A Third Liebster Award for The Wonderful World of Cinema

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A while ago, Joey from Wolffian Classics Movies Digest had the kindness of nominating me for a third Liebster Award! Having been pretty busy, I haven’t even had time to thank him properly and answer all the questions, an nominate other blogs (you know, the procedure!). So, that’s what I’m doing today on this beautiful Christmas Holiday night.

So, first, thanks so much Joseph for nominating me for this award!

When one receives a Liebster Award, he or she first has to answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated him or her. Then, he/she has to say 11 random things about himself/herself (that people might not know), nominated 11 other blogs and ask them 11 questions. Here we go!

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest’s 11 questions:

1- Who is you favourite movie director and why?

This is a secret for nobody, Hitchcock is the one. You want to know why, read this text and you’ll get all the answers!

Why do I love Hitchcock’s films? 

Actually, my objective would be to review every Hitchcock’s films on this blog.

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2-Which movie star do you think should be next honored by a Life Achievement Oscar?

Oh many of them are wonderful, but my choice would be Doris Day. I just love her. Actually, Doris is not my favourite actress, but she’s my favourite singer! I’d love to see her be honoured with a Life Achievement Oscar.

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3- Psycho And The Birds are probably the two most well-known Hitchcock’s films. Which one do you prefer?

The Birds, The Birds and The Birds. That’s the first Hitchcock’s film I saw. I absolutely loved it an it made me want to see his other films. Psycho is a great film too, but I prefer The Birds much more. I invite you to read my review of this film:

The Birds: Meeting Alfred Hitchcock

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4- What’s your favorite Disney movie?

Disney or Disney Pixar? Ok, if we stick to Disney, I mean the AUTHENTIC Disney, for me it’s The Aristocats. I love this film since my childhood and never get tired to see it. I explain why I love it so much in the following article: One of my All-Time Favourite Cartoons Blogathon: The Aristocats

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5- Who is your favorite actress of all time?

I have MANY favourite actresses, but Audrey Hepburn is number 1. She’s just fantastic.

Happy birthday Audrey Hepburn!

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6- Who is your favorite actor of all time?

James Stewart without any hesitation. I just love him in every films I saw. He was and still is a legend.

James Stewart: A Golden Star (I’m making you read a lot of stuff!)

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7- If you were ever given chance to write a classic movie with a classic movie director who would you choose to write one for?

Euh HITCHCOCK! (That question!)

8- What are your other passions beside your love of cinema?

I love reading. Actually, when you read a novel, you kind of imagine your own movie in your head. I also love music. Playing it (I play piano and used to play violin) and listen to it. I have an obsession with Doris Day and Madonna.

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9- What are your favorite silent movies?

I honestly mostly like silent comedies. I’m not too much a fan of silent dramas. Chaplin’s and Buster Keaton’s ones are my favourites, especially Modern Times and The Cameraman.

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10- What movie started your love for movies?

Actually, there are five movies who started my love for movies (or should I say, classic films?): Modern Times, The Birds, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Good, the Bad and The Ugly and High Noon.

11- What is your least favorite genre of movies to watch?

I’m not really a fan of science-fiction, but there are some films from this genre that I love, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, A Clockwork Orange, Soylent Green, 1984, E.T, and some other.

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Now, 11 things about me. I’ll try not to repeat what I previously said for my 2 other Liebster Award nominations!

1- I recently started working on a new screenplay. Do I do this for a living? Not yet, ’cause I’m still studying. I’m planning to write it just for fun. What will come of it. Probably nothing, except the pleasure of having wrote it. So far, I’m just organizing my ideas. I don’t want to talk to much about it now for copyright reasons. All I can say, is that it’s a comedy. Last year I did a screenwriting certificate at the University of Quebec in Montreal. Here’s my diploma!

2- Next summer, I’m planning to do a trip in Easter Europe with my best friend. We’d like to go at least to Budapest, Pragues and Vienna.

3- Talking about my best friends, I’m now initiating her to Hitchcock’s films. So far she saw The Men Who Knew too Much, Shadow of a Doubt and North by Northwest. She loved them all and that’s nice because she doesn’t watch a lot of classic films. Next ones we’ve planned to watch are Rebecca and To Catch a Thief!

4- I have the pleasure to share my birthday with two of my most beloved idols: Doris Day and Marlon Brando! I was born on April 3, 1995.

5- These days, I have the feeling I’m only going to the cinema to see classic films! In December, I saw 8 Hitchcock’s films on big screen! And that’s not over! In Montreal, three movie theatre have the kindness of screening classic films: The Cinema du Parc, The Cinematheque Quebecoise and the Scottia Bank Cinema.

6- Talking about movie theatres, I myself live next to one! The Cinema Beaubien. It’s one of the last small neighbourhood cinema in Montreal. They screen french-canadian movies, french movies and some international ones (I mean, apart from France). No American films there and of course NO big block busters. It’s pretty nice just having to cross the street to go see a movie!

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7- I don’t smoke, but I have other bad habits. I chew gum too often. (lack of inspiration…)

8- I don’t only collect DVDs, but also Archie Comics. I just love reading them!

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9- I live in Montreal, but I also have a country house in Saint-Stanislas de Champlain, a little village in Mauricie, Quebec, Canada. Here is the house. It’s an heritage.

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10- I’ve recently participated to the writing of a book: The Mitford Society Volume III. It’s a collection of texts about the Mitford Sisters edited by author Lyndsy Spence. It was an honour to participate to its creation!

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11- My favourite restaurants in Montreal are (because I DO like eating) Pratto Pizzeria, Le Café du Nouveau Monde, Pizzédélic and L’Entrecôte St-Jean. Just some suggestions if you come to Montreal one day. 😉

Here are the 11 blogs I nominate for the award. Congrats to you!

The Old Hollywood Garden

The Flapper Dame

Lauren Champkin

Love Letter to Old Hollywood

Serendipitous Anachronisms

Back to Golden Days

BNoir Detour

Speakeasy

Movie Movie Blog Blog

Old Hollywood Films

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Finally, here are my 11 questions for the 11 blogs I’ve nominate

1- If you had to “promote” a not too well known classic film, what will be your choice?

2- You are participating to the making of a film. What’s your job?

3- Do you share your birthday with one of your favourite movie stars? If yes, who?

4- What is your favourite movie score?

5- How many films per week do you usually watch?

6- What do you think is the most CREATIVE movie ever made and why?

7- Do you have a child name after a certain movie star or movie character? Or are you planning this for your future kid (if you plan to have one, or many!). I’ll tell you, I’m still young, but if I have a daughter one day, I’d love to call her Ingrid in honour of Ingrid Bergman!

8- How much does classic films influence your everyday life?

9- What are you planning to do to honour Olivia de Havilland’s on her centennial next July? 😉

10- What do you enjoy the most about blogging?

11- Do you have any advises, suggestions for future bloggers?

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A quick reminder for the 11 nominated blogs: in a new post, you first have to answer my 11 questions, say 11 things about you, nominated 11 other blogs (and inform them about it on their blog) and ask them 11 questions. Best of luck and congrats again!

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A Vertigo Trip

Last summer, I visited the beautiful city of San Francisco. I called it a “Hitchcock trip”, because you can find many locations from his films in this amazing city: Family Plot, The Birds and, of course, Vertigo. I saw so many places where this film was shot and decided to share my pictures with you. Being an Hitchcock’s fan, I had so much fun visiting these locations. I was like a kid in a candy shop! This is a sequel to my Vertigo analysis, but this time it’s just some fun post, nothing as deep as my analysis!

Golden Gate Bridge

This is THE symbol of the city. You can’t go to San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate. In Vertigo, it’s next to this monumental bridge that Madeleine makes her first suicide attempt.

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Mission Dolores

That’s where Madeleine visits Carlotta’s grave. This mission was build in 1776.

The mission’s chapel

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The mission’s cathedral

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The mission’s cemetery. This is really one of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever seen. The graves are so old, so it adds a certain mystery and authenticity to the place. The growing vegetation also adds a lot to its charm. So yes, walking in a cemetery can be pretty nice.

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Legion of Honor Museum

It’s in this beautiful museum, that Madeleine observes Carlotta Valdes’ portrait. I was curious enough to actually look for the portrait (well, you never know!), but of course didn’t find it. 😉 Anyway, it was a very nice visit. This museum has a great art collection regrouping the art of many legendary artist (Rodin, Seurat, Monet, etc.).

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Madeleine and Gavin’s apartment

Madeleine’s green car wasn’t parked there when I saw this building, however, you really feel like being in the movie when you see it! Looks like a nice place to live (but you have to be rich)!

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Scottie’s apartment

I know, it doesn’t really looks like it (where’s the red door?), but it is. Of course the film was shot in the 50’s and I took this picture in 2015, so people had time to change the place a little since.

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An hospital

Believe it or not, this beautiful building is a hospital! I not sure we see it from the outside in Vertigo, although. That’s the hospital where Scottie is cured after Madeleine’s death. That’s where a doctor suggests him to do music-therapy.

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The Empire Hotel

That’s Judy’s place. The hotel is today known as the Vertigo Hotel. In honour of the film of course!

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Well, that was all! Of course, these aren’t all the Vertigo’s location, but it can give you a good first preview.

A Vertigo Analysis

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About two years ago, I wrote a Vertigo analysis for school, got a 96% and was very proud of it. Today, I’ve decided to translate it and publish it on my blog so I could share it with you. Of course, this is only my own interpretation of the film and we can all find a different meaning in it. Anyway, I think it’s really one of the most interesting films to analyze. There’s so much to say!

This article contains many spoilers [in other words, don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film].

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Vertigo is an American movie directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock and it was released in 1958. Even if he was recognized for his talent before, it’s from 1954 that Hitchcock started to be known as “The Master of Suspense”. If the cinema of the 40’s was marked by the golden age of Film Noir, this genre will always be present in the 50’s, but in a less important way. The cinema of the 50’s is mainly marked by some superproductions, especially because of the invention of Cinemascope. This is, sometimes, unprofitable for the studios, due to the expensive cost of these new technologies. Can we talk of Vertigo as a super production? This Technicolor film entirely shot in VistaVision was not a success, nor a commercial failure. As Hitchcock says in his interview with François Truffaut (Hitchcock/Truffaut), the film “couvrira ses frais” (covered its cost).

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But let’s get back to this film’s movie director. Alfred Hitchcock was born in London on August 13, 1899. During is career as a movie maker, this kind of reserved man will direct more than 50 films. Some of them will became quite important in the history of cinema: according to the BFI, The 39 Steps is the fourth best British film of all times; Rear Window is often considered to be his best film; we hesitate between Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) and Vertigo as the best film of all times. However, Psycho and The Birds remain his most well-known ones. Nominated six times for the Best Director Oscar (Rebecca, Suspicion, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window, Psycho), Alfred Hitchcock will be snubbed by the AMPAS and will unfortunately never win one of those golden statuettes. This cold blond lover will die on April 29, 1980.

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Before we’ll explore Vertigo more deeply, let’s now see what it is about. After an incident that happened during a nocturne police chase, Scottie (James Stewart), a policeman subject to acrophobia, retires from the profession. However, a relation, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), has a project for him: follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), who seems to be possessed by her ancestor Carlota Valdes’s spirit. After saving her from drowning, Scottie falls in love with Madeleine. However, she later commits suicide by jumping from a church window (important to notice that Carlotta Valdes had also killed herself). Scottie, aghast, is comforted by the truly good person in this story: his friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). Later, Scottie meets Judy, who share a troubling resemblance with Madeleine. Becoming fascinated by her, he transforms her as the Madeleine he had once loved so deeply. We later learn that Judy IS Madeleine (or well, a false Madeleine) and that all this story was created to hide the murder of the real Madeleine (committed by Galvin) in a suicide.

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Let’s now explore the notion of aesthetic genre. Vertigo is first known as a Film Noir. First, this film takes place in a western city (San Francisco). However, it doesn’t include a Humphrey Bogart looks alike private detective, but a retired policeman. Scottie still remains a a very complex and ambiguous character. This is especially due to his acrophobia, which will be an obstacle for him all alone the film. Scottie is also ambiguous because of his “status”: even if Gavin is the evil one in the story, do we consider Scottie as a good or bad man? Of course, he is a hero when he saves Madeleine from drowning, but we seize a certain monstrosity in him during the second part of the film, when he reshapes Judy in the image of a dead person.

This film is also considered to be a Film Noir as it includes a femme fatale. Here, we are talking about Madeleine (or Judy as Madeleine). Judy will only have one signification for the protagonist when she’ll be Madeleine again. The femme fatale causes the loss of the private detective in the Film Noir. Manipulative, but in love, Judy/Madeleine will provoke Scottie’s emotive loss, but also her own loss (her death). There is also a fantastic and mysterious side in Vertigo due to its ghostly style: Carlota Valdes (a dead one) seems to possess Madeleine’s spirit. When Judy comes out of the bathroom transformed as Madeleine, there is a sort of ghostly halo around her. But we’ll come back to that later. Of course, we understand, at the end, that this ghost story was invented by Gavin to enforce a sinisterly diabolic project. However, the illusion of fantastic is given to us during the entire film, even at the end when the nun suddenly appears up the stairs like a ghost.

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What can we say about the meaning, the sense of Vertigo? If we go in the concrete and real dimension of this film, its sense is, according to me, the failure of manipulations: manipulations with bad intentions that, if we think about it, are finally unworthy if we analyze the film well. First, Gavin and Judy/false-Madeleine manipulate Scottie to conceal the murder of Galvin’s wife (the real Madeleine) with a suicide, but, ultimately, Gavin will have to run away from the country and Judy will finally really die. The other manipulation will be the one proceed by Scottie on Judy: he recreates on her the image of a dead one, so he can really love her. We can notice that, before Judy becomes Madeleine, Scottie doesn’t really seems to be in love with her. But this will only lead Judy to her loss and Scottie to his. Even after Madeleine’s death, Judy continues to manipulate Scottie by playing the game. Substantially, everybody is wrong in this situation (except Midge, but we’ll come back to her). Those thoughtless manipulations will bring Scottie to his mental loss, Madeleine and Judy’s to their physical loss and to the loss of confidence in Gavin.

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To understand better the meaning of Vertigo, we will now analyse some important elements of the film. We’ll start by analyzing the places. If we begin with Gavin’s office, we can notice that this one as a classic look. The wooden furniture and its order give it an important and prestigious look. If we observe this office in a superficial way, it gives us the following message: Gavin is an ordinary and respected man, and nobody would have any suspicion about him. This allows Gavin to have the perfect image to manipulate Scottie. But the order in this office, that’s the key point: a man who is able to keep is office as clean, would be able to make a clean murder. What I mean by that is that, when Gavin kills his wife, everything is perfectly done. Even Judy says so in her letter that she will finally not give to Scottie. A perfect murder, until a jewel spoils everything…

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Ernie’s would be another interesting location to analyze. It is the story’s fetish restaurant. When Scottie first goes there, it’s to observe Madeleine for the first time. We are then only at the beginning of the film and Scottie doesn’t have any doubts about anything. The ambiance seems good, the ladies’ dresses fit with the restaurant’s red tapestry. It’s a very colourful moment. On the other side, when Scottie returns at Ernie’s after Madeleine’s death, the ambiance is much more sad, much more grey. This introduces us to the most dramatic part of the film, the one where everything is said.

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Next, in the film, Madeleine visits many places to put Scottie on the wrong track: in the flower market, she buys a bouquet that looks like Carlotta Valdes’ one; at the cemetery, she pays a visit to Carlotta’s grave; at the museum, she observes a portrait of Carlotta Valdes; she goes to the hotel and Scottie learns that this hotel was Carlotta’s old house; the Golden Gate and the Spanish mission would be Madeleine’s suicide’s points: Carlotta possesses her and orders her to die. All those places will bring Scottie in a trap and give him the illusion that Madeleine is really possessed by her ancestor.

We often see roads in this film. These can represent the path traced in advance for the characters: Scottie will ride on it until he loses his mind and Judy will ride on it until she dies. If Scottie and Judy knows how to drive, it’s because they are in perfect control of the car, but there is always a chance for a bad maneuver and an accident. That’s what happen with all those characters’ manipulations.

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Let’s conclude this analysis of the places by focusing on Midge’s house. On one hand, her office is quite messy, but, on the other hand, her kitchen is not. If her kitchen is well organized, it’s because Judy knows how to “cook” her mind. She is the most reasoned one in this story. She is the first one not to believe that Madeleine and Carlotta’s story. However, when the time comes to act, she can do it in a reckless way (we can think of the painting scene): that’s why her working place is in a mess.

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We can now analyse some of Vertigo‘s camera shots. During the introduction, we see a close up of a woman’s face, but it’s impossible to say exactly who it is: Madeleine? Judy? Carlotta Valdes? This confusion is the same one in Scottie’s head: Is he really with Madeleine or with Carlotta? Is he with Judy or Madeleine?

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At the museum, we see a close up of Madeleine’s flower bouquet and then of Carlotta’s bouquet; a close-up of Madeleine’s bun and then one of Carlotta’s. Those elements are identical and create an association between Madeleine and Carlotta. The camera accentuates their importance by making close-ups. The situation is the same when we see this close-up of Carlotta’s necklace on Judy’s neck: this object is important because it reveals the truth to Scottie.

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When Scottie does this “stepladder challenge”, we see him in a low angle shot. This gives him importance and he seems to control the situation. But not long after, a subjective shot (Scottie’s vision) shows us a high angle shot of the street. Scottie gets dizzy and collapses. We’ll later see a similar shot in the church at the Spanish mission. Those shots can symbolize Scottie’s fall: by having been manipulated by both Gavin and Judy, but also by having himself manipulated Judy to recreate Madeleine’s image on her.

Another significant shot would be the close-up of Madeleine and Scottie’s faces when they are in the car just after he saved her from the waters. They are face to face for the first time. Madeleine is unconscious and Scottie tries to wake-up her. This is how a real relation between them starts. This, in a way, will make it easier for Judy to manipulate Scottie, because she will be in direct contact with him, but, in another way, this will become an obstacle for her because she will fall in love with Scottie and visa versa (than wasn’t planned in Gavin’s perfect murder).

We’ll end this part with the last shot. It is a full shot of Scottie coming out of the church’s window and looking down the roof where Judy fell. This shot focus on the fact that the vertigo, which has always been a barrier for Scottie, is now gone. This vertigo also was a form of manipulation, because it prevented Scottie to go further. Once more, this manipulation is a failure because Scottie, shaken by the events, manages to defeat it.

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We’ll continue this analysis by mentioning some significant camera movements. One of the most important in Vertigo is the dolly zoom (also known as “Vertigo effect”), this movement where we have the feeling that the image moves away and gets closer at the same time. In the film, it is used to express Scottie’s giddiness. Just like gags in burlesque comedies, those movements are included in the film in a way to stop the story. Once more, we’re back to the idea of Scottie being manipulated by his dizziness. It first prevents him to climb on the footstool, but, more dramatically, to save Madeleine, the REAL Madeleine.

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Another interesting camera movement happens when Scottie kisses “for the first” time Judy transformed as Madeleine under his desires. We could describe this movement as a “rotational travelling”. Indeed, Scottie kisses Judy, and the camera revolves around them, and then a new setting appears (the stable at the mission where Madeleine gave the clue to Scottie that she was going to kill herself). This camera shot, mixed with the music, adds a lot of deep emotions to the situation. This rotation couldn’t also symbolise the turning point in those characters’ life? It is, indeed, not a long time after this scene, that Scottie sees Carlotta’s famous necklace in Judy’s neck. It is also an emotional turn, because Judy wasn’t in love with Judy, but with Madeleine.

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Let’s continue with some interesting lightings used in Vertigo. The lighting in this film adds a lot of meaning, a lot of signification to the situation. Here are some examples: when Scottie goes to the cemetery, the natural light seems fuzzy, foggy and ghostly. The same lighting is used in a more important way when Judy comes out of the bathroom completely transformed as Madeleine. From Scottie’s perspective, she comes from the dead. At the cemetery, this fuzzy lighting adds some mystery to Madeleine, who seems to be more and more unreal, possessed by a ghost. This is, once more, a manipulation tool, because this lighting gives a false illusion about Madeleine’s (or Judy) real identity. It doesn’t only fool Scottie, but also the spectators.

In the film’s introduction, the lighting is sort of red, and that’s also the case in Scottie’s dream. What does it mean? Red is the color of love, but in Vertigo‘s case, it can be more deeply associated to the “passion”: the crazy love passion Scottie has for Madeleine. This color also symbolizes the present. This is a clue concerning the conspiracy (Madeleine is not really possessed by Carlotta), but it also is a way to warn for Scottie: wouldn’t that be better if he’ll learn to live in the present time? It’s by being haunted by his past that he’ll get mad and take possession of Judy.

The music would be another interesting element to explore. This one was brilliantly  composed by Hitchcock’s fetish composer: Bernard Hermann. The music is mainly here to point out the film’s atmosphere: the one felt by Scottie, but also the one felt by us. What we generally hear in this film is a mysterious and worrisome music, proper to  Hitchockian’s cinema. This one is here to accentuate the suspense in the situation. What will happen to Madeleine? How all this will end? This music takes more importance when Scottie follows Madeleine to those diverse places associated to Carlotta Valdes (the cemetery, the museum, the flower’s market, etc.). During the more dramatic moments, the music becomes more vigorous and more orchestral. We can think of Madeleine’s suicide attempt (next to the Golden Gate), to the chase in the church’s stairs, to the kiss next the rough sea, etc. Let’s remember that Scottie doesn’t like music or, at least, classical music. At the beginning, when he is at Midge’s place, he asks her to stop the music. After Madeleine’s death, the doctor suggests him to start music-therapy, but, according to Midge, this doesn’t really seem to work. After all these past emotions, Scottie probably needs some silent peace.

Let’s continue with some elements/items that are important to make us understand the sense of Vertigo. First of all, the color green appears many times in the film: Madeleine’s green dress, Judy’s green clothes, the green neons in the Empire Hotel, the green tapestry in the hotel, etc. Even if it is a calming color, green can be associated to the death, to the mildew (that’s what happen to a dead body after a certain time): Madeleine is possessed by a dead lady. The green is also a symbol of infidelity: Gavin’s infidelity towards his wife, but also towards Scottie; Scottie’s infidelity towards himself (will he be happy with Madeleine? Is he doing the right thing by recreating Madeleine’s image on Judy?). Green confuses the  situations.

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Then, many items and situations make us do a connection with the notion of death, which is one of the main themes of Vertigo. We can think of those mortuary items having purposes of falseness (the objects associated to Carlotta): the grave, the bouquet, the necklace, Madeleine’s suicide attempt, Madeleine’s dream, etc. We can also associate this notion of death to something that haunts Scottie and the film’s atmosphere: Scottie’s dream, Judy’s black dress at the end of the film (black is a death symbol), the church at the mission, the nun who looks like a ghost, Scottie’s necrophilia.

Another element that is proper to many Hitchcock’s films (Psyscho, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Shadow of a Doubt) are the stairs. In Vertigo, those stairs are an obstacle for Scottie. Scottie’s dizziness created by the church’s stairs prevents him to reach his goal. Gavin then takes the occasion to kill the real Madeleine without being seen (only by Judy).

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Finally, two objects give us the truth about Gavin’s diabolic conspiracy: first, Judy’s letter, which only she and the spectators know the existence (we then wonder what will be Scottie’s reaction) and Carlotta’s necklace (that Judy will imprudently wear). It’s this last element that will reveal the truth to Scottie. So, Scottie understands that he has been manipulated, but the spectators also were, because, during the entire film, we thought Madeleine was really possessed, just like Scottie thought so.

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We’ll conclude this part by analyzing the characters and their importance in the story. John “Scottie” Ferguson is the protagonist. He suffers from vertigo (here, the title “Vertigo” becomes isotopic), but he also suffers from a big naivety. It’s because of those two elements that he will be a victim of Gavin’s setup. After Madeleine’s death, Scottie becomes sort of a necrophile and, a manipulator too, if we consider his influence on Judy. Scottie succeeds to control his dizziness at the end of the film when he climbs all the stairs in the church. We could associate Scottie to the color blue (blue eyes, blue pyjamas, blue car…). This color is a symbol of fidelity. Scottie, faithful to his feelings for Madeleine, will resurrect her. He is also loyal to his desire to overcome his acrophobia and will succeed it at the end.

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As she writes in her letter, Judy Barton (or the false Madeleine) is the tool in Gavin’s plan. She’s the one who will lead Scottie in a world of deceits: she manipulates him, especially when she pretends that she didn’t go to certain places during her day. We can notice that the brunette Judy often looks at herself in a mirror. What does it mean? Maybe she’s trying to find her real identity, this identity she’s loosing by playing a role. Those last moments of observation happen before she takes Madeleine’s appearance one more time (for Scottie): Judy will die as Madeleine. The real Judy is forgotten at the end of the film, especially by Scottie.

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In this story, Marjorie Wood (Midge), a underclothes designer, is the only truly good person. She’s a friend and a confidante for Scottie, but also a mother. Many clues in the film give us this impression, first by this quote: “It’s a brassiere! You know about those things, you’re a big boy now.” when Scottie observes the aeronautical bra. She talks to him just like a mother talks to her little boy to make him learn new things. She’s the only character who really takes care of Scottie and to know him well (after Madeleine’s death, the doctor suggests him to do music-therapy, but Midge knows it won’t work, because Scottie is not really a music lover). Finally, she’s the only character who doesn’t manipulate another one and, as a result, she’s the only character who remains rational in this situation.

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Lastly, Gavin Elster is the ultimate manipulator in this story. He gives a false impression of friendship to Scottie, an a false impression of being a man we can trust. Gavin being a shipbuilder, we can make a connection with his evil project: build, with Judy, a lie that Scottie’s naivety will unfortunately believe.

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Sooner in the text I was mentioning that Vertigo was generally associated to the Film Noir  aesthetic, but that it also includes a part of fantastic. How does that contribute to the atmosphere and the film’s meaning? Let’s start with the Film Noir dimension. This one brings tension in the film, particularly in the relations between the characters. As to the meaning of the film (the failure of manipulations), this Film Noir dimension is much more evident in the second part of the film, after Madeleine’s death, when the spectator understands that the “femme fatale” (Judy or “false Madeleine”) will provoke the loss of a policeman (Scottie) by manipulating him. We also discover a certain ambiguity concerning Scottie, especially when he’s trying to recreate Madeleine’s image on Judy. Is he good or bad? Well, he is, for sure, a victim. Concerning the fantastic dimension of Vertigo (or we should say this “illusion of fantastic”), this one creates an atmosphere of confusion and anxiety. Carlotta Valdes’s story grabs our attention and we want to know what will happen to Madeleine/Judy, but also to Scottie. Of course, this illusion is created by Gavin and Judy, who make a FALSE impression of madness around Madeleine, which will bring Scottie in a REAL madness.

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We will continue this Vertigo analysis by understanding how the film is presented to us. Here, the objective of this film is not only to show us something in a static way, but also to tell us a story, thanks to a variety of camera movements and camera shots. It’s an ideological editing that contributes to the evolution of the story and its characters. For instance, after Madeleine has run away to the church, it’s by only three camera shots that we understand that she’s about to kill herself: a long shot of Madeleine running to the church, a low angle shot of the bell tower (where she will kill herself) and a medium close-up of a terrified Scottie looking at the bell tower. The offscreen dimension becomes important here.

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Finally, what can we say about Vertigo’s narrator? The film is mainly seen through Scottie’s point of view. Many subjective camera shots make us understand that: the subjective shots of Scottie following Madeleine in his car, the shot of the dead Madeleine on the church’s roof (we previously saw Scottie looking at the window, so we know he’s the one looking at her), a close-up of Carlotta’s necklace in Judy’s neck (that’s when Scottie understands the real meaning of this adventure), the Vertigo zooms expressing Scottie’s dizziness, etc. This allows us to explore the character’s psychology and then try to understand the reasons that encourage Scottie to be a “manipulated manipulator”.

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Of course, there’s also a mega-narration in this film, which gives us a more objective vision of Scottie and the other characters. This one is expressed at some moments in the film, but is stronger in the parts with Midge, when we are in a not too dramatic atmosphere, closer to reality. We can think of this long shot, at the beginning, when we see Scottie and Midge discussing in her apartment, or this shot of Midge trying to console Scottie at the hospital. We can finally say that Midge and Gavin Elster are not seen through Scottie’s point of view, because they don’t upset his journey. Of course, Gavin’s false kindness is only an illusion and Scottie will guess it, but too late, as this one has already left the country. Madeleine/Judy creates the greatest emotions in Scottie, and she’s the one who will be seen through a subjective point of view (Scottie’s one).

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The End

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#PayClassicsForward

Aurora from Once Upon a Screen had this tremendous idea for a movie challenge: Based on the song “12 Days of Christmas” the participants will make a list of films they think people who don’t watch classic films might like. This is our blogging Christmas gift! 😉

Join us if you have a blog! Of course, share as much as you can! Use the hashtag #PayClassicsForward

Here we go!

ONE directional debut

12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)

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TWO Duos

Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne (Charters and Caldicott)

Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant

THREE Foreign Films

La Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)

Jules & Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)

Plein Soleil (René Clément, 1960)

FOUR Soundtracks

All That Jazz (music by Ralph Burns)

Taxi Driver (music by Bernard Hermann)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Music by Henry Mancini)

Charade (Music by Henry Mancini

FIVE Westerns

High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)

How the West Was Won (Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall, 1962)

SIX Dance Routines

“The Aloof” in Sweet Charity (Choreographed by Bob Fosse)

“Dames” in Dames (Choreographed by Busby Berkeley)

Eleanor Powell and her Dog in Lady Be Good

“Bohemian Dance” in Funny Face (Choreographed by Eugene Loring)

“Dance at the Gym” in West Side Story (Choreographed by Jerome Robbins)

“Prologue” in Guys and Dolls (Choreographed by Michael Kidd)

SEVEN Comedies

Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubistch, 1942)

The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)

Brining Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)

How to Steal a Million (William Wyler, 1966)

Pillow Talk (Michael Gordon, 1959)

EIGHT FILM NOIRS

White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)

Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)

Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)

14 Hours (Henry Hathaway, 1951)

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)

The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)

Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950)

The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

NINE Inspiring Movies

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (Mark Robson, 1958)

The Miracle Worker (Arthur Penn, 1962)

The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)

Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950)

Gentleman’s Agreement (Elia Kazan, 1947)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Stanley Kramer, 1967)

The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)

TEN Performances

Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

Peter O’Toole in Laurence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)

Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)

Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)

James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (George Cuckor, 1940)

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)

William Holden in Golden Boy (Rouben Mamoulian, 1939)

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (George Cuckor, 1944)

Burt Lancaster in The Rainmaker (Joseph Anthony, 1956)

ELEVEN Movies For Children (non-animated)

National Velvet (Clarence Brown, 1944)

Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964)

The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965)

Father is a Bachelor (Abby Berlin and Norman Foster, 1950)

One Week (Buster Keaton, 1920)

La Guerre des Tuques (André Melançon, 1984)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 1938)

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World! (Stanley Kramer, 1963)

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati, 1952)

Calamity Jane (David Butler, 1953)

Little Women (George Cuckor, 1933)

TWELVE Heroes

Olivia de Havilland as Linnett Moore in The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

Ingrid Bergman as Dr. Constance Petersen in Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945)

Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959)

Katharine Hepburn as Rose Sayer in The African Queen (John Huston, 1951)

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Frederick Treves in The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980

Margaret Lockwood as Iris Hendersen in The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)

Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962)

James Stewart as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)

Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)

Kirk Douglas as Spartacus in Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)

Katharine Hepburn as Tess Harding in Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942)

Patricia Roc as Angela Labardi in Madonna of the Seven Moons (Arthur Crabtree, 1944)

Thanks for reading!

Please share!

Sinatra Centennial: From Here to Eternity

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

Frank Sinatra, who was one of the most acclaimed crooner of music history, would have been 100 on December 12, 2015. The man wasn’t only a great singer, but also a swell actor. One of his most acclaimed performances was the one in From Here to Eternity for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. From Here to Eternity is one of those films that, before I saw it for the first time, thought I would like it, but finally loved it. It’s now among my very favourite films. It has so many qualities and one of them is the actor performances. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Deborah Kerr all give memorable performances and, without the shadow of a doubt, Frank greatly deserved his award.

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I’m happy to write about his performance in this film, because I’m participating to the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon hosted by Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo. The event takes place from December 10 to December 13, 2015. All the participating blogs are celebrating Sinatra’s 100th birthday each in their own way. I could have been more original and talk about one of his less known work, but, somehow, I had to write about From Here to Eternity. You see, it’s because of this film and this performance that he became a favourite of mine.

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From Here to Eternity was based on the successful novel by James Jones. It was directed by Fred Zinneman (High Noon, The Men, The Nun’s Story, A Man for all Seasons) and released in 1953. It was a success by being one of the most successful films of the decade at the box office. It also won no less than 8 Academy Awards: Best Picture (Buddy Adler), Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Cinematography Black and White (Burnett Guffey), best film editing (William A. Lyon) and Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary). It also was nominated for Best Actor (twice: Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Deborah Kerr), Best Costume Design (black and white: Jean Louis) and Best Score (George Duning and Morris Stoloff).

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The story takes place at Schofield Barrack on Oahnu, a Hawaiian island. We are at the beginning of the war in 1941. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt had just been transferred to this barrack. Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) had heard that he is a boxing champion and wants him in his regimental team, but Prewitt refuses. He had decided to quit boxing having been responsible of a tragic accident. However, Holmes is not ready to give up, but Prewitt is a hard head. On its arrival, Prewitt finds his friend Private Angelio Maggio (Frank Sinatra) who will always be there to support him against Holmes’ pressure. He then meets his superior First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster). Warden doesn’t seem to appreciate Prewitt at first, but he learns to, and a seems to somehow admire Prewitt’s stubbornness. One night, Prewire and Maggio are out in a club, Prew (as they call him) meets Alma “Lorene” Burke (Donna Reed) and falls in love with her. On his side, Warden his having and affair with Captain Holmes’s wife, Karen (Deborah Kerr). They are both in love with each others, but this isn’t an easy relation.

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In his first appearance in the film as Maggio, Frank Sinatra is introduced to us as the “nice guy”. We can’t really see if he’s giving a good performance after only a few lines, but we can guess he would be the “character we want to be friend with”. And that’s what exactly who Maggio is. He is a real pal to Prew, but also to us because. We can easily say he is, in a way, the character we appreciate the most from the beginning until the end. But unfortunately, Maggio is also the guy who gets easily into trouble. As a matter of fact, they all do, especially him and Prew. That’s probably why they get along so well.

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Before starring in this film, Franks Sinatra was most well-known for his roles in comedies or musicals. Thanks to Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift’s help, he improved his dramatic acting abilities during the shooting of this film. Franks Sinatra was very grateful to them and remained a long time friend with Burt Lancaster. This shooting was also a certain test for him, considering what he was going through in his personal life. His marriage with Ava Gardner was indeed at its end. I always thought that it was quite a tour de force for an actor or an actress to give a brilliant acting performance when things aren’t going very happily his/her life. That makes me think of my article I wrote about Laurence Olivier’s performance in Spartacus for the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon. When he shot this film, his relation with Vivien Leigh was coming at his end, and it was not an easy moment for him and Vivien, considering Vivien’s mental illness. But, he worked hard and gave an unforgettable performance.

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But let’s get back to Frank Sinatra. In only one movie, from the beginning until the end, he manages to prove us that he was indeed able to be a versatile actor, going in the comic emotions and then the more dramatic ones. We can easily say that he is the funniest one in the film and gives to Maggio a great sense of humour and comedy. He knew how to express his comic lines in the right tone, with the right emotions and gestures to make us laugh. This is not a comedy, but laughs never hurt. Actually, Frank Sinatra’s performance makes this film alive. Not that it wouldn’t be a good film without him, but it would be different, something would be missing you see.

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As much as he knew how to play the nice guy, Frank Sinatra was also able to prove us that he could get angry sometimes. This is more obvious in this scene in the bar where he gets involved in a violent argument with Staff Sergeant “Fatso” Judson (Ernest Borgnine). This is how he would start to get involved into trouble. Frank Sinatra is quite convincing in this scene. We believe in his anger.

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During his last appearance in the film [SPOILER ALERTE], Frank Sinatra  plays his dramatic card. This is indeed one of the saddest scenes of From Here to Eternity: having previously deserted his post, Maggio is sent to the barrack jail. Unfortunately for him, Fatso is in charge of it. In his last scene, Maggio has just escaped from the jail, but has been beaten to death by Fatso. Prew arrives at the same time. Maggio dies in his arms. Those moments in cinema when a friend dies in another friend’s arms are always heartbreaking (I’m suddenly thinking of Forrest Gump). Why? Because it seems unfair to loose a friend in such a cruel way. Of course, this works only if both actors are credible. Frank and Montgomery are. This scene is very short, very simple. Frank Sinatra doesn’t over act. We almost feel he is really dying. That’s the end of Maggio and, just like Prew, we feel terribly lonely by his absence. [END OF SPOILER]

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If you look at this clip where Frank Sinatra wins his Oscar, the crowd seems really enthusiast about it. Even Mercedes McCambridge, who was presenting the award, jumps of joy when she names him! He deserved it.

Frank Sinatra doesn’t sing in From Here to Eternity. As a matter of fact, the musical side of this film is embodied by Montgomery Clift’s character who plays trumpet. He doesn’t sing, but he acts. And his acting is as much good as his singing, and that means a lot.

I remember, I was first introduced to Franks Sinatra as a singer when I was a child, because my parents were (and still are) always listening to his album “My Way”. And then, I think I first saw him in Guys and Dolls. However, it’s really by watching From Here to Eternity that I started having a biggest interest in him, both as a singer and an actor. Now I’m always happy when my parents are listening to this “My Way” album! Frank Sinatra really was one of a kind.

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A big thanks to our host blogs Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo for having such a great blogathon idea. Of course, I invite you to read the other lovely entries. Just click here:

Day One

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Happy 100th heavenly birthday Frank!

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