Assignment 2: Formal Analysis

In Hollywood, male’s role as a controlling protagonist has not been changing a lot until present-day. With the uses of formal film techniques, filmmakers influenced on people’s perceptions of male/female character. Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze explicates the tendency of reinforcing the male perspective in those cinema works. Elements of cinema such as light, camera placement and costume supports the idea that men play the roles as spectators who are dominant in situations and women are there to be spectacles.

Out of all film directors who demonstrated the male gaze in their pieces, director Alfred Hitchcock’s use of voyeurism as a theme in his piece, “Pshycho”(1960) is absolutely exotic to everyone. His outstanding uses of the camera angle, soundtrack, and very sophisticated editing process, they all contribute to complete his masterpieces. However, the scene that is most captivating as the part of studying the male gaze is in Psycho, where the host of the motel, Norman watches Marion through the peephole on the wall.

After saying goodnight to each other, Norman comes into his room where all the bird figures are hanging on the top of the room. As soon as he shuts the door, it seems like the room is the world that makes him strong when he is there by himself. Norman comes close and stands right next to the wall that is between his room and Marion’s room and looks down on the floor for few seconds and looks around him as if he is checking if anything is wrong. Norman and a bird figure with its wings spread are shot in the low angle, and low-key lighting. In next shot, the audiences see something odd. As he takes away a picture frame from the wall, there is a peephole that he could see Marion’s room. With the light comes from the other room, Norman gets his eyes closer to the peephole and the camera alternates between what he sees on the other room and his very closed-up one eye with the hole. Unaware of being watched, Marion takes off her cloths and gets ready to take a shower. Few seconds later, Norman puts back the picture frame and looks towards where his house (his mom) is, and then goes outside with fast paces. He stops for a moment in front of the office, but after looking towards his house again, he starts to walk fast with determined expression on his face.

Marion is more independent female character than Norman who is rather timid. However, as the one who looks, Norman is gazing Marion at somewhere she cannot see him. According to Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema”, as a passive spectacle, Marion has not given any options for this situation but just to be looked-at. Yes, she is depicted as someone who is troublesome and needs to be watched. Her costume perhaps helps to emphasize her as an erotic object, too. She is not wearing an office-look outfit and organizing her stuff, but wearing her underwear, getting ready to take a shower in a bright room when Norman is gazing her through the peephole in a dark room. Norman has been a voyeur, but he also acts as a dominant power at the same time.

This idea of the male gaze has been in the deep side of the most of film works. This scene from Psycho is one of the well-made scenes in director Hitchcock’s pieces that presented the literal voyeurism. The closed up technique that allows the audiences to observe Norman’s little movement of his eye, the camera placement and light that shows clear position of prominence between the spectator and spectacle, and even the costume that Marion wears, these formal techniques and elements of cinema influenced people’s perceptions about gender on screen.



Double Indemnity (1944)

This scene is where Walter realizes that Phyllis needs him to kill her husband. It takes place at Phyllis’ living room and Walter gets out from her house.

-MCU, straight on, low-key lighting, soft focus, short take. Walter talks to Phyllis. Phyllis’ back is showed a little on the right side of the frame. Her shadow lies on Walter’s shoulder.

-MCU, straight on, low-key lighting, soft focus, short take, reverse. Phyllis talks to Walter. Camera’s angle is a little different from the first shot; it shows the right side of Walter instead of his back.

-MCU, straight on, low-key lighting soft focus, short take, reverse. Camera closed up more this time compare to the first shot. Walter talks to Phyllis.

-MS, straight on, low-key lighting. After Phyllis and Walter exchange some words, Walter gets up from the couch and the camera follows Walter’s movement; he is leaving.

-LS, straight on, low-key lighting. Phyllis says, “What’s the matter?” and Walter looks back; he does not turn back completely. It shows the backside of Phyllis’ body again. There are lines that looks like a curtain behind Walter and Phyllis; it looks like the lines are separating them.

-MS, straight on. Camera focuses on Walter, he walks close to Phyllis and talks. It still shows the back of Phyllis. There’s another line that “separates” them: the edge of the wall.


-LS, straight on, low-key lighting. Camera still focuses on Walter. It shows out-focused back of Phyllis, she looks Walter leaving after he puts his hat on. There is his shadow on the wall when he opens the door to leave. Non-diegetic sound starts.


-LS, non-diegetic sound with Walter’s narration. He gets out from her house and get on the car. Camera follows his movement. The shot dissolves to the next shot.


In this scene, there is an intense usage of reverse shot since Walter and Phyllis have a conversation. We also see the “separation” by the lines between them. I think the director, Wilder wanted to stress the fact that this intellectual, genuine man, Walter is not tempted to the offer Phyllis propose yet. Walter has represented clearly his mind to Phyllis’ propose without hesitation. Walter has conflicts/disagreements with Phyllis in this scene even though he changes later on and works together to commit the murder.




Citizen Kane(1941)

Some people posted that they heard about the movies we watch since they all are really famous and remarkable pieces not only in the past but also in modern. However,  I’ve never heard about any movies what we watched. Everything we see and learn is totally new to me. That’s one of the reasons that makes this class more interesting to me.

Anyways, last week’s movie, Citizen Kane(1941), was the foremost movie during that time. One thing I want to talk about the greatness of this movie is that the shadow usage. Orson Welles, the director, used many of very sophisticated techniques, which is a big part of the reason that this movie is really famous. After showing a short clip about Kane’s life they made, those men were talking in the dark, however, their faces were kind of hiding under the shadows and until the end, we barely could recognize their faces. I  was actually waiting for the scene where we could see the faces, so when the scene changed I was “disappointed” and then I was wondering if there is any particular reason that they didn’t show us the faces. (other than this scene, there are more awesome scenes where they used shadow techniques!!)

Wow… there are so many scenes, which I thought they were brilliant, to share. But I’m gonna share just one more thing that I noticed in this film. Camera movement was definitely outstanding in Citizen Kane(So was the camera angle). It is raining outside and the camera moves towards the window that is on the top of the building, and it continues moving to the inside where Susan is drinking. The camera moved without any stopping  and it just glided into the bar.

Even though we learned in lecture before we watching this movie that this one is remarkable in camera angle, lighting, sound, and scale. I unconsciously was ignoring this “old” movie and was expecting the same level as the movie’s we watched in class. However, as I watch this movie, it completely surprised me in every scene. I really enjoyed watching Citizen Kane and it touched me that it made me to decide to do this first blog posting(I’m not saying the previous pieces were bad, I just really liked this one).

Thanks for reading my poor review, I’ll try to do better job in next post, I was in RUSH when I was writing this one haha.