Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Spring 2012
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 113B

Painting, Photography & Film

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


"This Thing Called Film"

"We've become a race of Peeping Toms
What people ought to do is get outside
their own houses and look in for a change"
- Stella, Rear Window

"You gentlemen aren't really trying
to kill my son, are you?"
- Clara (Roger's mother), North By Northwest

"I made a mistake. I fell in love.
That wasn't part of the plan."
Judy, Vertigo

Michelangelo Antonioni's BLOW UP (1966) might be seen as Antonioni's commentary on the limits of photography, on what it can and cannot do, on what's peculiar or special about the medium: what film can do and photography cannot or cannot do nearly so well.

And Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (1954) might be viewed as a metaphor for cinema itself.

Jeffries played by Jimmy Stewart might be seen to occupy the position of the movie-goer and the events that unfold in the apartment block opposite as a movie projected for his visual pleasure on a screen

Or Jeffries might be seen to occupy the camera's position: what he sees, he sees from its peculiar angle of vision, his "take" on what goes on across the courtyard is camera-like, filmic, his view is a camera's view, viewing the world that unfolds in the apartment block opposite with a camera's eye.

So, too, Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958) might be seen to be "thinking" about the nature of the medium of film, thinking about what it's "good for."

More specifically, Vertigo may be viewed as exploring the role of the movie-goer and the role of the director, viewing Scottie, in the first half of the movie, as occupying the position of a movie-goer, of a viewer unseen, and in the second half viewing him as someone who tries to take over as "the director."

And NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) might be viewed, too, as a meditation on the role of the director in film as well as what it might be like to be an actor in a film, in particular, an actor cast in a Hitchcock film.

And insofar as Blow Up and Rear Window and Vertigo might be seen as meditations on photography and film, they may be seen as "thinking," thinking about photography and film, reflecting on the two mediums, on what they can and cannot do, on their limits as well as their possibilities.

And to the extent that Blow Up and Rear Window and Vertigo can be viewed as "art exploring its own medium" and, in this respect, as "self-reflective," they can be seen as "meta-cinematic commentary," a set of musings on film's distinctive "take" on the world.

So . . . with Blow Up and Rear Window and Vertigo in mind, what does Hitchcock's North By Northwest disclose, reveal, have to say, tell about film's view of the world? What is North By Northwest "thinking?" What does it suggest about the nature of film, specifically about being an actor in a film and a director of one?

Good Luck!



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Last Modified: 03/26/12
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