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October 1996, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
"Do not read this line." <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 24 Oct 1996 19:06:03 -0400
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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peter latham's query . . .
> Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" were both
> released in 1960. Both films concern mentally ill young adult males who
> were made so by parental abuse. Both are living in the houses of their
> childhoods, both are homicidal and both experience crises when confronted
> with the attractions and fears generated by meeting and relating to a young
> woman.My questions for the list are how did these two very different (but
> British born) directors come to share so similar a view? And with such
> similar views, how could these films have had such directly opposite
> results for the careers of their directors? In this regard, it should be
> noted that "Psycho" augmented Hitchcock's already magnificent reputation,
> while "Peeping Tom" badly damaged Michael Powell's for a time.
. . . is fascinating and i'm glad he raised it and look forwrd to the
responses which are likely to be rich and varied . . . but in the interim i'd
like to venture an answer to what i take to be the simplest of the questions,
and to offer a comment that might complicate still further the more difficult
questions . . .
 . . . the simplest question is, i take it, the last, concerning the
different results the films had on their directors' careers . . . the reason
i think is that, for all its perversity, PSYCHO plays--or can play, or
did play--as a narrative operating within a fairly traditional frame . . .
the issue of sexuality is raised in an appealingly lubricious way, the
perversity is, pace bellour, always framed and thus reconfigured by various
"normal" discourses [the sheriff, the psychiatrist], the ending does a
satisfying job of restoring order, and  and--perhaps most important--only
at a few moments, and in rigorously limited ways does the film present
the view/knowledge/perspective of norman . . .
                . . .PT on the other hand offers no such stablizing
framework [however provisonal], presents a sexuality that is
always tawdry or worse [the model with the disfigured face, a gesture
recapitulated in mike leigh's SECRETS & LIES, being perhaps the most
disturbing] . . . and, signally, presents everything from the start on from
the point of view--figurative and often literal as well--of the most
problematic figure . . .
put simply, PT offers very little conventional narrative pleasure  . . .
but this answer in turn raises the complicating questions:  the similarities
pointed out by peter latham are, all of them, to be found in the diegesis of
the two films . . .
 . . what strikes me as so remarkable is not only that the two films can have
so much in common diegetically, but that two films that do have so much in
common can indeed be so dramatically different in both their narrative and
ther cinematic qualities . . . so i'd really like to see, beyond answers to
the original question, an exploration of how two films can be so similar and
yet so different, so different in fact that the very obvious question raised
by peter latham is one that has never occurred to me or--i would guess--to
most others viewers
mike frank
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