:
Mark’s equal in Peeping Tom is clearly Helen’s mother Mrs. Stephens who lives above his viewing room ( I visit this room every night ) and is blind ( what am I seeing Mark? ). Although sightless, she reveals a superior vision to the other tenants and possibly even Mark himself as she is able to guess his thoughts.


And whose house is it? And who "peeps" into the very house he owns? Who is the outsider while being the ultimate insider? Looking out, but looking in?


To understand the reasoning behind Mark's kills, we need to take a closer look at his victims and more importantly--those who are not chosen for his "experiment". Mark is a very handsome man and his subjects are also equally beautiful. Mark works on the hypothosis that beauty is a mask that hides evil within (as his does). This is why when shooting at the seedy apartment he is touched by a girl with bruising on her face (a scene which is revisited in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies [1996]). He does not show interest in killing her however, because in her face he finds evidence of what he seeks. This is honesty to him, that a face should reveal it's true nature. This is what he seeks in others, reviewing and examining his films of faces in the throes of death. He is looking for the spiritual in the physical (as does Cronenberg), but fails again and again (I'll have to find another one!). His method is the same one with which his father warped him: fear. Helen is also excluded because she makes herself close to him. Mark works from distance and detachment. Mrs, Stephens is considered, but rejected--not because she is blind, but because they are equals who are both tormented and suffer from a sickness: She is an alcoholic, he a serial killer. Her urging Mark to seek help, makes him consider that his situation might not be hopeless. When this fails, he seeks to find the answers in himself knowing his life was always coming to this point (literally!).
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on September 5th, 2008, 5:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 4th, 2008, 5:56 pm

Dewey1960 wrote:Regarding Mr. Ark's query about documentaries: I believe documentaries, by the very nature of their existence, beg the issue of voyeurism. I find Riefenstahl's films to be deplorable on one level and ideologically immature and manipulative on another. Despite their obvious contributions to history they are devoid (in my opinion) of any intrinsic aesthetic value.


I certainly understand your feelings and totally agree with them (except the point that the film has no value). I think the fact that we are manipulated by images, framing, and the staged scenes, says a lot about how easily people can be controlled. This picture of Hitler places him in the guise of a Greek god or perhaps Christ at the second coming, which--although a major lie and distortion of truth--caused thousands of people to commit their lives (and deaths) to his cause.

LR's shooting from low angles to give Hitler great height or panning the camera around him while he talks (giving a hypnotic effect), lure us into a total fantasy world which from today's perspective is somewhat akin to an Orwellian nighmare. I find connections in other films, Network (1976) and Face in the Crowd (1957) are two examples, but the difference is the fact that many people view those films as satire, something that could never happen in real life. Triumph of the Will is a living reminder that it did happen, and for that reason alone I think it deserves to be seen (perhaps on a double bill with Night and Fog [1955]?).

Errol Morris' film THE THIN BLUE LINE does possess a keen and unusually vibrant aesthetic presence, one that bravely foregoes journalistic objectivity and hurls the viewer into a nightmare of subjective reality. And by doing so, it became a film that changed the world, or at least one man's world. But it might not have accomplished this (or even have been made in the first place) had the director not chosen to force his audience so unmercifully into the plight of his subject. A brilliant companion piece to Hitchcock's masterpiece of narrative voyeurism, THE WRONG MAN.


The Thin Blue Line is real life Noir. I don't know why it is never considered as such (perhaps because it's a documentary). I have to run at the moment, but I hope we can discuss this film a bit more.
Last edited by Mr. Arkadin on September 5th, 2008, 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Dewey1960 » September 5th, 2008, 8:34 am

Ark said: I certainly understand your feelings and totally agree with them (except the point that the film has no value).

Hi Ark! In truth I said that I felt Riefenstahl's films had no aesthetic value and I firmly believe that. Yes, as historical documents (however hideous and misguided they may be) they do serve to illustrate the corruption and criminality of an uncivilized psyche. But psychologically, I think her work is bereft of any other interesting qualities. Nothing to illuminate in the 21st century. Just a curious footnote and little else: Hitler's girlfriend with a camera.

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Postby ChiO » September 8th, 2008, 11:57 am

Not to cut off the ongoing discussion or to forget where it has led us, here is another approach for discussion. The profession of some of the major characters who are overt practitioners of voyeurism has been mentioned. To follow that line, and as an excuse to put some more films into the discussion, here are some examples:

REAR WINDOW – photojournalist
PEEPING TOM – movie cameraman & cheesecake photographer
X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES – scientist
BLOW-UP – fashion and candid photographer
THE CONVERSATION – surveillance expert
WITNESS TO MURDER – interior decorator
PUSHOVER – police detective
SISTERS – newspaper reporter
DEATH WATCH – television cameraman
MONSIEUR HIRE – tailor
THE 1000 EYES OF DR. MABUSE – criminal mastermind
RED – judge
ONE HOUR PHOTO – photo clerk
THE LIVES OF OTHERS -- agent of secret police (added at 4:20pm CST because I just watched for the first time)

Is there any significance to the character’s profession and the voyeurism? How might that relate to the person(s) being viewed, or to others who get involved in viewing. What are their relative positions of power? Do those positions change or shift and, if so, what does that do to our perception of the voyeur?
Last edited by ChiO on September 8th, 2008, 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » September 8th, 2008, 1:15 pm

Prof, your question above raises an interesting point: I don't think it's necessarily the profession of the voyeur that makes a voyeur, although certainly in cinema that character's hobby or profession is usually symbolic.

But it's the psychology of the perpetrator that's really at issue. Even someone in a high position can be secretive, paranoid, vindictive, and so on. In my observations of life, those who really relish gossip and those who like to spy on others, are people who feel themselves in some way inadequate, and feel that their actions somehow give them a kind of power over their victims. The voyeur, especially, practices his or her art in secret (although the most vicious gossips themselves generally spread their worst rumors in private as well).

The story of a voyeur can take so many different plot paths: the more acceptable form of observation practiced by the hero in Rear Window, who grabs a camera out of habit and boredom and is ultimately justified in spying on a murderer; or the twisted mind of the young man of Peeping Tom, who we are to understand from the outset is disturbed. Both are camera enthusiasts, but each one uses his skills according to his own psychology.

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » September 8th, 2008, 1:20 pm

By the way, Prof, following up on the discussion of documentaries, I'd like to put forward the documentary films of Frederick Wiseman, which are, to my mind, presented in the most voyeuristic of ways -- no narrative, very little dialog, and a sort of roaming camera technique as though it were my own vision moving along looking at different elements of a scene. Wiseman's works seem, at first glance, unstructured, but you are in fact being made to look at a definite progress of events, as though through a hole in a curtain or the eyepiece of a lens. Yet the author of this work remains entirely anonymous, as a practiced voyeur should.

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Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 9th, 2008, 10:45 pm

ChiO wrote:I watched PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE at Mr. Arkadin's suggestion in preparation for this thread. The willingness of people to discuss personal details on camera because, after all, "we're making a movie" was fascinating. We, along with Louis Malle, were being voyeurs, watching strangers expose their histories. It raised many questions for me that I "perceived" only because I was watching with a specific focus, but those questions are generally applicable to any documentary. While some people did refuse to talk on camera and were filmed refusing, how many others refused but whose "moment" didn't make the final cut? Malle gives us the impression that the vast majority of people were willing to talk, but could it have really been a small minority? Who has primacy in the film: Malle and I as voyeurs, or the people as exhibitionists? And why do we "perceive" them as telling us the truth any more than we perceive Malle to be telling us the truth?


Place De Republique is one of those rare films that seems completely authentic. Is it? I think so. Sure, there was editing and people who didn’t want to be interviewed. They probably shot miles of film and just took the cream, but the difference between this and today’s “unscripted documentaries/reality TV” is shocking to say the least. You see these people thinking and opening up their lives in a way that’s rarely seen on screen. Are they completely honest? That's a question that deals more with morality than voyeurism. As Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon says: "Everybody's got something to hide."

One of my favorite scenes is when they have the camera trained on a pretty blonde girl who remarks: “We’re attracting quite a crowd.” When asked if it makes her uncomfortable, she merely shrugs: “They’re watching you—not me.” Here we see the completed circle: We watch the girl through the lens, while bystanders watch the film crew watching her, which enables us to see the girl. This indeed is the very nature of art, whereby the artist creates and the viewer interprets and responds.


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