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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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Dewey1960
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Postby Dewey1960 » September 10th, 2008, 8:24 am

From (a) agents of power and change with a hint of professional justification (criminal mastermind / judge / cop / surveillance expert, reporter, scientist) to the (b) overly literal-minded notion of snoopery (movie cameraman / photographer / photo journalist / photo clerk) to the (c) less obvious and subtle variants (interior decorator / tailor; they dress the sets and the stars for the observations of others); a convenient grid to help determine the relative positions of power for the watchers and the watched.

a: The watchers have all the power and need it to survive, not just have a kinky good time. Those they watch are powerless to various degrees of tolerance.

b: The watchers have the power until the watched figure out a way to turn the psychological tables on them (usually with the help of other watchers). This is that grey area where most movies about voyeurism get made.

c: Watchers and watched ones can slide uncomfortably in and out of each other’s roles whenever necessary.

What a strangely obsessive yet completely natural way to get and keep people embroiled in your narrative (or documentary). The next thing we're likely to hear is that it's the filmmaker--and only the filmmaker--who has the power!

jdb1

Postby jdb1 » September 11th, 2008, 9:39 am

What do you all think of the doubly subjective POV style of a movie like Lady in the Lake? Though not a film about voyeurism, per se, it does emphasize the sort of -- what's the right word? --- spying? view: you are not only directed to see what the camera lens is seeing, but also you must look through the eyes of the protagonist, who is, in effect, acting as your camera. Although many here have expressed little enthusiasm for this movie, I have always found the conceit (I mean as in "literary conceit") of this one very interesting.

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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » September 11th, 2008, 10:23 am

LADY IN THE LAKE: How does better in concept than in execution work as a review? It is one of those movies that I wish I had seen without knowing the subjective POV that was coming and lasting throughout. That conceit becomes distracting for me, which may be more my fault than Montgomery's. When Powell turns to the subjective camera in PEEPING TOM, however, it is both exhilarating and terrifying, and serves an immediate purpose of communicating with the audience. I'm all for camera and lighting conceits if they communicate the intended emotion to the audience and draw the audience into the movie; if they don't, then the conceit is merely a trick.

Or...maybe it's just another case of M-G-M demonstrating that film noir was not its forte.
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 11th, 2008, 11:17 am

The one scene in Lady in the Lake that makes it for me is the one where Montgomery glances into a mirror, and we see him, looking at himself, looking at us looking through him, through the unseen camera, etc. The entire movie should, and could have have expanded on that concept, I think. Welles stretched that conceit in the hall of mirror sequence in Lady from Shanghai. As a matter of fact, I think many of Orson's movies have a kind of cinema verite, POV, fly-on-the-wall feel to them.

I wonder if the Lady in the Lake that the studio released was the one Montgomery intended it to be. In other hands, and as you point out ChiO, at another studio, Lady in the Lake could have been a voyeuristic field day.

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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » September 15th, 2008, 11:45 am

Picking up on the excellent points made (love your grid, Dewey), let's segue to the films that arguably depend less on the on-screen voyeur and directly and more overtly implicate the audience: for example, NETWORK and MAN BITES DOG (yes, Mr. Ark, thanks to you and the encouragement of a reliable Facets staffer, I got the nerve to watch it).

Who does have the power? The on-screen executives who broadcast for the on-screen audience's edification? The subject/object/exhibitionist who is the focus of the watching? The on-screen or off-screen audience who can decide "I'm tired of watching this"? Or, are we all -- on-screen and off-screen -- just pawns of the great and powerful filmmaker?

Is manipulation a pejorative or a term of praise? (Was that the sound of F FOR FAKE I just heard?)
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 16th, 2008, 9:49 pm

A good example of audience manipulation might be Psycho. In the bathroom scene, the knife never touches flesh. The editing and sound effects (as well as the wonderful soundtrack) create the illusion, and we use our own minds to fill in the gaps we cannot see. From here to the end of the film, the violence is lessened, yet the film continues to grow more and more intense. Why? Hitchcock is using that initial death to manipulate our senses, and the suspense occurs in our own minds as we watch the film.

Films like Man Bites Dog work in a different way. Just as Hitchcock used humor to make many violent scenes palatable, MBD also uses humor to desensitize our skepticism. Ben is charming and comedic--not what we expect. In inntial stages, the film plays more like comedy than satire, with many of Ben’s crimes looking almost slapstick in nature. It’s in the final part of the movie where we see him unmasked and are shocked—at him and with ourselves—to find vileness. It was always there, but we often choose to rationalize truth, especially in its relationship to our own lives. This indicates that sight is not simply vision, but perception.

I’ll save Network for another post.

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inglis
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psycho

Postby inglis » September 18th, 2008, 1:17 pm

Mr. Arkadin wrote:A good example of audience manipulation might be Psycho. In the bathroom scene, the knife never touches flesh. The editing and sound effects (as well as the wonderful soundtrack) create the illusion, and we use our own minds to fill in the gaps we cannot see. From here to the end of the film, the violence is lessened, yet the film continues to grow more and more intense. Why? Hitchcock is using that initial death to manipulate our senses, and the suspense occurs in our own minds as we watch the film.

Films like Man Bites Dog work in a different way. Just as Hitchcock used humor to make many violent scenes palatable, MBD also uses humor to desensitize our skepticism. Ben is charming and comedic--not what we expect. In inntial stages, the film plays more like comedy than satire, with many of Ben’s crimes looking almost slapstick in nature. It’s in the final part of the movie where we see him unmasked and are shocked—at him and with ourselves—to find vileness. It was always there, but we often choose to rationalize truth, especially in its relationship to our own lives. This indicates that sight is not simply vision, but perception.

I’ll save Network for another post.
You Know its funny I had something to say about this movie Psycho when this discussion first started but I guess it just was not noticed. I was wanting somebody to give me feedback just to see if I was on track with what was being discussed as I don't always know how to put things down in technical way. My comment was about the camera shots .I am glad it has been brought up again :)

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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » September 18th, 2008, 2:31 pm

Excellent summation of MAN BITES DOG, Mr. Arkadin.

I also found interesting how the control shifts through the film. Initially, appearing to be a documentary, Ben appears to be talking directly to the filmmakers, the filmmakers being in control. Then, as they need money to continue shooting and ask him to steal money to finance them, the power shifts to Ben. As he gains more control, he arguably bypasses them altogether and speaks directly to the audience (which, in the context of the concept, doesn't even exist yet).

Fascinating little movie coming from three poor Belgian film students.

NOTE to all: We will be having a long weekend to see if there's anything to do in the Big Apple, so post away and I'll catch up on Monday.

Thanks to everyone for your involvement.
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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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » September 26th, 2008, 5:22 pm

Sorry for my absence. Long weekend holiday in NYC and, upon returning on Monday, I had to immediately and unexpectedly fly to Minneapolis. So, where were we?

Although I can enjoy a snappy script, dialogue is often near the bottom of my list of film virtues, listening to the words more for tone than content. In rewatching some movies and watching others for the first time in preparation for this thread, I was struck by some of the lines and, instead of just watching the watchers watch, I was listening to some striking expositions on voyeurism. Although I hated taking notes while watching, here are some near facsimiles:

SISTERS: As a witness to a murder, the female reporter (professional voyeur) becomes frustrated that the police aren't accepting her story.
Reporter (to police): "And watch you walk off?"
Police: "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

DEATH WATCH: Roddy has had a TV camera implanted in his eyes inorder for him to surreptiously film the death of a young woman for broadcast. He's asked by his boss about his need for rest and Roddy responds: "Don't like to sleep. Afraid I'll miss something."

The network executive, commenting on the show's success (37% of the audience find it offensive, but stay tuned in): "Dying is the new pornography. Because it's real."

Kate, the dying woman who doesn't know that Roddy is filming her when he looks at her, tells him that she going to have a reunion with her husband and Roddy replies: "Not sure I want to watch that."

Roddy's explanation why he was willing to have the implant, which presented a risk to his own eyesight: "Everything I see is recorded on film...forever. It's the toy to end all toys. Besides, they can fix me up. It'll be good to close my eyes."

REAR WINDOW
L.B. "When am I going to see you again?"
Lisa: (angry) "Not for a long time..."
(softening)
Lisa: "at least not until tomorrow night."

Lisa: "Jeff, you know if someone came in here, they wouldn't believe what they'd see? You and me with long faces plunged into despair because we find out a man didn't kill his wife. We're two of the most frightening ghouls I've ever known."

Lisa: "Tell me exactly what you saw and what you think it means." (No, she wasn't referring to this thread.)

Stella: "We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How's that for a bit of homespun philosophy?"

So...are the visuals an aid for understanding the words, or are the words an aid for understanding the visuals?
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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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » September 30th, 2008, 5:28 pm

But speaking of silence (resounding here), which reminds me of mimes, which reminds me of BLOW-UP, which reminds me of Molo (are you out there?), let's wrap things up with the promised (on TCM) interpretation of BLOW-UP. It admittedly can seem dated due to the setting in mod-London and the New Wave flourishes, but for me it is a brilliant piece of filmmaking with a classic theme that uses voyeurism as its basis.

What is Antonioni trying to express in your opinion?
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

Metry_Road
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Postby Metry_Road » September 30th, 2008, 8:20 pm

It’s been years since I saw ‘Blow-Up’. Not since I was a teenager anyway. I didn’t like it, and thought it was quite boring. Maybe it was my youth, inexperience and ignorance that caused me to miss the point of the film. I shall have to watch it again through the eyes of maturity and experience (bifocals).

However, I do remember the scene at the Yardbirds concert. It was horrible. I have never seen such a dead and inert crowd at a concert. They all looked like they were in the final stages of a zombiefied marijuana high. I don’t know if Antonioni had stage-managed the scene to death or he was trying to make some subtle point (lost on me). But it was tough to watch even if you do get to see some rare footage of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on the same ticket.

Regards

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Mr. Arkadin
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Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 30th, 2008, 9:25 pm

ChiO wrote:let's wrap things up


Before we do that, I would suggest that there is a lot that has not been covered. We have not explored films like Keaton's The Cameraman (1928) or Sherlock Jr. (1924) that show how voyeurism works in comedy. The Decalogue (1988) is an incredible set of one hour films that deal with self and objective examination--humanistic as well as spiritualistic. Network is an in depth look at the power of media. We were supposed to discuss this, right? 8 1/2 (1963)? Persona (1966)? Don't forget Contempt (1963) showing this weekend (anyone up for a watching party field trip?)! This film literally begins with the camera dissecting not only the creation of a film, but the dissolution of marriage. What about The Blue Angel (1930) where a schoolteacher begins as voyeur and ends as subject?

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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » October 1st, 2008, 1:58 pm

My bad, I guess. I confused my lack of interesting questions with a lack of interest in continuing. Back to BLOW-UP later.

THE BLUE ANGEL, heh? Falling in love again. Is Lola Lola directing that at herself or Herr Professor? I'm not to blame/Can't help it. Can't help falling in love, or can't help torturing Herr Professor?

The general line on voyeurs in film is that they are men symbolicly controlling or preying on women. If generally true, then the tables seem turn if the male voyeur is looking at a woman who is a public exhibitionist. Herr Professor has no control -- over his passion, his fetishism, even his classroom -- once his interest in looking is exposed.

Has Camille Paglia written about this movie? Did Fritz Lang borrow the opening scene for THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW?
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 » October 4th, 2008, 9:44 pm

Image

The breakdown of a marriage is not a light subject. John Cassavetes Faces (1968) is downright harrowing, while Igmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage (1973) is realistic and hopeful, but neither could ever be called beautiful. Contempt alone can make such a claim.

Showing tomorrow night on TCM (10/5), Godard uses the camera to tell a story about two people, but the context of their relationship is heightened by a tyrannical director who creates a romantic triangle. Contempt is also a triangle of filmmaker, subject and audience, but which of us is the interloper?

This is an amazing film with many layers. I can’t begin to describe them in this short space—nor will I attempt to. Instead, I offer a few observations:

Note how the film begins with the camera over the opening credits, which finally comes to rest on us. Actors, director, even film crew is mentioned. Finally at the end, we the audience are being photographed, including us as participants.

Also important are the American film references here. While French New Wave directors often loved to show their influences, in this film those influences tend to have actual connections with the story. One such incident is when Paul gets in the bathtub with his hat on. Camille asks what he is doing and he replies: “I’m Dean Martin in Some Came Running (1958).” This link gives us insight into Paul’s character, as Dean Martin’s “Bama” is clearly a misogynist who treats women as little more than toys. Some Came Running and Contempt also have ties in that both films deal with relationships and hypocrisy. As for Palance’s character, he is a stand-in for the actual American producer who demanded Godard show Bardot in various states of undress to titillate viewers and sell the film. Godard acquiesced by showing Bardot’s naked body at the beginning of the film, slapping us in the face with her curves. By doing this, he removes expectations of sex and lets us see Camille as a real person instead of Bardot playing a character.

Observe how the widescreen process is used to exaggerate the gulf between Camille and Paul. They are often at opposite ends of the frame. In the apartment, they often walk in and out of the frame showing us an empty home. In the theater, the camera has to actually pan back and forth between them as the bitterness deepens.

Image

Fritz Lang plays himself as a director making a film version of The Odyssey, which again has all kinds of references and links to our characters. When they look at the rushes, pay attention to what is said about the characters and do a little research on Greek myth and tragedy if you haven’t studied it before. Lang says very few words in this film, but they are all very important. He is its moral compass and has many interesting things to say about life (as well as the filmmaking process).

Finally, it would be impossible to separate Georges Delerue’s masterful score from the rest of the movie. This is what gives the film its depth, making these characters real to us. Without the music, Contempt is a daring experiment. Its inclusion is what causes the film to live and breathe, turning it into a work of art.

Have fun watching and I hope we can discuss this one.

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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » October 17th, 2008, 3:08 pm

As I was preparing to post a new question(s) for discussion, I realized that failed to post a response re: CONTEMPT along the lines of a post elsewhere in cyberworld. New question(s) tomorrow, but for now...

I, however, must snap at the bait that Mr. Arkadin threw out regarding CONTEMPT -- and probably get snagged in the jaw.

Lang says very few words in this film, but they are all very important. He is its moral compass and has many interesting things to say about life (as well as the filmmaking process).


I agree completely. As the moral compass (here comes amateur Sigmund again), he can be viewed as the Superego. Jack Palance looks like the Id to me -- pure, untamed, raw emotion. And Michel Piccoli is Ego, mediating the other two. Brigette Bardot is the Fantasy, Desire, molded by the Id and Ego -- at least in their minds -- to suit their purposes, each engaging in Bardolatry (credit must be given to Andrew Sarris for that marvelous coinage).

What will require repeated viewings is to see whether a similar case can be made for Godard's use of color. In the opening sequence of the film proper, where Piccoli and Bardot are in bed, the filter changes from red to white to blue. Perhaps just a reference to the colors of the flags of France and the United States, but I want to believe it is more than that. As she asks whether he likes specific parts of her anatomy, from her feet to her derriere the screen is bathed in red, from the bottom to the top of her torso in white, from her neck up in blue. Red, a color of passion, dealing with her body from the waist down, denotes the Id; blue, dealing with her head, is the Superego; and, white, between the others, is the Ego, again mediating. Those colors are strikingly used throughout the film, but whether the analogy holds -- well, repeated viewings are called for. (I don't want to think about the yellow that occasionally pops up.)

She also asks whether he can see her feet and derriere in the mirror. That question is not asked regarding any other body part. Is that implying that she does not want a direct gaze as to those fetishized parts of the female anatomy, which are Id-related? Well, then, what about her breasts, certainly the most fetishized female body part (in most Western cultures) and not located in the "Id" (as hypothesized above)? Her breasts are never visable in the scene, so they are protected from his direct gaze and any mediated gaze through the mirror.

Note how the film begins with the camera over the opening credits, which finally comes to rest on us. Actors, director, even film crew is mentioned. Finally at the end, we the audience are being photographed, including us as participants.


Mr. Arkadin is probably right that the "we the audience are being photographed, including us as participants," but allow me to posit another possibility.

The cinema substitutes for our gazes a world more in harmony with our desires. CONTEMPT is a story of that world. (camera turns directly to the audience)

With that opening quote from Andre Bazin and statement of intent, the camera turns and begins to film us, the audience -- not as participants, but as the subjects. We are not watching a movie and actors; we are projecting our fantasies, our desires, onto the screen. The trials and tribulations of filmmaking may provide the underpinning for a narrative of a failing marriage, but the "real" movie is us and what we want to see. And, if that is the case, then the film is not about voyeurism or even exhibitionism...it is about narcissism.

Or maybe not.

"GOD" HILLIARD IN '08 and beyond!
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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