‘Hitchcock Reframed’ Delves Deep into the World of Film

By Madison Petro
Staff Writer

The Provost’s Colloquium Series continued with “Hitchcock Reframed” presented by Stephanie Daventry French, professor of theatre, and Paul Lippert, Ph.D., professor of communication.

French and Lippert analyzed Hitchcock’s films in context with “The 39 Steps” play. The program took place in the Fine Arts recital hall on Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Attendees were invited to attend the opening of “The 39 Steps” directly following the program.

Provost Joanne Z. Bruno opened the program with an explanation of the Colloquium Series, which began in fall 2016.

Bruno said the purpose of the series is to “promote intellectual and academic discourse.”

Members of the community can submit ideas to present during the series, which are then selected by a committee.

Bruno invited those who have questions or would like more information to email her at jbruno@esu.edu.

French began her presentation explaining the timeline of how “The 39 Steps” became a play.

She outlined its history as a production from West End to Broadway to ESU.

French directed ESU’s production.

“A corporate anarchist conspiracy” is how French described John Buchan’s novel, “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” which the play is based on.

French’s presentation was accompanied with a PowerPoint presentation in the background.

French continued with a comparison and contrast of the novel and film.

She explained the changes she made for ESU’s production of the play, including changing the main character Richard Hannay’s accent to a British one for clarification of the play’s setting.

French’s final topic was classic Hitchcock devices used in his films.

“The plots jump around,” said French while explaining the McGuffin film device. “Hitchcock wasn’t worried about them wrapping up clearly.”

“A regular man who bumbled into something” is how French explained the innocent man device, which is also used in the play.

The hero on the run, the memorable villain, voyeurism, comedy to break tension, and cameos or silhouettes are more film devices French presented.

These devices were also incorporated into ESU’s production.

“The cameo or silhouette,” said French, “started because they couldn’t afford extras.” But the tradition continued even after Hitchcock’s films had larger budgets.

Shadows was the final device in French’s presentation.

“The villain enters and we see a shadow through a window,” said French. “Shadows are really big in his film noir. Also, patterns; he likes threes.”

French finished her presentation by sharing pictures that exemplify the patterns and shadows used in Hitchcock’s films.

Lippert then took the stage and thanked the audience for attending.

“People call Hitchcock the master of suspense,” said Lippert. “What really characterizes his movies is involving the audience. He has a very strong cinematic style.”

“The plot is going on in the audience,” Lippert said. “Hitchcock understands people.”

Lippert contrasted film’s reliance on the visual with theatre’s reliance on the audible.

“The use of imagery over words leads Hitchcock’s films to be goal driven rather than character driven,” said Lippert. “Film has to use what is outside our skin rather than inside our skin.”

“His plotting and characterizations are his weaknesses,” said Lippert. “Hitchcock focuses on situation.”

“Incongruity” is the one word Lippert used to describe Hitchcock’s films.

“The world turns upside down,” said Lippert. “Villains are sometimes good, good guys are sometimes bad. He is constantly creating anti-environments with environments.”

Of the approximately 30 attendees, seven seats were reserved for the seven who planned to see “The 39 Steps” that night.

Some attendees said they planned to see the play later in the week.

“Hitchcock Reframed” and the other programs in the Provost’s Colloquium Series are free and open to the general public.

“La Traviata – The World’s Most Beloved Opera” took place on Wednesday, March 8, in the Fine Arts Recital Hall.

As part of the Colloquium Series, this program was presented by Eugene Galperin, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics, and James Maroney, Ed.D., associate professor of music.

“Proving Patriotism: Latino Military Service in the U.S.” is the next program in the series.

It will be hosted by Adam McGlynn, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, on March 29 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Beers Lecture Hall.

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