December, 2011Archive

Dec 16

AFI rated the movie” Bonnie and Clyde” as one of the top 100 movies ever made and I wholeheartedly agree with their assessment.  In my opinion, “Bonnie and Clyde” was one of the best if not the best movies we have seen in class this semester.  This movie exhibits many different elements that would classify it as quality cinema. For example, the movie has, action, love, despair, and death.  One of the main reasons why I enjoyed this movie is because, Arthur Penn (director) was not afraid to break away from the common practices in Hollywood.  Penn used sex and death in a way no ever had.  Also, I appreciated the fact that Penn for the most part, kept the movie historically accurate, to the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

“Bonnie and Clyde “ is based upon the real life story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow who were bandits in the 1930’s.  The story begins when Clyde who tries to steal Bonnie’s mom’s car after he gets out of jail.  Instead of calling the police on Clyde for grand theft auto, she finds his robbery attempt rather interesting.  The two talk, and Clyde convinces Bonnie to leave her boring job and life and go on the road with him committing crimes.

Their crime spree starts off small by robbing small stores, but their crimes escalate with the addition of other people into their gang.  The first addition is C W Moss who was a gas attendant. They felt he would be essential not only to aid in committing crimes, but also fixing cars is his specialty and bank robbers need a getaway car.  The other person that elevates their crimes to another level is Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife.  The crew starts robbing banks instead of the small stores.

Things seemed to be going well, until Clyde had to shoot a bank manager, who was trying to stop their car from fleeing the scene.  This earns the gang notoriety with y the police.  Additionally, they gain more publicity when they embarrass a ranger, by making him take pictures with them, and then set him adrift on a boat in the middle of the water.  The police try to capture the group on a number of occasions, but they are unsuccessful. On one occasion, when the gang was least expecting it, the police opened fire. Buck is injured and ultimately dies, Buck’s wife is captured, and Bonnie, Clyde and C W are all injured.  The three of them flee to C W’s father’s house, which would lead to the end of Bonnie and Clyde.  C W’s father helps the police set up Bonnie and Clyde, so that his son would a more lenient punishment.  Bonnie and Clyde are ambushed trying to help C W’s father fix a tire and are brutally killed.

This movie broke many Hollywood rules of that time and opened the door to more action and violence in movies than ever before.  Never before in any movie was there a death scene similar to the one in this movie.  The audience actually gets to see every bullet that was shot by the police hit the couple and the blood that poured out of them.  In addition, the audience experiences two obvious sexual references that were not exhibited on that scale in any other film at the time.  I feel that by breaking many of the traditional rules of Hollywood Penn led the way for modern day directors to try and explore with new ideas.

Most of this film is factually accurate to the true story of Bonnie and Clyde.  I believe that if a director wants to portray past events the most important thing he needs to do is to make the movie as accurate as possible.  Penn in this movie did just that, but he also added elements that made the story believable and more enjoyable.  Every time the crew went on a crime spree, they were never injured and always managed to escape, except for one time where they got unexpectedly raided.  By having Bonnie and Clyde successful never getting hurt, Penn tries to get the audience to side with Bonnie and Clyde, and even cheer for them even though they robbed banks and killed many people.  Additionally, the incident of the ranger being humiliated is not factual.  The ranger who they supposedly embarrassed, in actuality were a legendary ranger and never saw Bonnie and Clyde until he ambushed them.  I feel that by having how Bonnie and Clyde tie the ranger, making him take pictures with them and sending him adrift on the water, added humor to the movie. “Bonnie and Clyde” is one of AFI’s top 100 movies and one of my top movies as well.

Dec 09

Analysis #2

Question 1

The theory of “male gaze” which is credited to Laura Mulvey, basically argues that film is made for a male audience and women are seen as objects to be looked at by males.  I agree with Mulvey’s theory.  We have seen many different instances in films this semester such as “Written in the Wind” and “Psycho” that illustrate her theory.  But a movie that truly illustrates Mulvey’s theory is “Double Indemnity” (directed by Billy Wilder).

“Double Indemnity” is about Phyllis Dietrichson (played by Barbara Stanwyck) who seduces Walter Neff (played by Fred MacMurray) and convinces him to kill her husband so she could collect his accident insurance.  They murder her husband with seemingly no problems.  However, things take a turn for the worse when they have to separate so that no one would suspect them.  Eventually they start to turn on each other and everything spirals out of control thereafter.

In “Double Indemnity” there is a scene with two distinct shots that reinforces Mulvey’s theory. One scene begins off with Walter Neff entering the Dietrichson house looking for Mr. Dietrichson.  Neff wants to discuss the Dietrichson auto insurance.  Mr. Dietrichson is not home at the time, but his wife Phyllis is home.  This is the first time the audience sees Phyllis Dietrichson and immediately we see the “male gaze”.

During this instance when we see the “male gaze” the camera shows Phyllis at the top of the staircase, naked except for a towel she has on.   The camera is almost exculsively focusing on Phyllis. The camera briefly gazes back to Neff when he is introducing himself.  However, the camera returns to give us a close-up of Phyllis in her towel and we don’t see Neff for a few seconds.  Phyllis offers her assistance because her husband his not home, even though she admitted she is unaware of the insurance and most things her husband does.  This lack of knowledge demonstrates either that her husband really does not trust her with important issues or that she is not concerned with such matters.  She would probably rather go back to sunbathing outside which she was doing before Neff got there.

Throughout this encounter Neff is a little flustered and overly excited to be conversing with Phyllis.  Even after Phyllis left to put on clothes, Neff just stood there staring at the empty place where she stood.  Additionally, throughout the conversation we do not see the housekeeper who opened the door for Neff when the scene started, and we only see her when Phyllis addresses her and when Phyllis temporarily leaves the scene.  This may be because the housekeeper is not as good looking as Phyllis so Neff’s attention is not focused on her as he was on Phyllis.

Another significant instance of the “male gaze” is when Phyllis comes back to the scene after she is finished getting dressed.  The “male gaze” is seen as Phyllis is walking down the staircase to talk to Neff.  Right before the camera shows Phyllis actually walking down the stairs.  Neff looks at the staircase in a state of amazement.  After the camera captures his expression, it gives us an extreme close up of Phyllis slowly walking down the stairs in her heels.  This shot alone proves Mulvey’s theory.  By the camera angle alone we think of Phyllis as just a sexual object and not a complete person.

These two shots are more distinctive of the ”male gaze” than any other movie we have seen thus far.  These two shots are strong examples of the “male gaze” and are very provocative in nature.  The depiction of Barbara Stanwyck is not such a far cry from the way women were portrayed during this time period.  This movie was made in 1944, which entered a new film movement, which was called femme fatale (another name is film noir).  Women were perceived differently than they ever were and this had to do with World War II.  Women tended to their homes while the men went off to fight.  Just as women’s roles were changing nationally, they were changing in film as well as seen by the femme fatale period.  This period saw women as both dangerous and hypnotic.  Wilder clearly portrays this in “Double Indemnity”.  Wilder demonstrates elements of how women can be hypnotic, in the way that Phyllis was portrayed in this scene and how Neff was amazed by everything Phyllis did.  The element of danger is present, from the very beginning of the movie in which it is clear that Phyllis wants to kill her husband for his money, which is probably why she married him.

The two shots that I have discussed prove Mulvey’s theory.  These shots portray women as nothing more than sex objects.  By having Barbara Stanwyck come down in a towel, and having her slowly walk down the stairs, with the camera focusing on her, we are forced to view Stanwyck as just an object to be gazed at, as opposed to how women really are.

media studies