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Case Study: Rope (1948)

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Good morning, we will continue with our study of Auteur theory with reference to Hitchcock.So, Alfred Hitchcock; we were talking about him, we also did a scene from his Rope;the opening scene, we discussed it with a reference to mise en scene. Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1990).Now, he was a British filmmaker who migrated to America, to US, so that is his history.Many of his films were made when he was still working in England but there was, there camea time when he was invited by the US Film Studios to start making pictures in the US.So, Rope is one of those films which was made during his stint in the US.So, we will be continuing our discussion of mise en scene, shots, sets, music, actors; mise en sceneincludes all these apart from sound, of course. And, we will also talk about the long take,and how Hitchcock introduced this which has been now done too perfection in many other films also.So, coming to what is a long take.Now, a long take refers to a single unbroken shot that lasts for a larger amount of time than usual.For instance, it can even last to 30 seconds in many cases which is unusual;a shot does not last that long, but in Rope, Hitchcock pushed the boundaries, and the ideawas to give us the stagy feel, it is based on a play; the other day we were discussing.This is based on a play by Patrick Hamilton a British playwright, and therefore the ideawas to be as experimental and as innovative, as daring as possible. And he has succeededas we have all seen to a large extent. And his legacy continues in many films, but mostnotably in a very recent movie, 2002, Russian Ark; it is a Russian language movie whichis a film shot on digital video, and uses a single very long take for the entire film.So, this is extremely innovative. So, two movies that immediately come to mind for theextensive use of long take; Hitchcock’s Rope which was do not forget made in 1948,and considering the limitations of those times; technical limitations of those times,you can well imagine because after all the Russian Ark was made in 2002 with all the accoutrementof digital technology, but Hitchcock, a pioneer in several ways, pioneered this as well.Now, the long take in Rope; the Rope is called the ultimate Kammmerspielfim; that is a chamber film,you know chamber film? What do you understand by a chamber film?I am going to ask you to give me some examplesIt is a German term, Kammmerspielfim.Kammmer that is chamber, film is a film.So, chamber film. Tell me; it is all shot on a single set, have you noticed that;Rope does not go outside except the opening shot, which is you know, a top angleshot of a busy street on a regular day. We have already talked about it, and how Hitchcockjuxtaposes that regularity, that ordinariness with what is something very irregular,something very extraordinary happening inside. So, it is a chamber piece. My question to you is,can you give me more examples because after all it is based on a play, and plays can affordto be completely located in one single space, they do not, they need not necessarily move out.Give me some more examples, very well-known films?Student: Twelve Angry Men. Twelve Angry Men, yes, it is a good example.Twelve Angry Men does not go out, right? The action of the movie is set in a single room;therefore, Twelve Angry Men is a very good example of a Kammmerspielfim, chamber piece.More recently, you can think of Carnage? Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz who won the Oscar recently.So, and in between I can think of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? All thoughthey do go out, there is a point when they go out, Richard Burton and George Segal butthat is for a very short, very brief period. Most of the scene takes place inside an apartment,so that is a Kammmerspielfim So, Rope as we have already seen as a verybold, very innovative, denial of editing. We know that editing necessarily involves several cuts,but Rope, and Hitchcock particularly, they eschewed this. At the same time,the presence of the cut, despite its elision could be seen as the definitive test and proof ofthe centrality that Rope seems to deny. So there is the centrality, there is a philosophywhich those two characters believe in and Rope through its very bold innovative technology,it denies that centrality; we will talk about it later.Now, how does he do that? I have also often referred to this particular scene, but let me repeat;there is a scene when one of the murderers, the murderer who is more in control,not Philip but Brandon, he reaches next to the trunk for some books; these are the booksthat planning to showcase to David; the man they have just murdered, David’s father.The camera tilts down with his hand and then up into the back of his blue suit, and theentire scene is filled with Brandon’s blue suit, his back, completely, the frame is completely filled.Now, when Hitchcock cuts to a new shot, a shot - that shot starts exactly wherethe last one left off; now what he is doing is, he is making a cut here but trying to be very clever,so that people do not notice. Going to the Brandon’s back is one way ofdrawing attention away from the fact that there is a cut. You know, the illusion thatwe get is that it is a same single short, a long take but he had to resort to cuts of course, and he does that.We were also talking about Hitchcock’s interview with a legendary Truffautand those interviews are available online, also part of a book.So Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967); and Hitchcock there tells Truffaut that he undertookthe film as merely a ‘stunt’. He wanted to prove something, and he proved it.And wanted what, what propelled this decision was to impose the strict rules of shooting in realtime that was the main idea. Rope, gives you an impression, an illusion that the movieis taking place in real time, and therefore he felt that the use of long take justifies, is justified.I am quoting Hitchcock from his Truffaut interview,‘The stage drama was played out in the actual time of the story; the action is continuous from the moment thecurtain goes up until it comes down again. I asked myself whether it was technicallypossible to film it the same way’. So, that was the idea. He was just mimicking anotherkind of art, another art that was the idea; you have to remember, this is your take awayfrom this lecture, Hitchcock’s reputation as an auteur was crystallized bythe cahier du critics and the writers, and the French new wave directors. So, he owes much of hisreputation, much of his legendary status to the works of, to the writings of these critics.And this is the work; Truffaut, Hitchcock-Truffaut is the work that immortalized Hitchcock as an auteur;otherwise he was just seen as a maker of those sensational blood and goremurder kind of movies, but then the cahier critics noticed certain things that we were talking about,especially his mise en scene.He was also extremely innovative in his use of music.I urge you to go online YouTube and listen to the Vertigo theme sound track.It is extremely innovative for those times; of course, Psycho, it is still spoofed used in several ways.Long take, sorry. So, the legacy of long takecontinues and Brian De Palma is one of the filmmakers who is extremely influenced by Hitchcock.So, this is a shot from Carlito’s Way which was made in 1992,directed by De Palma; starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn.And you can also see this is an elevator shot, remember? Al Pacino lying on an elevator;so again homage to De Palma’s which movie, taking place on steps; Battleship Potemkin,so that is so, which we have already talked about. De Palma has earlier paid homage tothat sequence in The Untouchables, and he does this again in Carlito’s Way.So see, we have we have been talking about intertextuality in one of our earlier classes;it is not plagiarism,they know, if you are a cine enthusiast, you know that the director is paying his homageto those legendary filmmakers. So, this climatic shoot out in Carlito’s Way is all shot in a long take.And if you watch it now it is absolutely breathe taking, because after allit was a movie was done in 1992; so it has, technology has come a long way from 1948.So, if you watch it Al Pacino is just running down the streets, and New York central station,and then lot of things happen there; and that is a scene that involves a number of people,unlike Rope which is after all chamber piece, and involves not more than seven or eight people.But here it is the entire scene is shot in a crowd, it is a crowd sequence andthen having a long take in that, so extremely innovative.And then also a legendary scene from Goodfellas (1989), Scorsese’; when Ray Liotta walks down theback entrance of a restaurant with his girlfriend, that is a famous shot in long take.You must go to the YouTube, and if you are not aware of these scenes please do watchCarlito’s Way, Goodfellas; especially the long takes, they are known for these.So we are talking about Hitchcock’s legacy. Now, there is another critic Laura Mulvey’sand she is basically a feminist theorist. She has done a lot of work on film studies.And she has written an oft-quoted essay called, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, in whichshe says; she gives us the idea of Scopophilia. Now what is Scopophilia? She says that,‘Cinemas offers a number of possible pleasures. And one of these pleasures is Scopophilia.In other words, there are circumstances in which looking itself; you know the act of looking itselfis a source of pleasure. So, looking at something becomes a source of pleasure,just as, in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at’.So, in other words she is talking about the gaze. Do you get me?The word is, this is one of the key concepts that you should take away;G.A.Z.E (gaze).So, there is a pleasure in looking at something and there is a pleasure which can be derivedfrom being looked at, so this is called Scopophilia; this is one of the possible pleasures of cinema.And she has done this study with special reference to Hitchcock's movies where she says, that peoplederive a lot of pleasure in looking at something, especially looking at women.Women are objects of, tell me the word;gaze.So, feminist theorists are very fond of using this word, objectification, and gaze.When we talk about our representation of women in our cinema, we often use this word.Student: Object of desire?Object of desire is nothing wrong in being, Student: Is it women or men only, I mean whoever,Well, there is a reverse tendency also, men can also be objects of gaze but not that often, but it is women.And Laura Mulvey’s studies centered on women being objectified,women being objects of gaze and some time they also, Student: Ma’am, where is the connection?Yeah, I will show you the connection; just give me a moment.Hitchcock also uses the concept of mirror and doubles, and then we will see how theentire pleasure or Scopophilia comes out. So, I am going to connect the two ideas.So, many of Hitchcockian films deal with the act of looking, gazing at others;pleasure being derived out of looking.Now, in Psycho, what is the name of that actor; AnthonyPerkins, right, too many Anthony(s) going around. So, Anthony Perkins, he looks at Janet Leigh,Janet Leigh character through a wall, through a hole in the wall. He is a peeping tom.And how has he camouflaged, how has he covered the hole in the wall?Student: With Bird’s head? Not the bird’s head that is another thing, good,but it is not. He has put a portrait or a picture on that particular hole.He removes the picture and looks through, peeps through the hole,and looks at Janet Leigh getting undressed.So, thus a woman becomes an object of gaze, she is being looked at.Student: So, the pleasure on of the person who is watching?But sometimes, this can also be of a person who as being gazed at, but here is that is not the case.Student: Voyeurism?Yes, we are talking about voyeurism in other words.In Vertigo, Vertigo is also very good example where the detective as played by James Stewart,he is being asked by Kim Novaks’s husband to keep an eye on his wife; he is not verysure of his wife’s comings and goings, so he says, keep an eye on her, I am very anxious about her movements.And we find several scenes where Jimmy Stewart is just gazing at this particular woman,who in turn gazes at a picture in a museum. So it is all are set up, we know that.Once you watch the movie and then you start thinking, you go backwards, and yousee how you get trapped by Hitchcock; after all it is based on a novel, as we were talking about,most of his films are based on others works, works by other people.Rear Window, another classic example; hero has a broken leg; he is confined to a wheel chair,he has no other option but to stay put. But the only way he entertains himself is by gazing atother people, remember? So he has a pair of binoculars and he looks at the activitiesof the people in the building across the street.So, sometimes there is an exotic dancer he is looking at,sometimes another family, an old couple always bickering; a number of peopleand he gazes at them, Scopophilia, Voyeurism. Then he is also very, Hitchcock is also fondof using mirror and shadow doubles.So that becomes his auteurial practice.And I will give you several examples of characters using or looking at themselves, using a mirror or shadows.So, this double relationship, what does it suggest? Relationship between charactersin which, often guilt is transferred from one to the other. Watch Shadow of Doubt, watch Psycho.Mother’s murder, and then he suffers from the guilt, and then what is the outcome of that;all women are bad, they have to be eliminated. So, whenever he is attracted towards any women,and he is definitely attracted to Janet Leigh, so she has to be eliminated because that means,mother taking over and he always hated his mother; hated her so much that he has stuffedher dead body and kept it in the room.So now, I Confess; his one and only movie with Monty Clift and Anne Baxter,and this also plays on the idea of having a double somewhere.I am just giving you a very quick overview of some of his films.Hitchcock’s fascination with images, he even looks at himself in a mirror.Blackmail; one of his most celebrated movies, especially for its sound, he made it oncein silent form and another in talking. So, Hitchcock remaking Hitchcock, he was fond of doing that also.So, Blackmail has been done twice, both times by Hitchcock.He was very prolific; watch the movie Antony Hopkins' in Hitchcock; playing Hitchcock.So, this is Blackmail and you can see the girl's shadow (1929).Rebecca, based on classic Du Maurier’s novel of the same name.And here the girl, the girl is so nameless, the girl is such a non-entity, she is kept nameless throughout, right;we never know what Joan Fontaine’s character is actually called, she has no name, she is just the girl.Who is the, whose presence looms large; if you know Rebecca.Student: Rebecca’s. Rebecca’s, Rebecca is Mrs. De Winter,Mrs. Maxim De Winter, the late Mrs. De Winter. So, she has come and she, Lawrence Olivierplays this enigmatic aristocrat. His wife is dead; the dead wife is Rebecca.The new woman, the second wife who is a far cry from the beautiful, glamorous Rebecca,she always lives in the shadows of the late wife. So, she here she is lookingat the portrait of Rebecca; the girl looking at, the second Mrs. De Winter looking at the first Mrs. De Winter.Psycho, look at the mirror shots, several mirror shots.Janet Leigh looking at herself, and her image with Anthony Perkins, both in, both reflected in a mirror.So, people looking at each other, deriving pleasure from that, also looking at themselves.Claude Rains in Notorious; Ingrid Bergman,Cary Grant played the lead, and here he looks at his own reflection.‘Vertigo’ is of course known for voyeurism and it’s Scopophilia.Several shots and one abiding theme in Vertigo is that of obsession,what happens when a man gets obsessed with a woman. He refuses to let go.And then at the end we realized how he has been taken for a ride.Now, Blackmail (1929), and again we are continuingwith our idea of Hitchcock as an auteur and how he uses sound. Now, we are told that heroinein a bit to escape her potential rapist, she murders the rapist with her knife;but then she is guilty, you know, she knows that if she gets caught then there is no way she couldprove her innocence; that she was just trying to defend herself. So, sound and even silence.And in the subsequent movie, in the talking version; the dialogues, they become very important.And the use of word knife is repeated several times during the movie.There are several shots of knife, because the knife becomes a very potent object.If you watch Rope, they have, what have they done at the beginning of the movie; strangleda man with a rope, and then after that there are several times when the dialogue you arenot on my dead body or on my dead body, I would not be caught dead doing that,he could have strangled me; and all these thing they are said in jest, but we know how he is makinguse of that particular image. So, the idea murder looms large, that is the idea.And then back ground score is of course, is extremely celebrated in Blackmail, in both versions.The silent version has also been worked on in terms of sound track.It is a recent thing with the advent of technology and also. There are no dialogues in the silent version,but they have added a sound track; so watch that version also available online.So, this is Blackmail, the 1929 version,the powerful talking picture this time.So, themes in Hitchcock, we are talking about auteurism and the abiding themes in auteurs work.You have a list of films where murder is at the center;Psycho,Vertigo, Rear Window,Strangers on a Train.You know, which movie I am talking about; Strangers on a Train,Strangers on a Train, you know the movie? Student: Two StrangersYes, two strangers meet on a train, and yes, you kill my wife and I kill your father that is the deal,because no one will suspect us that way, and both of us will be there foreach other for alibi, but then how about the plan goes awry.Dial M for murder, it has been remade several times;first time with Grace Kelley.Blackmail, Rebecca, Spell Bound, The 39 steps,all deal with the theme of murder. Moral ambiguity; he was one of the first directorsto give this touch, moral ambiguity to his characters. I mean, if you look at the girl’scharacter in The Birds, morally quite ambiguous; she is the one who is chasing the guy,the guy does not have strong feelings for her, but she is not willing to let go of him,and then she has to be punished for that, right?A woman who transgresses her boundaries, that is the idea.The birds become a metaphor; I mean what are those things,a town cannot be just invaded by birds, the birds is the metaphor; this is how women get punishedwhen they cross certain boundaries.Student: Even in case of his mother,Exactly, so that is also there, a moral ambiguity; all relationships are ambiguous.And love and betrayal, of course Vertigo is the classic example.We have also been talking about voyeurism; several movies including Frenzy, Birds,Psycho of course, Rear Window and Vertigo.So, preoccupied with eyes and watching; several close up shots of eyes;when Janet Leigh is murdered you get a close up shot of her dead eyes looking at you directly, the gaze.James Stewart gazing at people in Rear Window.James Stewart gazing at Kim Novakthrough an opening in the door.Janet Leigh before dying, the close up shot of her dead eyes.Who played the girls role, in the remade version?There was a remade version;Anne Heche,she has a stark resemblance. Now, this is another interesting sequenceRebecca, and you have the great Lawrence Olivier playing Maxim De Winter,and Joan Fontaine playing the girl;look at this particular shot.And then look at this again a Hitchcock’s movie, To Catch a Thief; Cary Grant andthe greatwho?Who is she?Classics are definitely not your strong point. You do recognize Cary Grantand you should also recognize, Princess Grace of Monaco; this is Grace Kelley, the ultimate fashion icon.She was all designed by Christian Dior in this movie, famously designed, I meanif you look at her look, her fashion in some of the movie she did with Hitchcock,it is mind blowing. It is that the people have alone done Ph.D. thesis on Grace Kelley and fashion,especially with reference to Hitchcock movies.Hitchcock was impeccably dressed, impeccably dressed.Hitchcock’s fascination with certain actors;so, Cary Grant was favorite and so was Grace Kelley. And this is Notorious.Student: What was the point of earlier those two pictures and comparison?Quite a lot, you know a couple driving down the road and quite, you know, the mise en scene is quite similar.Did you see the mise en scene?Student: The scene when she is drunk and she is driving.Yes, even in Notorious. So an auteur would leave his signature mark. You know, you watcha movie and you feel; only the Scorsese could have done, likewise Hitchcock.So, again, the collaborated Cary Grant and Hitchcock in North by North west;do watch this movie.It is known which this duster, proper scene where he is being chased by this, down the fields.And where does the climax takes place?Mount Rushmore. They must have created an exact replica of that.Also, his (Hitchcock’s) fascinations for working with James Stewart; several movies,‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ with Doris Day.James Stewart and Grace Kelley, Rear Window.This is interesting, ‘In a Room’ again you can perhaps consider the theory Virginia Woof;of course some of you must be familiar with, feminist writer Virginia Woof.‘In a room of her own’ Virginia Woof talks about football and fashion, and she says foot balland sport are important, that is the kind of society, because these are associated with what?Masculinity; so they are important; the worship of fashion, the buying of cloths is trivial.They are related with some trivial feminine pursuits, but then, why, why foot ball and sports?They are as trivial for a woman, right? And these values are invariablytransferred from life to fiction. Men tell us all the time the fashion is trivial and foot ball is important.And this is in many movies, many works of art capture this philosophy;and this is something, the set of values are replicated in Rear Window.He is a sport photographer, he breaks his leg while capturing a spectacular shot ofa racing car,and she is into fashion, and throughout the movie he is very dismissive of her;we will not, we cannot, you know, our relationship would not work out becausewe are very, we are very different people.I am a completely out door sea, where as you are a fashionable girl.And this is how the movie ends, he has broken his leg after hisanother fight with the villain, and she is looking after him; in order to impress himshe reads a book called Beyond the Himalayas or something like that, but once he sleep off,she takes out the copy of Harper’s Bazaar.So, with Grace Kelley he has worked in three classics - Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief,his favorite blond. It is a MacGuffin!!! Are you aware of this term in Hitchcock?No? What is a MacGuffin? Student: It is when you are in a pursuit ofsomething which you do not know, what it is. It is trivial. You say it is a MacGuffin.What are the characters after, in Notorious after all? What are they pursuing?You remember that Wine Seller scene in Notorious, yes? What exactly is that? Beautifully done shot,but what are they looking for? Student: They do not know.They do not know what they are looking for? Usually, because it is an espionage thriller,so it must be some kind of formula, a nuclear formula or some paper or some documents,but Hitchcock says the plot is important, what they are looking for is not. So, it is a MacGuffin,his Hitchcockian term for this an unidentified object is MacGuffin, it could be anything;you know, a piece of ring. To Catch a Thief; a set of jewelry you say MacGuffin.But you know, it gives tremendous scope for all these beautiful people, to come together, and wearbeautiful clothes, and romp around in beautiful settings.What they are looking for is a MacGuffin.So, that is Hitchcockian term, which has come to become a part of film lexicon.And this is another characteristic of an auteurian touch;employing the same characters and technical crew as well.So, apart from his actors, we have already talked about, he often collaborated witha maestro, music composer; Bernard Herrmann who was later used by Scorsese.Now, Hitchcockian legacy continues and we have Antony Hopkins playing the man himselfwith Helen Mirren playing his wife.The Girl which is based on, which is based onHitchcock’s obsession with the actor, the female actor who played the heroine in ‘The Birds’;Tippie Hedren, Melanie Griffith’s mother.The legacy continues, De Palma’s 1980 movie, starring ‘Dressed to kill’,starring Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson is homage to ‘Psycho’to an extent, Dressed to Kill.I would also like to draw your attention to another moviewhich is again about, voyeurism; Michael Powell’s, he was a British filmmaker, ‘Peeping Tom’,director Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. He is the man with the camera; he sufferingsfrom severe complexes just like, Norman Bates in Psycho. And he kills unsuspecting women.So, you have to watch the movie for its voyeurism and for its colors; the way Powell uses colors.It was released around the same time as Psycho, but it did not become such a huge blockbuster.This one of those rare gems which should be watched alongside Psycho.Then, De Palma’s another homage to Vertigo and Rear Window, ‘Body Double’ (1984).Gus Van Sant, literally remade Psycho;there are no changes except that one is in black and white and the other one in color,Anne Heche reprising Janet Leigh’s role.This is my all time favorite movie Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow when they are very youngViggo Mortensen; ‘A Perfect Murder’ which is the rework of, reworking of Dial M for Murder,a jilted husband plotting to murder his rich wife(1998).I am very sure most of you here are familiar with John Woo’s MI-2; Mission Impossiblewhich is a rip-off of Notorious, in what way? What is the plot of MI-2?Now, do not tell me that you have not watched MI-2 as well.Azhar, are you familiar with MI-2? Yes? What happens?What does he do? What is the basic plot? What does he do to Thandie Newton’s character?He is in love with her and what does he do to her?She is a woman with a dubious past;just like Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. What does Cary Grant do to her?He asked her to marry a man who everyone suspects is a Nazi’s sympathizerbut they do not have enough evidence.Ingrid Bergman’s job is to unearth certain secrets - those MacGuffins,from that husband’s closet. So, when the husband suspects that his wife has been betraying him,he starts killing her by slow poisoning. He gives a regular dozes of arsenic in her coffee or coco;that is the way, that is the plan to kill her. So that no one would suspect.If you kill her immediately, everyone would get suspicious. Here death by slow poisoning.And then, Cary Grant, at the end realizes his true love for her and comes and rescues her,spectacular scenes; he carries her in his arms, and walks down the steps very slowlyand you would feel aren’t these steps ever going to end, because in which household doyou have so many steps. But you count the number, when he goes up they do not lookso insurmountable but when he comes that is an illusion that Hitchcock creates, because whilehe brings her and carries her in his arms at the end, and coming down, and with herhusband and very sinister mother-in-law watching the same, observing the same.So, that suspense has to build up therefore more number of stairs.People have counted actually; so, definitely more number of steps while he comes down.So, what does this character do in MI-2,Tom Cruise?He plants Thandie Newton in the household of this villain in order to get his handson it is a MacGuffin, Chimera. The Chimera is going to start some kind of disease, afatal disease in the world. And then, what does the villain do?He abducts the heroine at the end in order to save the heroand the world from the perishing, the heroine injects herself with Chimera; remember that scene,and then starts dying slowly.So that is the plot.So, the movie was a smash hit. MI-2, of course was a franchise and the criticsdid not fail to notice the pathetic rip-off the movies was.Personally, I do like it.‘Easy Virtue’ is a remade version of Hitchcock’s Easy Virtue. It is one of the rare comedieswhich Hitchcock directed.Jessica Biel, Colin Firth,Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Barnes.So, now coming back to the auteurial theory, do you have any comments on Hitchcock, so far?Anything you?Student: Ma’am, Disturbia.Exactly. Disturbia was a remake of Rear Window. Can you throw some light on Disturbia?Student: A guy punches his Spanish teacher or and he was grounded.Louder, louder so that we can capture you well.Student: A guy punches his Spanish teacher, and he is grounded. He is house arrested.So he cannot move away from his house. So he spies on other neighbours. He falls in lovewith a neighbour girl, and he watches a dubious guy, kind of making a murder.And he suspects and keeps on watching him. So the movie goes.So, ‘Disturbia’, who directed it?So, please do your homework; Disturbia is directed by a fairly well-know director, so do your homework there.So homage to Hitchcock; that is what we are talking about, it is never ending.So, he has left an indelible impression on so many people.Every once in a while, there is a major book on his films; every once in a whilethere is a movie on his films, and in many of his, many of the contemporary films you can see his influences.Student.