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Filed under: Uncategorized — Romy Chiarotti at 11:32 am on Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hitchcock is viewed by many to be somewhat chauvinistic. He believes that the men are stronger characters, and the women weak. What he does admire about women is their femininity, and he makes it a point to illustrate his fascination with the female body in his films. Sexuality is a very strong theme in his films. Themes of voyeurism are often portrayed by use of the male-gaze, one of the major film components that Hitchcock is famous for.

Hitchcock’s main themed style of sexuality suggests that his work has very strong psychoanalytic undertones. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is centered on sexuality and the feeling of longing for sexual experience that one cannot have. In fact, almost all of a person’s tension and psychological issues can revert to some idea of sexual frustration (according to Freud). This is much like Hitchcock’s use of the male-gaze. The male-gaze allows the spectator to see the point of view from the male, as the camera emphasizes the femininity of the women’s body. For that brief moment in time, it is as if we are not spectators of the film, but in the minds of a testosterone driven male. Like Hitchcock, Freud believed that the male longing for something that he cannot have is a deep and powerful state of being, almost as if the world slows down when he looks at the curves of a woman. It is almost as if for a moment you are not watching a movie, but you are on a journey through the male mind. This idea of slowing down time to emphasize the male stare is portrayed in many movies, though it would not be farfetched to say that they got some inspiration from Hitchcock. One excellent example is the pool scene film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The camera is first at a high-angle to highlight Phoebe Cates’ curves and then dramatically slowed down to emphasize the visual-psychological dynamics of the male fantasy. As well as the pool exiting sequence, another male fascination shot sequence by the pool was when the camera slowly panned around the girls sun bathing. If that isn’t a male fantasy, I don’t know what is.

Many films took this idea of the male gaze and parodied it by dramatically slowing down an entrance of a beautiful female, usually coming from the pool or the rain. The wetness adds to the sexuality of the shot. In the movie The Mask, Cameron Diaz’s entrance is dramatically slowed down behind a score of “sexual music” as she comes into the bank from the rain in her red dress. The music and the dramatic, obvious slow pan up on her body parodies the idea of the male gaze and makes it abundantly apparent that she is the ideal “hot babe” of the film. The color red (Cameron Diaz’s dress) also plays a role in the sexuality of film. Most women who wear red in films are the temptress or the ideal woman in the eyes of the male character. An example of this is the film American Beauty. This film plays with themes of sexuality and beauty. The character, Angela (Mena Suvari) is usually covered in red rose petals during Lester’s (Kevin Spacey) fantasies about her. As well as the other examples, time slows down when he fantasizes about her. The film American Beauty mirrors Hitchcock’s, Vertigo in the sexuality theme. Lester (American Beauty) and Scottie (Vertigo) do not love Angela (AB) and Judy (V)… they lust over them. Angela is Lester’s fantasy because she is young and beautiful she represents to Lester his youth and a time when he was truly happy. Similarly, Angela and Judy both have a constant need to be desired and controlled.

Another theme that adds to the darkness of Hitchcock’s style is the use of the doppelgänger. The doppelgänger is usually presented by the appearance of twins or double of something. This appearance is meant to be offsetting and uncanny. It leaves a ghostly presence, and what is even more offsetting is that something is always “off” about the doppelgänger; it is never exactly the same. For Freud, the uncanny is about repetition and recurrence. Another film where the ghostly presence of the doppelgänger is famously used is The Shining.

Early Summer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Romy Chiarotti at 2:01 pm on Friday, April 9, 2010

This is my midterm essay, but I think it sufficiently reflects my reaction on Early Summer as a journal entry…

Yasujirō Ozu made his mark as a legendary Japanese director and screenwriter in the1950’s. Ozu was well known for his unconventional style of directing. His particular style was not fully developed until the post-war talkies. Ozu’s films consist mainly of slow family dramas that emphasize emotion rather than plot, as stressed in his personal quote, “Get rid of all the dramatics and show a sad character; without using drama, make the audience feel the emotion”[1]. The betrayal of pure, deep human emotion was his ultimate goal in film directing. His use of long takes, long silences, and slow-paced scenes helped execute the concept of real time and real emotion.

Yasujiro Ozu was one of the first directors to use the “titami shot” throughout his movies, which was one of the many effects he was known for. The “tatami shot” is a camera angle in which the camera is placed at a low height, as if the observer was in a kneeling person. This low stance of the camera still managed to obtain straight-on long shots, which was prominently used throughout his films.

Yasujiro Ozu had an eye for aesthetics. Each scene of his films had had careful, complex, and exquisite composition. His use of Japanese art, rice paper screen doors, and carefully placed objects made each shot a work of art. The architecture in the shots were mainly composed of rectangular shapes from the screen doors, creating a two-dimensional framing in each shot. Any still from one of his films depicts pure beauty, for he puts careful consideration into the composition of each shot.

Ozu’s fame arose from his unusual style and rebellion against basic Hollywood norms and continuity editing. Ozu was merely uninterested in what was expected of him in terms of continuity editing. Over-the-shoulder shots are typically used in continuity editing, though Ozu has the camera gazing into the eyes of the character; a very unsettling, yet powerful tool he is known for. His transitions were also unsettling and unusual. Instead of fading in and out of a scene, he would use a shot of an inanimate object between scenes (pillow shot) or he would just use a direct cut. The continuity rule that Ozu was most famous for ignoring is the 180° rule. His placement of characters from one shot to another was not consistent, though once again, this was a conscious choice to disregard conventional rules.

One movie that brilliantly exempted Yasujiro Ozu’s style was Bakushû aka Early Summer (1951), which was about a post-war Japanese family and their attempt to marry their daughter of 28. The movie begins with a montage of aesthetically pleasing shots of the ocean, a caged bird, and the hallway. This montage was Ozu’s way of opening the film to welcome the viewer into his world of the complex, wonderfully composed shots, which they will see between every scene of the film (pillow shots). In one scene, Koichi and two older women were talking about a man that they wanted to fix up with Noriko. In this scene, there were long shots of the three of them all looking in particular directions while talking to each other, then the camera would focus on one of them looking straight at the camera while speaking or in another direction opposite of where they were looking in the long shot. This is just one of many examples of Ozu’s discontinuity. Another example in which he defies the 180° rule is in the scene with the mother, son, and daughter at the table. The characters face in contradicting directions from shot to shot. In the shot where the mother returns to the correct axis, her back is facing the camera, which was a remarkable and unusual character position compared to classical Hollywood cinema.

Bakushû was a top rated film, which led to the peak of Ozu’s career. Bakushû truly exemplified Ozu’s unforgettable style. Ozu stirred up controversy in the world of Japanese film because of his unconventionality. Hasumi wrote that Ozu chose a persistent approach towards film and its limits, liberating himself from the ambiguity of outlines, dampness and shadows[2]. Nevertheless, Yasujiro Ozu’s unconventional style is what gave him fame as a director.

[1] nyff/ozu4.htm


Umberto D. ~ Italian Neorealism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Romy Chiarotti at 12:51 pm on Friday, March 19, 2010

My experience in watching Umberto D. might have been slightly different because I speak Italian. In my experience of watching Italian films with subtitles, I’ve noticed that the subtitles never really do the dialogue justice. There are many Italian proverbs, sayings, and idioms that just can’t translate to English. It also helps to have an understanding of the culture.

Language aside, I was blown away by the realism that I thought I knew already. I have to admit, I haven’t seen too many movies made before the 1970’s-1980’s. While watching Umberto D., I tried to visualize the same movie with the same plot, same setting, and same actors… but made today. I feel like it would lose a bit of the depth, emotion, and most of all, the realism. Films at the time were limited to a low budget, with very primitive technology, which I believe added to the feeling of realism. Films today which claim to be “realistic”, although moving, lack a certain element that the post-war Italian neorealism films embraced. Perhaps the apparent lack of technology helped myself and all viewers feel what it is like to be as poor as Mr. Umberto. The limited technology also added to the idea of a limited lifestyle, as most citizens had under a fascist rule.

Some aspects of the film that added to the realism and personally effected me were the long shots. Most Italian neorealism films used long shots to engage the audience to make them feel like they are actually witnessing real life vs. an edited movie. The long-shot scene from Umberto D. that stuck out to me was the one where Maria was walking around the kitchen cleaning up. The shot was about a minute or two long and had no soundtrack, just silence. There was no plot significance to the scene, it was merely a commentary on Maria’s everyday, silent life.  I felt as though I was pulled into that depressing kitchen with her.

Umberto D. was a commentary about the life of an average post-war Italian citizen. His story was like a microcosm of the world that the lower class lived under a fascist rule. It was a difficult time to make a film because of the censorship of Mussolini’s “LUCA” (L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa). Like most neorealistic Italian films at the time, Umberto D. was focused around an idea of liberal humanism. The director intended us to empathize with the main character.

One major thing that made me empathize with Umberto was, of course, Flike. I happen to be a huge dog lover. About an hour or so into the film, when Umberto was looking for Flike in the dog pound, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to sit through the rest of the movie. Since Prof. Herzog warned all of us dog lovers about the film, I was expecting something bad to happen to Flike. I was on the edge of my seat and on the verge of tears through that entire scene. I have a harder time watching dogs get hurt than people getting hurt or killed in movies. This is probably because dogs don’t understand what is happening when they get hit by a car or have to get Euthanized. This was particularly bad timing for me because I just got a puppy that I am absolutely in love with (pic below). Although I was crushed to see the other dogs go into that chamber… it was a huge relief to see Umberto reunite with Flike. As expected, I had the same roller coster of emotions at the end of the film when Umberto almost threw Flike in front of a train. It is an absolute shame that there weren’t more options for unwanted pets back then.

my puppy

Going back on the censorship aspect… after watching Umberto D., I got the idea that the post-war films were heavily censored. There seemed to be a lot of oppertunities for dark moments in the film that were avoided. It wasn’t until I saw a clip of Roma, Citta Aperta (1945) that I realized that some Italian neorealism films were more gruesome, with a stronger political commentary (clip below).

Rossellini – Rome, Open City

P.S. The link to the clip is up there^ but can someone tell me how to embed the clip into the blog post?

It was a difficult time to make a film because of the censorship of Mussolini’s “LUCA” (L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa).

Lady Eve

Filed under: Uncategorized — Romy Chiarotti at 11:45 am on Thursday, February 25, 2010

I enjoyed Lady Eve because I’m a sucker for romantic comedies. The biggest turn off for me was that it  was completely unrealistic that Charlie fell in love with Jean and couldn’t recognize that Eve was the same person. I understand it’s a movie and that aspect was supposed to be comical, but I guess it just didn’t work for me because instead of enjoying the second half of the movie, all I could think was: how could he be so damn ignorant? (yes, I know it’s just a movie)

Back then, “ideal” women were known to be pretty, fragile, innocent, and obedient. I admired that Eve’s character was very sarcastic, charismatic, and dominant, unlike most female movie characters at the time. Aside from Eve’s conniving side, her character reminded me of Jennifer Cavallari from Love Story (1970). I tried to find a clip of her on youtube, but all I could find was the movie preview. If you haven’t seen Love Story, I highly suggest watching it!

I don’t really have much of an opinion about Lady Eve otherwise… but stay tuned!


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