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September 1996, Week 2


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Pip Chodorov <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 04:32:37 -0400
text/plain (38 lines)
Don Larsson points out:
>The entire shot showing these elements neatly (and silently) establishes
>a) Jeff's a photographer; b) he leads an exciting, dangerous life; and c)
>he probably broke his leg on one of these assignments.
The other interesting thing is that next shot shows Jeff on the phone,
explaining all these facts to us verbally. Why would Hitchcock have set this
up so neatly and silently, only to tell us all again? Was he underestimating
the viewer's capacity to interpret visual information? Did he assume we
needed the information twice?
Philippe Dubois gives us this interesting theory: Hitchcock is playing on
mimesis and diegesis; showing and telling. In the first shot, the information
is shown to us, "neatly and silently". In the second shot, the same
information is told to us. This play on showing and telling comes up
continuously throughout the film, and is part of the key to unravelling the
mystery through Jeff's eyes.
We could continue Dubois' ideas by saying that this little double-play sets
up Hitchcock's rules for the game to follow. The photographer will be looking
for clues to be shown to him; so he must learn to deduce from what he sees.
In the first sequence, we could say the audience is warned to look carefully,
and that every object we see has meaning. The second shot is the "answer",
confirming our guesses to the first shot (the "question" - "what's going
And the third shot is a point of view of the courtyard. We scan the buildings
across, the gardens below, apparently following Jeff's gaze, but when we pull
back into his apartment we find him asleep with the back of his head facing
out the window. So who's doing the looking here, anyway?
Pip Chodorov
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