Hitchcock Motifs

UMW Art History professor JeanAnn Dabb is teaching a Freshman Seminar on Alfred Hitchcock. Few subjects in this world are more compelling than Hitchcock’s films, and it’s hard to think of a better excuse to run a course blog. So, that’s exactly what JeanAnn did, and you can find it here: http://hitchcock.umwblogs.org. That’s right, a little bit of old school UMW Blogs to temper all this Domain of One’s Own rah rah rah 🙂

Hitchcock in the Simpsons

What I like about how JeanAnn ran this course blog is she had students write about different elements of Hitchcock’s films over the course of the semester. They captured the various motifs Hitchcock employed across his films and the innumerable homages to Hitchcock’s work by other filmmakers and in pop culture. They also wrote about his ongoing legacy (is Vertigo (1958) his/the greatest film of his career/all time?), as well as his impact on contemporary art. I love the various lenses she provides her class to think through the Master’s work.

Stan Douglas’s recreation of the set of Marnie is a loop of a scene in which Marnie robs the office where she works. It’s reshot in a modern setting, with computers instead of typewriters, though it is in black and white rather than color. Read more by clicking on the image.

It’s really compelling stuff, and I have spent way too much time reading through the posts. My personal favorites are from the motif category in which students trace various recurring themes through his films. Various students’ posted about the ways in which Hitchcock subtly and brilliantly manipulates the viewer in his films. One can often find themselves in a compromised position as a result, which is illustrated brilliantly in this post about the “GunCam”— or the first person shooter perspective in Spellbound (1945).

GunCam: First Person Shooter from Hitchcock’s Spellbound

The post by Mrs. Atwater, “The Audience and the Film,” does an excellent job sharing some of the particular moments in which Hitchcock is breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging the audience’s role in the action.

In Strangers on Train, Bruno engages the audience head-on as the other audience is seduced by the action.

Joseph Cotton breaking the fourth wall in Shadow of a Doubt

Grace Kelly in Rear Window communicating with the audience

The motif of criss-cross in Strangers on a Train is the focus of another post, which uses screenshots and GIFs (a staple for film blogs now) to capture the various ways Hitchcock communicated his themes and motifs though this visual medium. As an aside, I love that one of the GIFs they grabbed from the web for their post was from my own blog 🙂

Criss-crossed traintracks in Strangers on a Train

Criss-crossed feet

Criss-crossed audience (a GIF furnished by the bava :))

And that’s not all, there are posts covering the motifs of stairs, tense drivers, and falls from high places, and the various posts really make for some compelling discussions about Hitchcock’s work. What’s even better is the web is an endless supply of inspiration and resources when it comes to film, and the students have not been shy at all about using them liberally when it comes to screenshots, GIFs, and videos.

Read the full version of this post here.

GIFs, Chinese History Style

The students in Sue Fernsebner‘s Chinese History through Film course have been hard at work creating GIFs as part of their film analyses. There are a bunch of excellent GIFs that try and capture a particularly significant moment within the film they’re analyzing. For example, the GIF analysis for the film Not One Less (1999) effectively focuses on the film’s recurring use of chalk to frame the underfunding of rural elementary schools in China. I really like how the student uses the GIFs to capture the chalk moments, the only thing is they are far too big and need to be optimized so they’ll load in the browser.

Another analysis I really loved is the sequence taken from the 1994 film Ermo. This film follows one woman’s obsession with purchasing a television, and the following multi-shot GIF sequence, alongside the student’s analysis, really captures the emergence of consumerism and the rols of capitalism in 1990s China—something we’ve witnessed the apotheosis of in the 21st century.

There is also this four-part giffing of the highly politicized sex scene with Gong Li in Ju Dou (1990). Brilliant stuff, it is similar to the GIFs I experiemnted with from Red Surghum last year for this class, and how cool to see the students this year going well beyond that!

JuDou1JuDou2Judou3 JuDou4

Finally, another GIF I really enjoyed but is too heavy to link to in this post is this sweeping shot from the 1950s propanganda film The Red Detachment of Women. I love how the GIF captures the way in which masculine and feminine roles in the revolution are framed, as well as the sexual innuendo of the scene.

And that’s just a few of the nineteen examples of students playing with GIFs to analyze Chinese history through films.  Now that’s EDUCATIONAL!