17 October 2007

83. rear window

the new wavers were right about this movie: as fun and suspenseful as it is, it really is all about the moviegoing experience. when we see a movie, we are like jefferies, stuck in our seats waiting for the stories to unfold -- "we've become a race of peeping toms" says stella. so much so that it can make us impotent and unable to even appreciate the love of someone like grace kelly...

the new wavers were also right about hitchcock's gaze. as godard said, "the history of cinema is boys photographing girls", and grace kelly is seen as the ultimate hitchcock fantasy in this film, and her introduction shot is iconic for all the right reasons -- her passion juxtaposed with his detached demeanor. it fits right into hitchcock's worldview perfectly -- the man who is driven to the point of eschewing women even as a romance unfolds around him.

otherwise, hitchcock's technique is incredible and his mastery of filmmaking technique is on full display. watch how his camera glides across the courtyard showing us the remarkable backlot and set design, then comes into the apartment showing up jefferies leg cast first, making the audience instantly interested, then over to his cadre of cameras and onto his car-wreck photos, explaining all we need to know about his backstory and current position, and satisfying the audience's curiosity while simultaneously making us part of the story. and all of this accomplished with the camera -- no dialogue spoken.

elswhere, the subjective camera choices continue, with long shots, almost tableaus, inspired by tati (in my opinion), letting us watch the mini-stories throughout the rest of the set, as well as letting us watch jefferies reactions to the unfoldings due to judicious editing.

what else? the diegetic music seeping into the scenes, edith head's constantly purposeful costuming, the performances. while the movie is well-written and the concept solid, i can't help but thinking that the writing for any of hitchcock's films is going to always be second to his incredible sense of the possibilities of what a director could do to impose his own vision on a film. that's why he's a legend.

04 October 2007

84. the princess bride

it is about storytelling. it is about the power of the stories we tell, from generation to generation, from grandfather to grandson, and it is about the conventions and techniques of classical storytelling (that the cast is at least vaguely aware of themselves in a true post-modern way) that are so universal and ingrained that they emotionally involve even the most bored, video-game addled jaded suburban children.

what are those conventions? adventure, in the form of a kidnapping and a rescue and a chase. villians, in the forms of an evil know-it-all and an even more evil ruler with sinister intentions. sidekicks, in the forms of a giant and in the form of a six-fingered man. but mostly, as almost all good stories, it is about love, and the lengths we go to get love and save love.

and the story is exotic and fantastic (in the older sense of the word). we get to see things we normally woudn't: the aforementioned six-fingered man, sword fights on stone cliffs, resurrecting the dead, a dangerous forest where flames shoot out of the ground!

mostly, though, the movie espouses storytelling in the most primative and elementary ways: as a bonding experience and as an escape from the world. and since the story is so good, tomorrow the grandfather will come back and tell it again, since stories are meant to be told over and over and over.