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The Female Gaze Analysis #2

December 8th, 2011 · FOR MEDST 144

The Female Gaze ( the mirror scene)

As Daniel Chandler’s notes on “The Male Gaze” proposed by Laura Mulvey, “Traditional films present men as active, controlling subjects and treat women as passive objects of desire for men in both the story and in the audience, and do not allow women to be desiring sexual subjects in their own right.” Images of women in the classic Hollywood cinema look like the latest collections which were displayed in the incredible windows of Barneys New York, to be watched and criticized. This time, women, who are normally regarded as frequent shoppers, are replaced by men to enjoy window-shopping. However, all of these thoughts seem to be challenged by Preston Sturges’s “The Lady Eve”. In the whole movie, we’ve seen that unsophisticated Charles (Henry Fonda) is played by smart con-artist Jean (Barbara Stanwyck), which shows us that female are not only meant to be looked at. But, it looks like we all get fooled by the director. The Mirror scene in the movie (1:44 min) shows us that the movie not only has been told by a strong female perspective but it also depicts the movie in the male gaze.

1. What’s the characters looking?

To begin with, the whole story lets me conclude that the director wants to convey an idea that women act and men appear. Contrary to Mulvey’s theory, the main female and male characters change their positions in this movie. The former becomes dominant; the latter turns into passive. For instance, when Charles first climbs the rope ladder in order to get aboard, we can see that Jean is located far above him, looking down at him in a high angle. Throughout the history, authorities always sit higher the others. This common fact already becomes evident when Jean and Charles first meet each other. She is the bearer in this whole story. Then, a fantastic action appears.  Jean pretends to accidentally drop the apple she is eating. This small move already makes him dizzy, which is another absolutely great hint. Charlie is the image on the screen; Jean is the viewer who eats popcorn. The topic in this paragraph will be further demonstrated by the scene after the one above.

The following mirror scene is the typical one which shows the existence of the female gaze in this movie. It is more obvious for us to place Jean as a watcher and Charles as the observed. Firstly, there is a real screen, the mirror held by Jean, physically between her and them. Note that the mirror is held by Jean. What she sees through the mirror is controlled by her. Inside the screen, Sturges uses deep focus to shoot what she sees in order to show that all the elements here are important to this plot. Charles sits in the center of the image, reading; all the female supporting guests sit around him. What a special occasion for socializing! Except through forming the setting, filmmakers also use a waltz-like non-diegetic music to heightened the atmosphere, for waltz is a kind of folk dance which represents socialization. Meanwhile, it’s universally acknowledged that ladies from that period try to capture men’s attention, especially those rich handsome singles that just enter their lives. All the elements above prepare conditions for the final and the most interesting part. Jean broadcasts the whole process as a host in a professional tone. She sometimes sneers at Charles; sometimes criticizes those ladies; sometimes she posts her own opinion…Sturges establishes her as an active observer. Through the perfect use of mirror, music and narrative style can we conclude that this movie is shot in a woman’s perspective. However, we still miss something important.

(Click here to find out the similarity of the background music and waltz ( from 4:11))

2. How the camera frames the different characters?

The way how camera frames Jean shows us that Mulvey’s theory makes sense here either. The first thing appears to us is our observer, Jean, not Charles.  In addition, talking a look of the position of Jean and her tiny mirror, we can see that she occupies much more proportion of the image than her tools. It signifies that she herself is the key factor here, compared with what she sees. In this way, camera framing let viewers pay attention to Jean’s performance. What’s more, in the process of broadcasting, she has shown up many times. We can see how she expresses her internal feeling by the explanation in her eyes. Let’s take a male gaze as an opposite example, in “Rear Window”, when Jeffries (James Stewart) lifts his SLR camera to watch his neighbors, his camera has more areas in the image than him. In addition, Hitchcock even use long shot to show what he sees. He just appears twice, the beginning and the end. It is a sign that points out that his views are important. Viewers should follow the contents reflected by the lens of his camera closely. Under this situation, Jean is regarded as “Figures as spectacle within this fantasy”. Women performances here will be discussed.

Those spider ladies sit around Charles are more obvious to be called “to-be-look-at-ness”. In the mirror, Charles just sits there. However, there are a large number of women walking pass him who want to draw his attention. They are not only observed by Charles but also watched by Jean and viewers. Sturges uses long shot to shoot those ladies, just like the way Hitchcock shoots Jeff’s neighbors. Although what Jean follows is Charles, for viewers, these spider ladies are “Erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium”. “The Male Gaze” theory totally works here.

3. How the spectator looks this character?

In ” A Short History of Film” , Dixon and Foster mention in “Women’s Picture in the 1930’s and 1940’s”, “A popular theme in the genre was the changing role of women, involving the proprieties of sexuality, women in the work place, and the choice between love, career, and home.” Women’s images have been more and more popular from that time. From male viewers, like Simone de Beauvoir mentions, “For him she is sex—absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute—she is the Other.”  Women characters become popular because they symbolized femininity. However, in that period, the number of women audiences has increased. People have different ideas on the proportion of ideal audiences. These women audiences have jobs, families, and education. They want get inspired by women  idols is the reason why movies about women becomes more and more popular since 1930’.

There are two types of woman in this scene. One wants to control a man and find love belonging to her; the other intends to please a man. Therefore, from my point of view, in the mirror scene, a woman act; women appear. What Jean shows us is that she is an active observer, she perceive Charles through watching those women. She is the controller of the look. Men still can been the erotic objects for women also. However, what the other ladies show gives me a feeling that they are the women being analyzed in Mulvey’s theory. Charles becomes a hero from this side. He is the reason why these women can’t firmly sit down. They are forced to walk pass him to let him observe. Here, women are regarded as erotic objects.

“The Lady Eve” is so special that shows the females gaze and the make faze simultaneously. Although Mulvey’s theory is suitable for almost all the Hollywood traditional films, “The Lady Eve” proves that female perspective is a strong power as well as male standpoint. Jean’s performance makes me believe that women can be the heroines who make plots happen; the others firmly convince me that, frankly, women’s pictures are actually designed to flatter those ideal audiences, which are male.

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About Umberto D [Blog Challenge #2]

October 20th, 2011 · FOR MEDST 144

I must say that Umberto D this movie totally shows a pessimistic vision of life. The relationship between the dog and Umberto, the pregnant girl and Umberto, the landlady and Umberto… are the main lines of this movies. The movie shows the Italian Neorealism through many aspects.

First of all, I’d like to talk about the mise-en-scene about the movie. As we talked about the beginning, an extremely long take, of the movie, when people are going to protest the government, the mise-en-scene is a long road. Then, people  rush to the government, with the fast-pace non-diegetic movie. However, when a bus comes to separate the crowd, the film score changes into violin, which i feel that this is a hint shows how helpless citizens are. Later, when police begin to use military power to disperse the crowd, the camera shows that people escape to byway. The long road showed before is not showed again, which is another scene shows that citizens will not win the war with government.

Secondly, I found that Me. Umberto wants to commit suicide for many times, when he looked down from the window, the movie use a close-up to show the street, and when he stand by the railway with his dogs when the train comes. He has no encouragement to do it. I think this is a reflection shows that people are recreance at that periods.

Many people regards the movie as a masterpiece for showing the Italian Neorealism. Indeed, the movie talks about the effect of the postwar unemployment. No one knows what the results of the old man and his dog. That’s another reason why the movie shows the Neorealism.

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SHOT BY SHOT ANALYSIS #1

October 14th, 2011 · FOR MEDST 144

Prof. Herzog, I know that you said, ” Please do not select the scene from the opening sequence.” However, please watch the clip and read my analysis because I believe that some parts of my analysis wasn’t spoken about  in class. To be frank,  in my memory, I don’t think anyone spoke my ideas before during class. Please evaluate my analysis fairly. Thanks for your time!

The clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsuwaMtilUk&feature=youtube_gdata

Scene analysis: from Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, RKO,1941)

8 shots from the beginning part

Shot #1 (00:00~00:04)

  • Cinematography: MLS, normal height, straight on.
  • Tone: high contrast black and white images
  • Sound: non-diegetic music is turned up and suddenly interrupted.
  • Mise-en-scene: the window which is shot from the outside.

The shot begins with when the lens focuses on the lighted window from outside. Before that, viewers have been taken a tour in the garden of Mr. Kane’s vast estate under the bright moon. Therefore, there is a high contrast between the lighted part and its shade. During the whole process of the tour, non-diegetic music is always on with the same volume. However, in this scene, the sound is turned up and suddenly gets interrupted. At that exact moment the lights in the room switched off.

DISSOLVE

Shot #2 (00:05~00:14)

  • Cinematography: MLS, normal height, straight on.
  • Tone: high contrast black and white images
  • Sound: non-diegetic music starts again
  • Mise-en-scene: the same window, but it is shot from the room inside. Mr. Kane lies on the bed which is set by the window.

Here, the dark window lighted up again is the only action and the music starts again simultaneously. We can see the room inside but it is dark and unapparent, which tells us that the camera shoots the whole process from the reverse side of the window. What’s more, from the bottom of the window, the light is really bright. Meanwhile, on the top of the window, the light is comparatively a little bit darker. It is obvious that the light belongs to the rising sun. The shot represents a new day coming.

FADE OUT

Shot #3 (00:15~00:23)

  • Cinematography: long take, goes from LS of the sky of a snowy day to CU of the small house appearing in the snowy day, finally to MCU of the crystal ball in a hand
  • Tone: light and soft
  • Sound: non-diegetic music continues but with a little jingle

This shot is a long take and a Zoom-out process. First, we can see the sky of a snowy day. Then, a small house appears in. Finally, we see a crystal ball in a hand and those we saw before is in the ball. There is no surprising for me to think the scene which Mr. Kane leaves his parents. They are totally the same. What’s more, there are continuous clangs added to the music. This shot are full of happiness atmosphere.

STRAIGHT CUT

Shot #4 (00:24~00:25)

  • Cinematography: ECU of Kane’s Mouth, quick cuta
  • Sound: Some jingle and Kane says, “Rosebud.”
  • Mise-en-scene: the mouth but we can see that snow falling exists

It is obvious that we can see the snow falling. And the lens focuses the mouth of Mr. Kane. Under this situation, Mr. Kane becomes a boy. He is not the man who is rich and has everything. He is the little boy who is playing with his Skiing board outside of the room right now.

STRAIGHT CUT

Shot #5 (00:26~00:30)

  • Cinematography: goes from MS and high angel of the hand and the crystal ball to CU of the ball (always tracks along with it) as the ball rolls down the stairs
  • Sound: some jingle, non-diegetic music continues and a loud sound created by percussion instruments
  • Mise-en-scene: stairs

At the first glance, this shot is just a boy rolling down the stairs. However, here, it represents the end of Mr. Kane’s life. It is not end up with the vast estate falling to piece but the crystal get broken. I feel that Mr. Kane doesn’t want his giant house when he is dying. He wants to come back to his own house.

STRAIGHT CUT

Shot #6 (00:31~00:38)

  • Cinematography: Goes from MS of the nurse opening the door to LS of the nurse coming inside, long take
  • Sound: non-diegetic music continues

In shot#6, these images are the reflection on the any part of the broken crystal ball.

STRAIGHT CUT

Shot #7 (00:39~00:52)

  • Cinematography: long take, MS,
  • Sound: non-diegetic music continues but with some sound played by trombones
  • Mise-en-scene: One part of Kane who lies on the bed

The shot is the nurse use a white cloth to cover Kane’s body. The music is a little bit sad played by trombones, which shows shock that Mr. Kane passed away.

FADE OUT

Shot #8 (00:53~01:02)

  • Cinematography: MLS, normal height, straight on
  • Sound: non-diegetic gradually
  • Mise-en-scene: Same as shot #2

This one is the same as shot #2. The non-diegetic music gradually stopped, which also shows that he is gone.

FADE OUT

—————————————————————————–

The scene use a connecting link between what comes before and what goes after. Imagines link up together by portraying the image of the connecting link. Here, the link is the window. Before the light off and the music interrupted, it is a course for viewers to feel the atmosphere of the film life which those outsiders, who want to find who Rosebud is, live in. There is nothing related to Mr. Kane. After the light on and the music plays again, the movie brings us to Mr. Kane’s life, a different story.

The pattern is not obvious but it is definitely repeated in this movie. These links which the filmmakers chose play important roles in characters’ whole lives. They use things to show the change of characters. Filmmakers want us to know that those links are not humble props. They can be given special meanings. It is incredibly unbelievable for a movie to use a way in a piece of writing to show the image. That makes Citizen Kane very unique. We can put hints or hooks in anything in the movie not just show the characters, plots and conflicts.

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1st official post – About Mr. K [Blog Challenge#1]

September 22nd, 2011 · FOR MEDST 144

“Citizen Kane” can be named as a pioneer in that period. It created a new usage of the light/shadow, the low-angle shooting…..There are a lot of scenes worth discussing in ” Citizen Kane” .

 

 

First of all, the beginning of the film really impressed me a lot. The appearance of the close-up shot , which is a way the director used to start new scenes in this movie. Then, editors used cutting techniques to zoom in scenes, from the fence, then the gate, the house, finally to the window (below). In this process, the movie creators used hazy and soft scenes to show the abandoned garden, which, in a sense, tell the viewers the result of the movie. The chilling background music also supports to convey this attitude. As the first time viewer, the beginning really makes me chilled.

 

 

Secondly, as you can see the photo, the finally focus on the first window. The reason why I don’t put the first window picture  in the former row is that I think the director uses the window to continue the next . Before the window appears, we viewers were guided to walk around the Kane’s cold house. The directors let us understand the general background of the plot. Then, suddenly, the music is interrupted and the light is off, which I think that there will be something new appears. I’m right, the light and the music on again. However, the shot is from inside and the music becomes a little sad. But you can see the window is still the former one. From my point of view, the on and off the light also can mean that the time goes by. In the first time, I don’t know why snow and a ball come out. Later, I realize that these are Kane’s memory of childhood. The ball seems like a hook, to attract the viewers to continue enjoying.

Here, we know the nurse coming inside from the reflection on the crystal ball. I wonder why didn’t they just show the nurse come inside directly. Maybe they wanted to point out that the ball plays an important roll in the movie. I think that the small crystal ball is the little reflection about Mr.Kane’s childhood in the bottom of his heart. As you can see, the topic inside the ball is a small house in a snowy day,  the same scene as  he left his parents when he was so little. What’s more, the giant house which Mr.Kane lives is also a reflection that no matter how rich he is, he just feel lonely. He was not as happy as during the time in his own family. After Susan Alexander left him, he walked between 2 mirrors. It is known to all that 2 mirrors can reflect limitless substances. I think the mirrors here is a way that Mr. Kane come to scan himself. What’s the difference between the boy who played in the snowfield and the rich man who almost got everything he needs? I think that’s also the reason why he just said “rosebud” in the last minute. He misses everything and wants to come back and wants to be a naive boy.

Moreover, the usage of light and angel is very unique. All the irrelevant people are dark or not face to the camera. Meanwhile, some scenes choose close-up or just focus on some points,which is often used here.

While, in some part such as low angle, I feel a little confused. I don’t understand that why they want to use these special angle to shot a movie. what’s the main point?  Although, some angles between Kane and Susan is because that Kane has more rights than Susan. However, What’s the others?

I have a feeling that this movie should have been shot recently because there are so many techniques which our directors are using now.

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