White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal's power spectral density has equal power in any band, at any center frequency, having a given bandwidth. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.

Who am I?

Neo-hippie cinephile. Follower of the great Jim Morrison who once said "If the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Suspicion and Rebecca

The Stanford Theater played host to me twice this weekend as I found myself there watching Hitchcock's earlier 1940's films - Suspicion and Rebecca. It's a classical theater in every sense of the word. What differentiates it from the run of the mill AMC's and Regency theaters sprouting up in suburban America everyday is its plush maroon carpet and the concept of the Balcony section, something I miss after moving here. As the guests poured in, hobnobbing with each other in the excitement preceding the watching of a Hitch flick, a pianist entertained them on a three layered piano that looked like it had been stolen from the Adams' family home.

Both films starred the delectable Joan Fontaine, in not too different roles. In Suspicion, she played the suspicious wife of the super smooth Cary Grant, who as I would imagine was intended in the script, completely stole the show, with his ability to talk himself out of any situation. In terms of appearance, Grant could make George Clooney look like a rustic transvestite. What differentiates this film from Hitchcock's other movies, is the lack of the overbearing temptation of the director to scare his audience. Instead, the efforts seemed a lot more subtle here to me with the script playing out a lot of precarious scenes rather than the camera.

Joan Fontaine plays a simple girl in Rebecca who ends up becoming the second wife of a tycoon who can't seem to give up his love for his deceased first wife. I must confess I was hugely disappointed initially seeing Lawrence Olivier, or maybe Cary Grant was still dominating my imagination of a male hero. However, gradually, as the film progressed, and Olivier delivered line after line with utter nonchalance to effortlessly produce comedy, I realized why he was so sought after in his day. The film also showcases romance in indelible form. There are these sequences when the couple go on rides where nothing much is said, but the emotion comes through appropriately. In terms of the genre of horror, this film is lot more of an insider with a smart script, packed with twists and turns and spooky looking character actors.

What was common to both films, and possibly to all films of the era, was this almost unapologetic putting down of women. For instance, Fontaine's character might well have worn this sign around her neck in both films that said "Oh where are you my man? I can't live without you" whereas the men were shown to be these cool cats with smart lines. Also, there were no funky camera angles that has come to be associated with Hitchcock. Maybe, these were films made before he found and developed his style. He didn't make his trademark brief appearance in either film. I still think the guy is overrated and don't consider him a great filmmaker, but a smart one. Maybe that's because my admiration for neorealism and directors like Bergman, Antonioni and Ray and master-craftsmen like Kurosawa leave little space for directors of the horror genre and for the most part, the theatrical acting of their cast. However, that doesn't mean I wont watch Foreign Correspondent and Spellbound next week.


Jabberwock said...

What differentiates this film from Hitchcock's other movies, is the lack of the overbearing temptation of the director to scare his audience

...leave little space for directors of the horror genre

Dude! Exactly how many Hitchcock films have you watched? (Trying not to get into the question of how closely you've watched them, because that would lead us into very subjective territory.) Only 3 of his 54 films (Psycho, The Birds and arguably, The Lodger) fulfill any of the standard criteria of the horror genre (not that there's anything wrong with horror per se - it can be every bit as profound as "neo-realism").

Also, "funky camera angles"? Really? For my money, some of the stuff Bergman does in Persona, Hour of the Wolf or Wild Strawberries (or Antonioni in Blow-Up, or even the deliberate, very stylised minimalism of L'Avventura) is way more funky and attention-grabbing than anything Hitch ever did. That's an amazingly simplistic definition of "neorealism" vs "horror" you've put up there.

Lastly, even Hitchcock's biggest critics tend to grudgingly concede that he was at least a master craftsman (though not - sniff, sniff - an artist). But you really do seem to dislike the old chap - you've taken even that away from him!

ArSENik said...

I have only watched Rear Window and Vertigo apart from these two. I watched the reconstructed color version of Rear Window and it's probably not a compliment to Hitch that I liked the use of color the most in the movie. I fell asleep during Vertigo. However, I do plan to watch all the remaining movies at the Fest.

I haven't watched Persona, Hour of the Wolf, Wild Strawberries, Blow-Up or L'Avventura yet.

So far I haven't seen anything that would compel me to shower the title of master craftsman on him. That can obviously change. In fact, I am really curious about this one shot of a car, a couple of characters and several umbrellas in the rain. Don't know which film that is from, but that looks brilliant. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying Hitch wasn't a great director, especially since the rest of the world thinks so. All I am saying is that I am not a fan and I don't consider him great.

Jabberwock said...

Okay, two things: 1) Rear Window was made in colour. There may be a reconstructed version around, but not one in which the colour was added afterwards (like in Mughal-e-Azam or Naya Daur).

2) At risk of sounding snarky (and apologies if it seems that way), the casual way in which you mentioned Bergman and Antonioni as "neo-realist" directors you admire made me take it for granted that you had seen most of their major films (four of which I mentioned in the comment - Hour of the Wolf can be excluded as being a relatively low-profile Bergman). So if you haven't seen those films, and you've seen only four Hitchcocks in all, no problem - at least you have a lot of high-quality viewing ahead of you, in both directions!

The shot you mention is from Foreign Correspondent btw...

ArSENik said...

Oh, didn't know that about Rear Window! Good stuff in that case. No, you don't sound snarky. I respect the fact that you feel strongly enough about the classics to point out what you feel. Hell, we need more people like you in this world!

In fact, I have only watched L'Eclisse and The Seventh Seal and became fans of the two greats. Have a lot of Bergman and Antonioni (Blow-Up, L'Avventura, La Notte, The Passenger) lined up in my DVD library queue.

Aah, can't wait for next week and Foreign Correspondent in that case.

On a similar note, my film, which is currently in post, pretty much got nipped into half of its length by my Editing teacher today. The look on her face when I told her I was trying to go Antonioni was classic before she said "You shouldn't be trying that in your first film".