Musings on Culture

Alejandra de Leiva's Blog

Category : Behind-the-scenes

Hitchcock analysing the famous crop dusting scene in “North by Northwest” and other cinephile’s delights

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that one of my favourite film directors is Alfred Hitchcock. Today I’m bringing to you several gems to get an insight into Hitchcock’s filmmaking decisions.

One of the most brilliant sequences in film history is the one from North by Northwest where Cary Grant is being chased through a cornfield by a crop dusting plane. In THIS 6 min VIDEO, Hitch analyses how he built up suspense in the sequence. Furthermore, following THIS LINK you will find a reconstructed storyboard of the sequence from LaValley’s book Focus on Hitchcock.

North By Northwest Crop Dusting Scene

North by Northwest

Editing has an important role in creation of suspense. In some of his films, Hitch uses a heavy edited style (the famous shower scene in Psycho, for instance, runs 3 minutes and includes 50 cuts), whereas in other movies he tries to hide the cuts. Rope, a movie that is often described as a “one-shot film” seems at first sight a film with no editing, but it actually contains ten “hidden” cuts. In THIS VIDEO editor Vashi Nedomansky has isolated all ten cuts.

Psycho shower scene


Rope shot sequences

A representation in LOOK magazine of the shot sequences in “Rope”

is an excerpt from an interview with Hitchcok in which the director explains his conceptualization of editing and breaks down the structure of Psycho‘s shower scene. An absolute watch.

Previous posts on Hitchcock:

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The Eagleman Stag (short film)

I’ve just seen The Eagleman Stag, a mesmerising stop-motion short film about the subjective perception of the passing of time. The film was directed by Michael Please and has won numerous awards. Beautifully crafted in polystyrene foam, the film as a unique look and provides food for thought.

I hope you enjoy this film as much as I have.


A peek behind the scenes:


What is Neorealism? Considerations after the two cuts of the same film

Terminal Station PosterIndiscretion of an American Wife

Anonymous video essayist Kogonada has created a compelling video for Sight & Sound magazine that compares the two cuts of the same film, Terminal Station (1953), an international co-production between Italian director Vittorio De Sica, seminal figure of the Neorealist movement, and David O.Selznick, producer of Hollywood Golden Age classics like Gone with the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940).

Terminal Station tells the story of the love affair between Mary, a married American woman (played by Jennifer Jones), and Giovanni, an Italian man (interpreted by Montgomery Clift). The film examines the woman’s guilty feelings for having cheated on her husband and her temptation to leave her old life behind and start anew with her lover. Almost all the film takes place in Rome’s Terminal Station, where the woman has to board a train for Paris and from there fly back to the U.S. But before deciding whether she will catch the train, Mary meets Giovanni at the station. Will she catch the train? (I don’t want to spoil the end here!).

De Sica depicted the lovers’ story against the backdrop of the characters populating the train station, trying to blend Italian Neorealism with Hollywood melodrama to create a greater sense of realism and a believable character study of the protagonists. Neorealist films were distinguished by being shot on location using non-professional actors and unadorned camera techniques. Neorealism had emerged in post-war Italy to reflect, and reflect on, reality, portraying the life of average citizens.

Selznick didn’t like De Sica’s naturalistic approach and he therefore decided to cut 30 minutes of original footage, tooking out subplots to focus on the love story, adding close-up “glamour shots” and a musical prologue. The original release of the film, Terminal Station, ran 89 minutes.  Selznick’s cut was released with the title Indiscretion of an American Wife and ran 63 minutes. De Sica asked that his name be removed from the credits.

In 2003, both films were compiled in a DVD (Indiscretion of an American Wife / Terminal Station (The Criterion Collection)).

In his video-essay, Kogonada compares De Sica’s and Selznick’s versions to explore how the same footage can be manipulated to very different effects, revealing different approachs to moviemaking. You can watch the video HERE.

 Every cut is a form of judgment, whether it takes place on the set or in the editing room. To examine the cuts of a filmmaker is to uncover an approach to cinema.

Complement the video with Dave Kehr’s comparative analysis of Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station and this critical essay on Italian Neorealism.

For more work by Kogonada, visit his Vimeo channel and follow him on Twitter @kogonada.


A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Casting of The Godfather

If you, like me, adore Coppola’s The Godfather, you ought to see this behind-the-scenes look at the casting of the film.

Found via @openculture.



More on Hitch

At this year’s Berlinale, the British Film Festival (BFI) has revealed further details about the restoration of Hitchcock’s silent fims. Further information on ScreenDaily’s article HERE (February 13).

I would also like to recommend you THIS INTERVIEW, where Hitch talks at length about exploiting the audience’ fears.


Sin Fin Cinema

If you want to get updates about Spanish experimental cinema, check out Sin Fin Cinema, a multidisciplinary platform based in London and New York. Highly recommended!


“How film is made”

Nowadays that almost everything is digital, let’s watch this 1958 documentary to understand the origins of photographic and cinematic film…

“How film is made”


The Hitchcock and Truffaut Tapes

If you are, like myself, a lover of Hitchcock’s films, here’s a treasury of delight for you: the Hitchcock and Truffaut audio tapes (1962) that were the base to Truffaut’s famous book Hitchcock: A definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock. You can find them HERE.

Thanks for this invaluable hint, Dave!


First Spanish crowdfunded feature film

The Cosmonaut (El Cosmonauta) is a feature film project by Riot Cinema Collective. It’s the first  crowdfunded feature film in Spanish cinema to date. It’s also Creative Commons-licensed so that the viewers can gain access to all of the film’s assets to edit, remix and share them.

The story of The Cosmonaut takes place in 1975 and follows the first Russian cosmonaut sent on a mission to the moon. Unable to return to Earth, he is declared lost. However, through phantasmagoric radio transmissions he claims to have returned to Earth and found it deserted. As he broadcasts his illusions his presence and voice will slowly destroy the world of his beloved ones.

The project has already attracted a number of supporters from all over the world.

The project:

The cosmonaut project from Riot Cinema on Vimeo.


“El Cosmonauta” Teaser 1 (ESP) from Riot Cinema on Vimeo.

If you want to know more about the project, check their website HERE.


“Nuit Blanche” (short film)

I have come across this poetic short film directed by Arev Manoukian, “Nuit Blanche”. The plot is very simple (two strangers exchanging glances in the street), but it’s beautifully told.  The film was shot entirely in slow-motion to recreate the moment of “love at first sight” where every second seems suspended in time.

Manoukian declined to name other movies or filmmakers as influences, but when I watched it, I could not help but thinking of Dostoevsky’s short story”White Nights”. The text opens with a beautiful quotation by Turguenev:

“And was it his destined part
Only one moment in his life
To be close to your heart?
Or was he fated from the start
to live for just one fleeting instant,
within the purlieus of your heart.”

For more information about technical aspects, read this article on WIRED magazine.

Here’s the making of: