Hitchcock and auteur theory

Hitchcock and auteur theory

The Andrew Sarris essay, “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962”, argues that the auteur film is not always bad even if there is a bad director. Sarris gives the example of Marlon Brando and his film One-Eyed Jacks and how he thinks it was better than many films without directors. Also, that there are so many other elements to look at in a film such as the script, the music, the costuming and the acting, rather than just focusing on the director. To what extent is a director really needed, in some cases? Another argument is that the film should be an extension of the director’s mind (when there is one); his thoughts, his perspectives, his visions. The auteur always has a ‘signature style’, or recurring elements of the film that really just personalizes his or her films. It also becomes part of the auteur’s identity. The essay also says that ultimately films are art and there is always more than one meaning, which comes from the director’s views and persona. The mise-en-scene is very important in the auteur theory because what the director puts into the scene sets the tone for the whole movie, and essentially could make or break the film.

Sarris classifies these three premises of auteur theory as concentric circles, with underlying meaning as the inner circle, the auteur’s personal style as the second circle, and the technique as the outside circle. The essay mentions Hitchcock as an important auteur much like Maurice Yacowar’s “Hitchcock’s Imagery and Art.” The Yacowar essay says Hitchcock’s “delight is to make his moral points through exciting fictions, reminding his audiences of the difficulties of moral life…” and talks of the tensions between innocence and guilt.  This is described as Hitchcock’s signature style and Yacowar mentions North by Northwest as one filled with moral issues and innocence and guilt. Yacowar believes Hitchcock is bored with morality, and finds sin much more exciting for his films and audiences. As an auteur, Hitchcock has much more decision-making power in his films, and being a famous auteur gives him even more creative authority because the stars and other people working on the film know that the film will already be catered to a certain audience and will be associated with his name, and therefore more likely to become popular. Alfred Hitchcock is known for his suspense and his art is based on the “dramatic appeal of the insecure” (Yacowar, 205). Hitchcock usually has several common obstacles for his protagonists, such as police, as seen constantly in North by Northwest, and there is also always a conflict between a character’s love and duty. For example, in North by Northwest, Eve’s internal conflicts between her love for Thornhill or her duty as a spy. These reoccurring elements in plot really characterize the film as Hitchcock’s and add to his popularity as a respected auteur. Yacowar explains all of the common themes in Hitchcock’s movie and all of the different movies the different elements are known for.

Works cited

   Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen. “Andrew Sarris’s “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962″” Film Theory and Criticism. Sixth ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 561-64. Print.

Yacowar, Maurice. “Hitchcock’s Imagery and Art.” Hitchcock’s British Films. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1977. N. pag. Print.


Voice and Sound in Singin’ in the Rain

Within the classic Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain, there are many historical references associated with the birth of the talkies. The voices in both the movie and the film being made during the movie were very important because they gave insight on the character’s personality and role in the grand scheme of things. Also, the addition of semi-historically accurate video and sound equipment, and the reaction of the film industry to these new techniques help viewers understand the struggles faced in early Hollywood cinema.

The voices in Singin’ in the Rain really personified the characters to which they belonged. For example, Cosmo, the piano player who specializes in slapstick comedy, talks really fast and that accompanied with what he says adds to his personality as the typical funny sidekick. However, Don talks languidly and casually, because he’s a big movie star without a care in the world (besides escaping his adoring fans of course). Lina’s screechy voice not only presents a problem that only Kathy can fix, but also antagonizes the audience further, aiding her villain role. On the contrary, Kathy’s voice is portrayed to be melodious and pleasant to emphasize that she is one of the protagonists, and so she can save the day by singing and speaking for Lina. The fact that there were diction coaches who had to teach actors and actresses how to speak sounds silly in modern times, but for silent film stars, the coaches probably saved them their jobs. Additionally, the way the coaches were making Don and Lina talk was part of the deceptive nature of silent film actors and actresses. They were supposed to speak very proper and exaggerated to match their screen personas, and their voices were supposed to match their faces as well.

It also shows the old camera booths as the quirky and frustrated director, Roscoe Dexter struggles to get Lina to learn how to speak into the microphone. This further stressed Lina’s problematic character. As Cosmo said during the film, “She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance. A triple threat.” I thought the idea to make the “Duelling Cavaliers” a musical was significant, because it was going above and beyond the type of films they previously produced. Not only is it reacting to the Jazz Singer by being a talkie, it’s also a musical, where the beloved actors from silent films can now sing and dance. Also I found Don’s tap dancing significant because it’s the noisiest form of dancing, and that added to his triple threat status of singing, dancing and acting; all of the things Lina can’t do.  It was funny learning about the struggles of the early microphones and sound equipment. In Jane Feuer’s “Winking at the Audience”, she comments about the technology, “The elaborate moving-camera effects and full MGM audio stand in complete contrast to the inept and technologically crude sequences that are being shot contemporaneously for Don and Lina’s first talkie.” In retrospect, it truly shows how far we’ve come with IMAX and surround sound.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching a classic Hollywood-style film, and seeing the background of the talkie films. The voice and sound aspect of this film made the characters more enjoyable to watch and helped viewers understand the characters’ roles and personalities more clearly. The introduction of the talkie films was highlighted by the use of classic equipment and scenes that showed the struggles silent film actors and actresses faced as the industry transitioned into a new phase of cinema.

Works Cited

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Marie Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.

Feuer, Jane. “Winking at the Audience.” N.p., 2005. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

Metropolis 1927

Metropolis 1927

Kelly Peretz

Metropolis is a film about creating peace between social classes, and is explained by the epigram: The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart. In this futuristic world, the head is Joh Fredersen who designed the city. The hands are the thousands of laborers who worked relentlessly with their machines to make the city a bustling dystopia. The heart, and mediator is Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son, who discovers that there is a completely different world underground with the machines and makes a prince and the pauper-esque trade with one of the workers so he could see how the laborers lived after he was entranced with the laborer’s prophet, Maria. The film was made after World War I and directed by Fritz Lang.

The lighting was exaggerated to define each of the different social classes. The head, or wealthy citizens were shown in lighter settings accompanied with their graceful movements; show a carefree attitude about life. On the other hand, the hands, or laborers are shown in a darker scene and their movements were slow and methodical, as if they were becoming the machines they worked on all day. With their uniforms and orderly marching, the laborers acted like prisoners, which added to the theme of the laboring class being inferior to the upper class. The music played also distinguished class, with light and happy music in the Club of the Sons, and low, drudging music while underground with the machines.  There was also a lot of magic in this film, with the robot and Rotwang’s pentagram-strewn house, and presented a dark tone to the film which added to the evil presence given by Joh Fredersen and Rotwang as Fredersen conspires to defeat the laborer’s upcoming uprising.

I found it interesting how this society was supposed to be so futuristic with its machines and transportation systems, yet when faced with a problem of the past, (Maria/robot being accused of witchcraft), the citizens dealt with it in an archaic fashion: by burning her at the stake. Another note about the robot/ Maria is that there was a distinct difference created between her and the real Maria. For example, the robot Maria wore very dark makeup because the film was in black and white, and a lot of makeup during that time period meant that the girl was considered to be low-class or of loose morals. However, the real Maria wears no makeup and always wears her dress tied completely shut, which adds to her saintly character. Most of the characters in this film wore makeup because it enhanced the face of the character and better defined the face in the black and white film.

Because it was a silent film, the hand gestures and facial expressions of the characters were extremely exaggerated to better portray the action and reaction of the characters. Each emotion portrayed shown in both the movements of the character, as well as the face, so the characters make very broad hand gestures and their hands are virtually never static. The character that I believe is a model example of this is Maria. Her facial expressions are extravagant to almost a comical level, and her hands are consistently moving and raised to convey her many emotions.