Noisy thoughts on media noises.

Plenty of life, none at ease: “Night and the City” – Jules Dassin, 1950

Night and The City - film poster

Harry Fabian says he wants to be somebody. The sentence, uttered no five minutes into “Night and the City”, already hints at a larger theme: classical drama – man’s hubris leading to his downfall. And so Harry Fabian, small-time crook and hustler for a seedy club named “The Silver Fox”, hurries through London at night, always in search for the next big scheme to gain … what? Is it money, is it fame? One person calls him “an artist without an art” and there is a strong chance that Fabian himself isn’t sure of his goal, but he wants it all the more. Fabian repeatedly refers to “a life of ease and plenty”. At one point we see him ceremoniously admiring his “Chief Manager” name tag which resembles the Titan Atlas with the world on his shoulders. But his cockeyed idea to control London’s wrestling circuit interferes with bigger sharks: his former boss Philip Nosseross and Greek wrestling mafioso Kristo.

As with every tragic flaw well-conceived and well-staged, the protagonist’s path is clear to foresee for the audience and everyone else in the film except poor Harry Fabian himself. Nosseross clearly tells Fabian that his proceedings will get him killed in the end: “You’ve got it all, Harry. And your’re dead man.” Kristo explicitly warns him to back off more than once. His girlfriend Mary (a good supporting role for Gene Tierney, but don’t be fooled by the film poster, hers is really only a small part) argues with him about his madcap plans and visions of grandeur everytime they share the screen. But Fabian’s frenzied behavior, driven by manic optimism and megalomaniac hubris cannot simply stop. We get to know him on the run, right in the opening sequence after yet another harebrained scheme with greyhound races backfires, and we watch him die on the run in the last third of the film. Especially this last act is one of constant flight: Kristo puts a bounty on his head and the whole London underworld hunts Fabian down. On the way to his doom he repeatedly raises the stakes to keep his ever riskier operations from imploding. He cons a former wrestling champion Gregorius into becoming a wrestling coach on the London circuit, swindles a faked police permission into the hands of Nosseross’s wife, sets up a most unlikely wrestling fight by lying to everyone involved, and in the end becomes a plain thief, stealing his girlfriend’s savings.

Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark)

Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark)
out for the night

This dervish dance on a live highwire is brilliantly acted by Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian. It calls for much respect for him and director Jules Dassin to paint Fabian’s character so disagreeably, so downright enervating, and yet so fascinating. Rarely was the term “anti-hero” so fitting for a character on screen. It’s almost impossible to really like Fabian, and maybe even harder to identify with him as a protagonist, but we cannot look away when he tries fate again and again. And herein this film is similar to the later “Clockwork Orange”: we can’t root for the main character, but what finally happens to him strikes us as unfair, as unjustified violence on an outrageous scale.

While Harry may indeed be the film’s main attraction, its real depth comes from Jules Dassin’s panoramic storytelling skills. Echoing “The Naked City” (1948), his last movie before he fled America on the eve of the Hollywood blacklist, he sets up the aptly named “Night and the City” as a kind of panopticon: it tells not only Fabian’s story, but the stories of everyone connected to him – or captured by him – , lastly perhaps the story of the City (capital C, mind you). “The Naked City” ended with one of the most memorable lines cinema has: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” “Night and the City” takes this concept up and broadens it. Its narrator makes the connection in the very first scene by pointing out that the story to be told is just one of many, and that it is a normal tale, something that might happen every day in this City. From this perspective the myriad of subplots and huge amount of lurid supporting characters become parts of the whole, the City.

The viewer gets introduced to Philipp Nosseross’ deep, yet unheathily obsessive love to his wife Helen, who in turn tries to escape her husband by setting up shop with a nightclub of her own. Mary is shown together with the (quite charming) upstairs neighbour, an artist who is in love with her, but she stays true to Fabian. Gregorius, the aging Greco-Roman wrestler with his old world ideals, is the only one to just believe in Harry, while lovingly coaching a young wrestler to show the decadent Londoners and their “fancy” wrestling (not unlike today’s WCW) how it’s done. Kristo is the slightly enigmatic gangster boss with a severe father complex, with disastrous consequences for Fabian as it turns out. And each of the characters is delicately fleshed out and carefully given its own bit of screen presence aside Fabian. The excellent cast helps to successfully stage this intricate configuration without it being overshadowed by Widmark’s performance. Really everyone does amazing work here, but there have to be extra kudos for Googie Withers and Frank L. Sullivan. Their performance as Mr. and Ms. Nosseros simply is marvellous.

Then there is the City. It comes as no surprise that it is as important as the narrative. Post-war London sets the scene for the seedy, detailed, almost larger-than-life indoor sets. The buildings in decay are ever-present from the opening sequence. Especially the Docklands scenes clearly evoke Carol Reed’s “The Third Man“, the other great classic film noir that made good use of destroyed post-war European settings. And while the city surely has its glitz and glamour in the panoramic shots over the skyline and in the neon signs surrounding Piccadilly Circus, all this pomp is peeled off with the camera’s discrete looks behind the scenes of the clubs and the boxing rings.

Mr. and Mrs. NosserossThe “Silver Fox” scenery with the club buzzing at night, yet empty and forlorn for the rest of the time is a prime example of how carefully Dassin scrutinizes his classic film noir scenarios. Nosseross’ office watches over the club floor in every direction (as in the still on the right). It reminds not only of the omnipresence of the gangsters, but also shows him like a factory boss who watches over his business. Dassin even takes the time to add a scene for the daily rapport of the candy selling club girls to Helen Nosseross, who reminds them that their job is all about drawing money from the customers in the most elaborate ways. It is a place where the organized crime isn’t about hidden speakeasies and tommy guns anymore. It may still happen happen at night, but at some point it became a “normal story”. It follows the rules of business, fully capitalized and catering to large crowds (as Kristos’ fixed wrestling matches do – more a stage act than a sport, more sideshow than violence). It’s a place where money can rule the world more efficiently than guns. It also traded off old ideals of honor, friendship and sportsmanship for more modern and ruthlessly efficient ways of living. The confrontation between both ideologies is staged in the ring with the clash between old-timer Gregorius and show wrestler/thug/part-time contract killer The Strangler. It is only here that Dassin stages the transition between the different Weltanschauungen with all its subliminal brutality condensed into one prolonged, intensely violent fight scene. Gregorius beats The Strangler, but dies from the strain by cardiac arrest. And with Gregorius dead, The Strangler returns to his other jobs: fighting and killing for money, lastly executing Fabian.

With Gregorius’ last fight won but lost, and Fabian as the self-made individual taken down the society around him, Dassin’s vision of modern life turns out to be much bleaker than the usual film noir tropes. Thus in the end Dassin can return to the gangster film tropes by buying a city: Kristo’s thousand-Pound bounty on Fabian turns the whole underworld into his henchmen and executioners. It recalls Fritz Lang’s “M” and his “Fury” as well as the proto-manhunt-movie “The Most Dangerous Game“. Yet where the predecessors painted the hunters as righteously indignant, sometimes stupid mobs or mad sadists,  “Night and the City” is closer to Dürrenmatt’s “The Visit” (later turned into a film by Bernhard Wicki). Kristo, like Claire Zachanassian proposes a deal; Harry Fabian’s death is revenge, but it is also merely a business transaction.

Jules Dassin

Jules Dassin

Dassin’s reworkings of genre conventions throughout his whole body of work might easily fill a separate article (maybe another time), but it is only apt to close these observations with one last meta-reflection on film noir. In the end, earlier noirs stuck to rigid moral codes: whoever commited a crime was brought to justice, whether sympathetic or not. The detective could navigate the underworld by his own strict moral compass, using cunning and violence only as a necessary means to a good end. “Nice people” are not affected by the ethic ambiguities presented in film noir – rarely is a victim innocent or a perpetrator pardoned. But Dassin knows no poetic justice: when the closing credits roll, everyone in this movie has been punished, whether justified or not. Even the good and honest Mary Bristol isn’t spared her losses, and when Kristo is arrested in the last seconds of the film, he is still the only one who gained a bit of fulfillment in the death of Harry Fabian. The audience may even understand him. But it easily might be this introduction of all-encompassing gray into the black and white logic of film noir that helped “Night and the City” to stand the test of time and still connect to post-millenium sensibilities.


In ever smaller circles – Teinosuke Kinugasas “Jigokumon” (“Gate of Hell”)

A long-overlooked “minor” achievement of Japan’s Golden Age of Cinema in the early 1950s, Jigokumon (1953) was overshadowed by Kurosawa’s works. A filmmaker’s film, Jigokumon garnered praise ever since its release (starting with Carl Theodor Dreyer and not ending with Martin Scorsese, to name but a few) but only the late Criterion and Eureka releases have brought it to a larger audience. It tells a tragedy of mad love, loyalty and blemished honor in a rigid military society.

The Japan of the Heiji Rebellion in 1160 is the backdrop for a doomed love story. Morito is a loyal vassal and samurai to the emperor and in the military duty of General Kiyomori. He falls in love with Lady Kesa. But she is married to Wataru Watanabe, a high ranking minister, and their marriage is a happy one. Still, Morito cannot step back from his love: he is obsessed with her and over the course of things his behaviour takes a dark and twisted turn. He changes from the unlucky cavalier into a stalker willing to kill for his prey. SPOILER: In the end Lady Kesa sacrifices/kills herself to spare her husband’s life (and her aunt and, judging from Morito’s violent rage by this point, maybe some people more). Morito realizes his madness and overcomes it, but only over Kesa’s corpse. The grieving Wataru on the other hand doesn’t seek revenge on Morito. He feels that his wife couldn’t trust him enough to save her life, and that it is more of a punishment for Morito to live with the catastrophe he brought over the Watanabe family. Morito accepts his disgrace and becomes a ronin.

The film was adapted from a stage play by Kan Kikuchi, and director Teinosuke Kinugasa clearly shows his experience imported from the Kabuki theatre. The largest part of the movie plays out as a chamber drama and draws heavily on the stylization that is elementary to the Japanese stage. But this stylization is a mixed boon to the film. Though there is so much to commend in it (and one can really see why it came to such high honors), it can still be a jarring experience to watch. And just to complicate matters: the things the movie does best, are the things that keep it from a place next to the genre’s best.

One of the most important facts concerning  Jigokumon: it is Japan’s first exported color film. Why is it so crucial to start a debate of the film’s problems with this odd tidbit of technical information? Because Kinugasa turns his film into a sea of colors that sometimes borders on an outright attack on the viewers’ retinas. Shot with Eastman Kodak color technics, each frame is literally beaming from the screen. I agree with Scott Nye: one has to see it to believe it. The cinematography borrows heavily from medieval Japanese ukiyo-e art, starting with the Heiji monogatari as the movie’s historical point of attack. Most of it’s aesthetics stem from these paintings: the agressive colors, the clear lines and its depiction of the era in costumes and buildings. And Kinugasa, an expert in the creation of period pieces, does so wonderfully. Color symbolisms and codes are woven into poetic images. Where’s the problem? Though it may be partly intended by the director, this exaggeration of color distances the viewer from the plot’s emotional impact. The strong stylization turns the film into an abstract exposition of actions, that unfolds strangely remote from the audience.

In terms of plot structure this works against the story told. Kinugasa works his way from macro-level politics towards micro-level domestics. The exposition starts with one of the grandiose action set pieces: the rebel attack on Sanyo castle. Lady Kesa volunteers as a decoy for the empress and “royalist” Morito acts as her bodyguard. A flurry of decisions on the emperor’s future issues. Soon after we are told that Morito’s brother is one of the rebels. A hearty smell of high-level politics, conspiracy and treason seems to prepare a war-and-honor story. But most of the plot strands are cut short. The rebellion is put down via teichoscopy; the viewer is left with Morito turning towards Lady Kesa. And while Kinugasa still orchestrates one more action set piece (the masterly horserace sequence), the rest of the movie draws ever smaller circles around the triangle of the borderline sociopath Morito, strangely subdued Lady Kesa and shiny-good Wataru.

The plot’s motion is obviously inspired by traditional Drama tropes (Platonic Western standards and, as with Kurosawa, a lot of Shakespearean influence), yet turns them on their head. Morito, hero and anti-hero at once, is a good man led astray by his fatal flaw (not necessarily his love to Kesa, but possibly also a notion of misunderstood loyalty). One could even argue that the plot stages loosely adhere to classical dramatic structure. But where Greek or Shakespearean drama seek to link the private tragedy with larger-scale politics (think Hamlet, King Lear, Oedipus, etc.), Kinugasa obliterates every hint of influence the events might have on affairs of state.

Oh well, I have to say it: I feel the slide into domestics is hampered by the film’s flamboyant spree of color. And what doesn’t help it either is the incredibility that comes with the dramatic action. Usually I try to take a story on eye-level (especially in drama, where action is mostly based on character decision, and not so much on physics or plot requirements) and accept it as the way the characters are. But Jigokumon fails to deliver his goods to full extent.  It is not so much Morito’s change of heart from romantic hero to violent stalker, but Kesa’s passivity concerning him. This whole story relies on her looking away and not spilling the beans on love-crazy Morito. And finally she prefers to sacrifice herself, instead of making Morito’s plans of murder public. While the Japanese society in neither 1160 nor the 1950s might have held the idea of emancipation very high, it still is hardly believable that a woman spirited enough to volunteer as a decoy for a rebel army, would stay that passive if lives are at stake. The only thing that partially eases the viewer’s leap of faith, is Machiko Kyô’s excellent acting. Her Kesa is restrained, but grants the occasional glimpse into an emotional abyss behind the facade. Too bad the script doesn’t support her too much.

Having said that, it has to be acknowledged that what the film delivers, it delivers perfectly well. One can see why the play of light and colors can be cherished. The cinematography (uncoupled from plot concerns) is fantastic. The framing of the single shots is top notch – especially in the last third of the movie, set in Wataru’s home. The cinematographer Kohêi Sugiyama structures and “restricts” the images by clever usage of the house’s architecture. Wooden beams double as limits to the actor’s performance space and create a miraculous depth in otherwise empty rooms. Sugiyama’s feeling for kinetics in the horse-race scenes is spectacular. The score and the on-screen music fits perfectly. The three protagonists are exceptionally well acted. Here is a lot to recommend, and if you can stomach the film’s flaws, this is a rewarding piece of art.

A Spiritual Harmony – Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp

11362413A good debate with zerfall_gebiet concerning film scores, and music in films in general, led us (with a considerable amount of sheer luck) to The Burmese Harp by Kon Ichikawa. And music is indeed a good starting point into this 1956 anti-war drama, one of the first Japanese movies after WWII to approach the war from a pacifist viewpoint. Shot with stunningly beautiful black-and-white cinematography, it tells the story of Mizushima, a Japanese soldier fighting in Burma. He is part of an exceptionally musical company: his commanding officer, Cpt. Inouye, studied music and teaches the whole regiment the basics of choir music; Mizushima himself is an virtuoso on the titular Burmese harp. Right after the end of the war, he alone is sent on a last mission by the British: to talk a holed-up Japanese regiment into surrender. He fails, is wounded in the ensuing attack and nursed back into life by a Buddhist monk. He steals a monk robe to disguise for the return to his regiment, but the way is (almost literally) plastered with corpses. By the time he reaches the POW camp where his company is imprisoned, Mizushima has changed. In a turn towards spirituality he takes up the life of a monk and starts to bury the dead soldiers. Finally he stays in Burma, unable to return before the war crimes haven’t been amended at least by honoring the dead.

A predecessor to the likes of Terence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, The Burmese Harp takes place not on the battlefield, but in the interactions of humans connected to the war. The story is set after the Japanese forces surrendered; Mizushima’s unit isn’t shown fighting, but the viewer is introduced to them via music. “This is a time to sing” says one of soldiers after a march through the jungle. It is one of the first lines in the movie, and accompanied by Mizushima’s harp, the choir sings. Yes, there is a message here, and Ichikawa pushes it hard. Bluntly put: make music, not war. The first potentially dangerous situation, some five minutes into the film, has the Japanese surrounded by the British. As a ruse they start to sing, hoping to start a surprise attack on the besiegers. But instead of the (war movie stereotypical) skirmish the British soldiers also start to sing to Mizushima’s harp. Weapons are dropped, and the end of the war is announced.

One scene, the loudest of the whole movie, serves as a direct contrast to this harmony (musical and otherwise): Mizushima’s meeting with the still fighting Japanese stragglers. He tries to talk to them, but is shouted down. It is the only scene that has people shouting at each other, which promptly leads to a communication failure. That in turn ends in disaster: the British army shells the hideout and kills almost everyone inside. Mizushima crawls out of the cave and collapses.

The contrast of harmony and dissonance introduced in the exposition is put to the test afterwards. Remarkably, the following sidestep of the film’s imagery into a metaphysical, well… spiritual realm is started by one of the very few extravagances in the otherwise formally very strict movie. The narration leaves Mizushima lying in the rubble. Without any indication the story does a flash forward and continues with Inouye some weeks, may be months later. He meets a monk with a parrot on his shoulder that looks “just like Mizushima”. The captain meets the animal’s former owner who tells him that the parrot was given to the monk as a symbol “for a good rebirth”. He then buys the bird’s sibling. It is only after this episode (introducing the concept of rebirth) that the story returns to Mizushima.

Mizushima in a dark place

Mizushima in a dark place

In a way it really is Mizushimas death, him in a dark place. His “good rebirth” happens perchance through a Buddhist monk. The mise-en-scène immediately places Mizushima in a spiritual context: the characters’ bodies mirror the arrangement of the iconographic religious statues in the background. Mizushima literally is fed by the monk, who continously chants Buddhist mantras to the injured man. It is the last on-screen music for quite a while. After the recovery, Mizushima travels the land of the dead: Burma, covered by the corpses of the foreign soldiers. It is a quiet land of despair for him.

It is the only (lengthy) sequence of him without the harp. Here Ichikawa relies on a subtle use of the orchestral score: an string adagio consisting of lengthy legato chord lines that’s mixed very low into the audiotrack. Panoramic landscape shots of stubble fields, dead bodies, the starving Mizushima with bloodied feet – all this is a glimpse into purgatory. When the music returns into the movie it is a reminder that harmony is more than just human unison. As soon as Mizushima finds a harp, the movie revives his whole musical imagery again. Just a minute later a hymn sung by British nurses over the grave of “the unknown Japanese soldier” heavily influences Mizushima’s decision to not only wear a monk’s garb, but to care for the spirits of the dead by burying the Japanese bodies. The spirit is necessary for the harmony of life and death, to make amends for thousands dying (Mizushima’s failure at Triangle mountain to keep “people from dying needlessly”, as Inouye put it to him, looms in the back of this). And while I agree with zerfall_gebiet that traumatic moments precede the decision (especially being confronted with a pile of corpses in the beach scene), it is not PTSD that makes Mizushima stay in Burma, but him overcoming his trauma of death and failure.

A last song

A last song

In other words: Mizushima and his harp become instruments in a spiritual harmony. And just as the musical harmony in the movie, often induced by Mizushima’s harp, gives shape to a human communication that transcends language, race, nationality and class, Mizushima incites other people (most notably the Burmese youth in a memorable scene on the return to the corpse-ridden beach) to join in this harmony of life and death by honoring the dead. Yet: by this notion he is set apart from his old regiment. They want to return to their lives in Japan, and Ichikawa’s script doesn’t judge them for it. Neither does Mizushima, but he cannot return. One of the most haunting scenes of the film is the last meeting of them. The regiment sang to call him until their throats were sore. But only after an elaborate trick (involving teaching the parrot to say “Mizushima, let’s go back together” and an old woman to bring it to the monk) Mizushima comes for one last time. Parted by the camp’s barbed wire, he does not speak to his friends. Instead he plays a song on his harp. It moves all persons present, but they cannot sing with him anymore.

The criticism levelled at Ichikawa that he uses the sentimentality of the melodrama is legit, but while The Burmese Harp surely plucks at the heart strings, and from time to time does so with a fair deal of pathos, it never is reduced to kitsch. Ichikawas crisp direction, the almost meditative mood created in the movie, a persistence not to flinch and look away from stark and grisly pictures, a wonderful score that fits the movie’s message – all this balances the film perfectly and makes it a memorable anti-war film that draws its cues from drastic realism and mythic fairy tale elements alike. As such it is a harmonious piece of art, in subject and execution.

PS: the Criterion restoration is excellent. It brings out the brilliance of the movie’s play with light and contrast in fantastic crispness. Recommendation!

Making sense of and in Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” (Pt. 1)

Scorsese’s 1985 black comedy – and that’s where the problems start. Even the genre is impossible to grasp. After Hours seems to be a film that’s exceptionally hard to talk about. Most viewers, and critics alike, try to define it as comedy, yet add the predicate “tense” or “nightmarish”. Satire also fits the bill. Scorsese himself said that he took up trademark shots from Hitchcock, and a lot of people sense a screwball set-up in the story of a man exposed to 1000 mishaps and catastrophes in the course of what must be the most unlucky night of his life (an excellent sypnopsis is part of Dennis Schwartz’s review). The friction that sends sparks through the audience expectations concerning genre and its consequences, might well be part of the intended effect.

Ebert thought it to be an utterly self-reflexive example of pure filmmaking and: “”After Hours” could be called a “hypertext” film, in which disparate elements of the plot are associated in an occult way.” This fits well with another statement by Scorsese concerning his artistic ideas for After Hours: “All style. An exercise completely in style.” The elements of the plot and, as I would argue, the message are arranged visually, not necessarily in rational, causal manner. Thus style and film grammar indeed become an essential part in the understanding of the film’s narrative.

***Massive Spoilers Ahead***

An example of how paralleling shot set-ups and perpectives connect the dots: four special instances of things falling on the ground. Fairly early in the movie Paul Hackett, the movie’s protagonist (a staggering performance by Griffin Dunne), loses his last money: it gets blown out of a cab window. Apart from the symbolic value of losing the last material wealth right in the exposition of the story, the camera ominously stresses the event. It follows the 20 dollar bill (think American Beauty) until it lands flat on the street. The bill in the gutter becomes the center of an extreme close up, with one half of the note filling the whole screen. Later on another 20 dollar bill appears in a papier-mâché sculpture. And though nothing in the plot would justify the assumption that both banknotes are actually one and the same, the visual priming of the money in gutter overlaps into the plot structure (and with a certain panache in story-telling this second banknote is lost again to the same taxi driver we met earlier in the movie).

The next fall into an extreme close-up that Paul and the viewer witness, is the often-quoted “key drop”-scene. A key is dropped out of the window and thecamera  takes a falling POV-shot from the perspective of the key, right up to the face of Hackett, before the keys land on the pavement. Again the movement is broken by a jump cut onto a high angle shot of the keys in centerscreen. Like the money, keys appear again and again throughout the whole movie. None of them open public spaces or lockboxes, etc., but each of them belongs to a private apartment that Hackett has to enter. This intrusion into private spheres attains a special empasis in a story of a man that desperately wants to go home but cannot. Therefore it is not surprising that his own keys get traded off after about a third of the movie and only reappear fairly late. A pattern emerges: the technical mise-en-scène of a (pardon the expression) “fall-into-a-peculiar-shot” is connected to images of loss.

The third time it is Paul himself who falls after he barges in a door. The camera catches the movementl in a top-down perspective; it is positioned above the inner side of the door frame. We see him fall diagonally away from us until he hits the floor (still lying on the door). The final frame is measured to the door height on the ground with Hackett filling a good bit of vertical screen axis in dead center. Now the set-up has to fill in the blanks: linking him to the images of loss conveyed by the peculiar camera setup for another falling movement, it can be inferred that he is about to lose himself. This can be confirmed from his increasingly erratic behavior in the movie’s second half. Also: the symbol “door” is inherently linked to the symbol “key” – coding the protagonist’s forced entry as a transgression into private space that is not his. He is literally losing his place and therefore has to fall. At that point it should be added that the movie also plays out a bit of Kafka’s “Before the Law” (part of The Trial) in verbatim. This intertextual connection turns doors into passages in a mythical place (I abstain from openly talking about kingdom come or hereafter or else in that vein), a decision of one’s own fate; a motive that can be found again in the movies invocation of mythical land of Oz, resp. The Wizard of Oz (see here). Therefore the image of breaking down a door and entering only to fall, gains almost existential gravity .

The fourth and last fall also finishes the After Hours‘ plot (and, as I hope to still show, its story). The script and its realization by Scorsese invoke several expectations concerning the fate of the protagonist in the end. One of them (next to burning up or being lynched) is falling to his death. But in a clever twist Scorsese turns the fall into a positive metaphor. Hackett ends up in a papier-mâchè sculpture (yes, the plot is really that far out) that shatters after falling from a truck. The final shot of this fall is breathtaking. Similar to the “breaking and entering” sequence, this one is not a close-up, but a long shot with Hackett in the centre and the doors to his office filling the background. He crawls from the broken sculpture and enters his office. Usually this event is considered to be Hackett’s rebirth, literally hatching from an egg shell. Instead of dying Scorsese inverts the symbol (arguably one of techniques that undercuts audience expectations in the whole movie) by letting Hackett live after his fall.

But enough for today. It is late. Tomorrow I want to wrap these ideas up by showing how these techniques of visual priming, paralleling, synchronization und intertextuality help to find a counterplot to Hackett’s becoming and how Hitchcock may help in unearthing it. Good night!

As usual: Hello World, now 2.0 (or even 4.0a)

Well, nice enough. It still screams “WordPress template” everytime I cast my eyes on the screen, but it should suffice until I will have ventured past my own inertia and set up a server myself. Anyway: anyone who sees this is welcome, but right now there’s nothing to see. Hurry along, but return in some time (please! give me some days, or at least hours – not these hectic zepto-nanoseconds that count down the life span of your average web content, and the attention span of most readers). When I made my mind up what to post first, and last, and at least some of the stuff in between, I’ll give my ten-penny-thoughts in all the online, blog-published un-glory. See you later, maybe.


PS: Just for the people who care to read postscripts, maybe a vague hint: expect some thinking about pop culture in general (spooks my head and has to be exorcised), some reviewing of old and new – well – “stuff” and maybe some more leftovers from yesterdays’ diner of brains.