Author Archives: HallieKay

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Untitled Film Stills

1979-80

The Untitled Film Stills are a series of 70 photographs depicting women in various situations and different locations, each still had its own story and emotion. Sherman is the model for every film still, she would dress up and put on different makeup to make herself look like different people. She would internally construct plots in her head for what these women would be doing, why they were where they were, and what they were feeling. This series is her only titled work, which is ironically Untitled Film Stills.

Sherman purposely made these photographs to look like stills from a film. Some ways we see this is: the photographs only being in black and white (a reference to Hitchcock’s older work), the somewhat out of focus areas, and the lighting is dramatic like it would be in a film

Untitled Film Stills Cindy Sherman American Icons Studio 360

This work encompasses all three of the mentioned characteristics that make her photos appear to be film stills. The dark, blurry background juxtaposed against the clear image of the woman, makes her face standout so that we see her emotion and think, what is she doing, what is she looking at, where did she come from, where is she now, etc. The viewer engages with the woman and creates a narrative to explain her.

The two previous stills resemble Hitchcockian films. The first resembling many scenes from Hitchcock films in which someone is running through these large open areas and the camera remains zoomed out as the subject takes up only a portion of this expansive space. The second resembles a scene from Marnie. 

The themes of Sherman’s art is the deconstruction of the image of women, “unraveling what women are about, what they represent, and how images of them are made and consumed.” (smarthistory.khanacademy.org)

 

All of these images of women looking in mirrors underline her theme of women under the gaze of men, other women, and even themselves (which puts these works in the category of “Hitchcock motifs that reflect the object as fetish and the ‘possessive’ spectator). These stills show Sherman’s message that the identity and image of a woman is created by what others see of them but also what women make themselves appear to be.

If this art interests you click on this link and it will take you to a 4 min or so talk about Sherman’s art.

The Legacy of Vertigo

Vertigo for the most part, especially for today’s generation, is a slow moving film. The scenes in which James Stewart’s character Scottie follows Kim Novak’s character Madeleine seem to last forever, they are monotonous and rather boring. The romantic relationship between Scottie and both Madeleine and Judy are frustrating. When it comes to Madeleine, we are frustrated because Scottie is falling in love with an old school mate’s wife; when she ‘falls’ of the bell tower we are somewhat sympathetic for Scottie but lose that sympathy after his relationship with Judy begins. The reason we lose this sympathy is because of the was Scottie tries to change Judy into Madeleine, which irritates us. Thus, the modern audience member is frustrated with the plot of Vertigo; however, there are many technical elements that would logically place Vertigo on the charts for a great film.

One element of Vertigo that has influenced other films is the iconic stairwell scene.

<br /><br />
The “Vertigo” Shot <br /><br />

The technical aspects of this scene are remarkable, and the psychological effect it has on the audience is largely important for the film.

Another influential element is the dream scene in which Scottie sees all of these fantastic colors and animations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WAxDlUOw-w

Yes, in comparison to today’s CGI capabilities this sequence seems ridiculous, but for the time it was quite advanced. Also seen from this scene is the artistic influence of Saul Bass who created the posters and the title sequence, both revolutionary for its time. (Source)

The poster campaign in addition to the opening title sequence add to the mood and atmosphere of the whole film.

In regards to the appeal to the audience, Vertigo, to put it bluntly, is lacking, which makes its high rating rather surprising; however, the technical aspects of the film explains it success and critical acclaim.

 

The Audience and the Film

As an audience we willingly give ourselves to Alfred Hitchcock and his collaborators on the film. We subject ourselves to Hitchcock’s will and manipulation to view what he creates for us, and in return we give our time and commitment of thought. Occasionally the audience’s relationship with the actors and the stage is directly addressed through eye contact with an actor, or passively by putting us (the audience) in the viewpoint of the actor. By doing so, Hitchcock makes the audience see and feel what the character is seeing and feeling. Especially in the case of “breaking the fourth wall”, so to speak, the audience isn’t only observing the emotions and actions of the characters, we are sucked into the narrative and forced to feel and react. This motif of reaction is common in a number of Hitchcock’s films and can be seen through the following gifs.

animated animated GIF

In the gif (brought to you by this guy) we are seeing through Guy’s eyes and forced to feel the way Guy feels.

alfred hitchcock animated GIF

In this gif we are even more drawn into the role of Charile as her uncle, very menacingly, looks over her/our way, as we accept the role of Charlie in this shot. (source)

In Rear Window, the major theme is the idea of looking in on the happenings of others, which is the audience’s role when going to see a film or play. Naturally, the audience can relate to Jeffries easily as he looks in to the lives of others as we are, thus we share his viewpoint several times through the film. From Rear Window we can see the connection of audience and character, both directly and passively. For example:

looking in on others

communicating with others

 

and when he’s caught.

raymond-burr-in-rear-window

 

We relate to these different characters because, with consent, we are subjected to the manipulation of Hitchcock, notably through the connection between us and these characters.