Life Drawing -

Film Review - North By Northwest

Release Date - 1959
Director - Alfred Hitchcock 
Genre - Crime Fiction, Thriller, mystery, Drama.

In the 1940s through to the 1960s, Alfred Hitchcock was arguably one of the world's greatest film directors who bought romance and suspense to new cinematic levels. known for conceptualising his films in his mind in great detail, Hitchcock had a interesting sense of humor and was a master manipulator of his audiences with unexpected dramatics. Hitchcock loved presenting viewers with difficult circumstances, characters who get involved in sinister plans that are hard to fathom and situations that seem to offer no easy or normal way out.

North by Northwest may be one of the most classic Hitchcock films because of Cary Grant's great comic skills and it's almost show-offy action like sequences, together with its complicated plot. There are some more unbelievable moments in North by Northwest that stretch one's belief in the story too far, like why try to kill Grant with a crop-duster plane and then have it crash into a lorry containing oil, which Grant hides under and escapes completely unharmed? Why doesn't Grant find it strange that in the middle of danger aboard a train he would be seduced and saved by a beautiful woman who seems determined to get his attention? 

The persona of its lead, Cary Grant, showed a civilised hero and was obviously a major role model for James Bond. Suave, sophisticated, athletic, womanizing, daring and very humorous, talking about humour, In one famous scene, he breaks into a woman's hospital room and she yells hysterically "Stop!," then puts on her glasses, and then, imploringly, says "Stop," to which Grant, with his back to the camera keeps on going by and out the door while giving her a knowing, smiling rejection in a playful grunt. (fig.2) showing the one of the many brilliant humours moments.

Cary Grant breaking into a woman's hospital room -
But a very iconic scene would be when Cary Grant arrives at an isolated placed in rural Indiana to meet the person he has been mistaken for, he gets off a bus and on to a empty highway surrounded by farmland, there are a few long establishing shots that truly show how he is in the middle of no where, looking rather out of place too, but the lack of noise is what creates the tension, all you can hear for a long time is the plane in the background. Tola Onanuga writes in detail about this particular scene and  agrees that the lack of noise just emphasises the tension "Hitchcock uses these eerie sound effects to ratchet up the tension a notch." (Onanuga, 2013) A few people in multiple reviews seem to always mention how Hitchcock really played on tension in his films "Of course, the hallmark of North by Northwest is the way in which Hitchcock develops tension." (Berardinelli, 2015)

The pacing of the film is also brilliant, the intriguing characters and outlandish plot are often seen as the reason for its popularity but the crop-duster scene seems to take all the great elements of the whole film and combined it into one well shot scene. 'Hitchcock was (and still is) the master of suspense not just because he understood perfect pacing, but because he was able to repackage nightmarish clichés into fresh and exciting pieces of cinema.' (Renée, 2014) (fig.3) showing how the scene may be more cinematic than others and how Cary Grant stands out.

Hitchcock always brought a recurring series of themes to his movies, innocent men falsely accused, mistaken identities, icy blondes, strong mothers and often-absent fathers. Bumbling cops, threatening spies, strangers on trains, subtle homoerotic undertones and surprising twists and turns of the plot and never more successfully than in North by Northwest. 

Cary Grant at the bus stop in the middle of no where, looking very out of place in his suit.
The iconic scene where Cary Grant is being chased down by the crop duster plane. 

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'Fat Movie Guy | North by Northwest Movie Poster - Fat Movie Guy' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Poster] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: www.fatmovieguy.com

Figure two - 'Mind Blown: Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest - aka The ...' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: mind--blown.blogspot.com

Figure Three - 'North by Northwest (1959) – Alfred Hitchcock (Guest post from ...' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: aworldoffilm.com

Figure Four - 'North by Northwest (1959) – locations - The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki' (1959) From: North By Northwest. Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock. [Film Still] United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At: the.hitchcock.zone

Bibliography - 

Berardinelli, James. (2015) 'North By Northwest'  From: North By Northwest. 
In: http://www.reelviews.net [Online] At: http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=757. (Accessed on the 29.01.15)

Onanuga,Tola. (2013) 'Why I love … North By Northwest's crop-duster scene' From: North By Northwest. In:http://www.theguardian.com 30.07.13 [Online] At:http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/30/north-by-northwest-grant-hitchcock.
(Accessed on 29.01.15)

Renée, V. (2014) 'Breaking Down the Iconic 'Crop Duster' Scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 'North by Northwest'' From: North By Northwest. In: http://nofilmschool.com. 09.03.14 [Online] At:http://nofilmschool.com/2014/03/breaking-down-the-crop-duster-scene-from-hitchcocks-north-by-northwest. (Accessed on the 29.01.15)


Film Review - Rope

Release Date - 1948
Director - Alfred Hitchcock
Genre - Crime Fiction, Thriller, Drama.

The story is simple, two college graduates, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, decide to murder David Kentley, their former classmate. Their plan is to commit the perfect murder all to prove their intellectual superiority. To test themselves they invite a number of friends over to their apartment for a dinner party, including their victim’s father and aunt. Also there is the men’s former prep school housemaster Rupert Cadell, who allegedly inspired the men to commit murder with his discussions about Nietzschean philosophy several years previously.

Shaw and Morgan endure a number of questions from Rupert and the guests about David’s whereabouts. Still seeking an intellectual thrill, Shaw goes so far as to taunt the guests by tying the rope they used to kill David around some books for David’s father to bring home. Despite the graduates’ efforts to cover up the crime, Rupert is suspicious, and in the film’s climax, Rupert must determine if the boys really did kill their classmate.

In this explicit melodrama Hitchcock has tried the trick of shooting a full-length picture in one set and in one continuous scene. That is to say, he has made his camera a random observer in an elegant suite of rooms in which a murder is being committed just as the picture begins. And he has kept his camera steadily turning upon the subsequent drama which occurs as guests arrive for a cocktail party and the murdered body lies concealed in a chest.Richard Scheib talks about how Hitchcock made the camera trick really work "The gimmick works surprisingly well. The script is tight and it is this that drives the suspense." (R. S 2015)

Something must be said about the way the film was shot. Hitchcock decided to film in extremely long takes, ten minutes at a time in some cases. When he was nearing the end of a reel, he would move the camera so that the cut could be masked. For example, Hitchcock would dolly the camera into the back of a character, cut, and then shoot again in the same position, so it wouldn’t look like the shot had ended when the film was screened. Vince Leo spoke about Hitchcock's camera technique also "It's not quite accurate to state that there are no cuts. Due to the limitations of film reels at the time, he could shoot for no longer than ten minutes before he needed to change film. To get around the limitation, he cleverly manages to make most of his cuts seamless by getting in close to the back of someone's suit jacket, cutting, and continuing." (V.L 2008). This creates a dynamic, flowing pace for the film that mirrors the story’s origin as a stage play, the characters appear to move through the apartment in real time, this is something that most people can agree on, like Pamela Hutchinson "We open with a murder, and close with a gunshot that summons the cops. What happens in between is filmed excruciatingly close to real time." (P.H 2012)  

Because Hitchcock decided to shoot the film in this way, he had to devise an innovative method for moving the camera. Rope was Hitchcock’s first film shot in Technicolor, meaning the camera he used was the size of a small car. To follow the actors through the set, pieces of the individual rooms and items like furniture had to be placed on wheels and rolled out of the way of the camera. This meant training the film crew to move as a coordinated unit, learning when to swoop in and silently roll set pieces away to make room for the camera. ( fig.2) behind the scenes. 

The novelty of the picture is not in the drama itself, it being a plainly deliberate and rather thin exercise in suspense, but merely in the method which Hitchcock has used to stretch the intended tension for the length of the little stunt.

The set for rope

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'Alfred Hitchcock's Rope Poster by escdesigner on DeviantArt' (1948) From: Rope. Directed By: Alred Hitchcock. [Film Poster] United States: Warner Bros. At:escdesigner.deviantart.com

Figure Two - 'Understanding the Hidden Editing in Hitchcock's '' (1948) From: Rope. Directed By: Alred Hitchcock. [Film still] United States: Warner Bros. At: nofilmschool.com

Bibliography - 

Leo, Vince (2008) 'Rope (1948) / Thriller-Mystery' From: Rope 
In: http://www.qwipster.net [Online] At: http://www.qwipster.net/rope.htm (Accessed on 29.01.15)

Scheib, Richard (2015) 'Rope: Rating-' From: Rope In: http://moria.co.nz [Online]
At: http://moria.co.nz/horror/rope-1948.htm (Accessed on 29.01.15)

Hutchinson, Pamela (2012) 'My favourite Hitchcock: Rope' From: Rope
In: http://www.theguardian.com [Online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jul/27/my-favourite-hitchcock-rope



Film Review - Psycho

Release Date - 1960
Director - Alfred Hitchcock.
Genre - Thriller, Slasher, Horror, Mystery.

Psycho when first released would have revolutionised cinema, both technically and in terms of content. At the time of its release Psycho was viewed in certain circles as a rule-breaking, wildly explicit film, dealing in brutal murder, sexual situations, and themes involving Norman's complex and transvestitism (never mind it was also the first time a flushing toilet was seen on film). Stephen Whitty talks about the impact on audiences and Hollywood "For audiences, though, “Psycho” marked an even larger turning point. For here was a Hollywood movie which, quite flagrantly, refused to follow any of the Hollywood rules." (S.W. 2010) Although these elements are not nearly as shocking in the twenty-first century, Hitchcock's Psycho remains a miraculous motion picture of bravery and innovation. It is no wonder it consistently ends up on any and sometimes at the top of the list of all-time horror greats. Owen Gleiberman boldly states "You could easily claim that Psycho, more than any other film, is the movie that changed movies —" (O.W. 2012)

A perfect film to study various uses of editing, Hitchcock handles the passage of time very efficiently. When Marion leaves the room, we realize that it’s still that same day. She goes to work, collects some money she’s supposed to put into the bank and goes back home. All that happens in one particular afternoon, and the time frame doesn’t change. We return to her room. There is no need for dialogue, we know what she’s thinking when her desperate eyes land on the envelope. After she decides to run away with the money, the editing becomes more and more interesting.

A fairly minor thing to mention would be the use of whites and blacks, when we first see Marion Crane she is in all white, underwear to clothing (fig.2) then once she steals the money and plans to flee with it she has changed, all black (fig.3). Possibly a subtle hint at her innocence before she let her inner darkness out. Hitchcock conveys an intensifying theme in Psycho, that bases itself on the unending subconscious battle between good and evil that exists in everyone.

when you first see Marion, all white. proceeds to wear a white outfit to work.

After Marion steals the money and is packing.

There is one scene which is the most iconic, one where you've more than likely seen it in a parody by either The Simpsons or Family Guy, Fig.4 showing The Simpsons remake of the unconventional but now classic twist, where the main character is murdered early on in the film. Craig Johnson also mention this unconventional occurrence  "The movie was groundbreaking in several technical ways, but also startled audiences as becoming the first major film to kill off the protagonist -- in 30 minutes no less." (C.J. 2014) Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released in the summer of 1960, and in the half a century since, it has become the rare movie in which every image, detail and motif is now more or less iconic.

The Simpsons spoof of the iconic shower scene

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'psycho-bluebird - Film School Rejects Film School Rejects' (1960) From: Psycho.
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Poster] United States: Paramount Pictures
At: filmschoolrejects.com

Figure Two - 'marion-crane Images - Frompo - 1' (1960) From: Psycho.
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still] United States: Paramount Pictures
At: images.frompo.com

Figure Three - 'Mark Rappaport 2 : Requited' (1960) From: Psycho.
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still] United States: Paramount Pictures
At: requitedjournal.com

Figure Four - 'simpsons-psycho-7f09-rasca-pica-y-marge.jpg' (1960) From: Psycho.
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock [Film Still] United States: Paramount Pictures
At: sushasushasusha.wordpress.com

Bibliography - 

Gleiberman, Owen (2012) 'As 'Hitchcock' arrives, here's a look back at the mystique of 'Psycho' 
From: Psycho In: http://insidemovies.ew.com 24.11.12 [Online] 
At: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/11/24/a-look-back-at-the-mystique-of-psycho/ (Accessed on 21.01.15)

Johnson, Craig (2014) '8 unnerving facts about that 'Psycho' shower scene" From: Psycho In: http://www.hlntv.com 31.10.14 [Online] At:http://www.hlntv.com/article/2014/10/29/psycho-shower-scene-facts (Accessed on 21.01.15)

Whitty, Stephen (2010) 'A ‘Psycho’ analysis: Alfred Hitchcock’s spookiest movie brought with it the end of Hollywood innocence' From: Psycho In: http://www.nj.com 31.10.10 [Online]
At:http://www.nj.com/entertainment/movies/index.ssf/2010/10/a_psycho_analysis_alfred_hitchcocks_spookiest_movie_brought_with_it_the_end_of_hollywood_innocence.html. (Accessed on 21.01.15)

Life Drawing -


Film Review - La Jetée


Release Date - 1962
Director - Chris Marker 
Genre -  Sci-fi, Short film, Drama, Black&White

The movie that is said to be the main inspiration for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995), Chris Marker's La jetée is a twenty eight minute film told almost entirely in still frames, Even though the images are statics, the video give a strong sensation of movement and all cinematography elements are there. The static images “freeze” the time to emphasise the most important memories of the main character. The use of light to distinguish the present and the memories worked very well. The sun and shining images to show the glorious past and the romantic history, the darkness from the subsoil shows how depressing is the future of humanity after the third war. Despite this Jonathan Romney, goes as far to explain the stills as a story board "photographed storyboard for a science-fiction film yet to be made." (J.R. 2007) Although there is one point in the film where it isn't a photograph, a very small and subtle moment, but in that time you find yourself leaning in, watching these small moments, Andy Taylor makes a good point by saying in that small moment we truly connect with this character and jump from what feels like past to present, "In a few brief frames the woman blinks and smiles at the camera and in the moment we connect with her, the past brought miraculously to life not only for the time traveller but for the audience as well." (A.T. 2008)

Set in a future shaped by the Cold War, the Earth’s surface has been scorched and irradiated by nuclear war and what is left of the human species lives underground. In Paris, scientists experiment with time travel, attempting to send a person into the future so as to find a way to rescue humanity from the fate of the present on the grounds that those in future “cannot refuse their past”. along the way telling the story of an unnamed man whose childhood memories make him the perfect guinea pig for the experiment. After awhile he is sent into the past, where he falls in love with a woman whom he once saw on a pier.

Besides the editing and screenplay, there is one characteristic of the film that could impress. Even with a fiction story, the documental approach is really strong. As photography for so many years were regarded as proof of reality, the images of a destroyed Paris seem so real that you almost believe in the story, fig. 2. The camera seems to really have registered real circumstances. Another element that helps this sensation of reality is the voice over, guiding us through the photographs, Landon Palmer say's "Marker connects La Jetée’s careful succession of images with a voice-over narration which further gives the impression of a narrative moving forward even if the images are not." (L.P. 2010)

Film still of the destroyed Paris.

It’s an astounding example of what you can do as a filmmaker once you have a great story.

Illustration List - 

Figure One - 'Favourite Time Travel Movies - Movie Forums' (1962) From: La Jetée
Directed By: Chris Marker [Film Poster] France: Argos Films 

Figure Two - 'La Jetée Captured - From the Current - The Criterion Collection' (1962)
From: La Jetée. Directed By: Chris Marker [Film Poster] France: Argos Films 
At: www.criterion.com

Bibliography - 

Palmer, Landon. (2010) 'Criterion Files #387: La Jetée' From: La Jetée
In: http://filmschoolrejects.com 14.07.10 [online]
At: http://filmschoolrejects.com/features/criterion-files-387-la-jetee.php (Accessed on 20.01.15)

Romney, Jonathan (2007) 'La Jetée: Unchained Melody' From: La Jetée
In:http://www.criterion.com 25.06.07 [online]
At:http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/485-la-jetee-unchained-melody (Accessed on 20.01.15)

Taylor, Andy (2008) 'Andy's Anachronisms - Time Travel Movie Reviews' From: La Jetée
In: http://www.timetravelreviews.com [online]
At: http://www.timetravelreviews.com/movies/la_jetee.html (Accessed on 20.01.15)