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General discussion about what's out for the couch.
275

Visual Quotation
Topic by: ahogue
Posted: June 6, 2005 - 9:40 AM PDT
Last Reply: June 30, 2005 - 1:41 PM PDT

page  1  2  3      prev | next
author topic: Visual Quotation
ahogue
post #1  on June 6, 2005 - 9:40 AM PDT  
The recent discussion of remakes and the fact that someone just reminded me of a particularly derivative film got me thinking about film quotations. Not dialogue, although it could be dialogue. I am more interested in movies which quote images, lighting, camera work, and more vaguely, styles from previous films.

What are some of the most quoted movie scenes?

What's the difference between a legitimate quote and a lazy one, if there is one?

Why do some filmmakers (Brian De Palma the obvious example) do this all the time, and even advertise it in some sense?

What are the most successful/unsuccessful ones you can think of?

I think:

The shot in Mean Streets where the camera floats into the bar and the baby-carriage-on-the-steps thing -- those are two of the most-quoted that I can think of right now.

As far as De Palma goes, I think he just needs ideas. But he's an extreme example, I think.

Hm...Scorcese again: that effect with the flashbulbs in the ring from Raging Bull. I can't think of an earlier example of it, but some time later it became quite a cliche.
Battie
post #2  on June 7, 2005 - 8:08 AM PDT  
> On June 6, 2005 - 9:40 AM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> The recent discussion of remakes and the fact that someone just reminded me of a particularly derivative film got me thinking about film quotations. Not dialogue, although it could be dialogue. I am more interested in movies which quote images, lighting, camera work, and more vaguely, styles from previous films.
>
> What are some of the most quoted movie scenes?
>
> What's the difference between a legitimate quote and a lazy one, if there is one?
>
> Why do some filmmakers (Brian De Palma the obvious example) do this all the time, and even advertise it in some sense?
>
> What are the most successful/unsuccessful ones you can think of?
>
> I think:
>
> The shot in Mean Streets where the camera floats into the bar and the baby-carriage-on-the-steps thing -- those are two of the most-quoted that I can think of right now.
>
> As far as De Palma goes, I think he just needs ideas. But he's an extreme example, I think.
>
> Hm...Scorcese again: that effect with the flashbulbs in the ring from Raging Bull. I can't think of an earlier example of it, but some time later it became quite a cliche.
> ---------------------------------

Think of horror movies. *cough* How much can they overdo one scene? I wish I didn't know.

Like the one where a victim, usually a woman, hears a noise and thinks it's the monster/bad guy...but it's actually just a cat? >_> Am I off in thinking this qualifies for what you're thinking of?
ahogue
post #3  on June 7, 2005 - 10:32 AM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 8:08 AM PDT Battie wrote:
> ---------------------------------
>
> Think of horror movies. *cough* How much can they overdo one scene? I wish I didn't know.
>
> Like the one where a victim, usually a woman, hears a noise and thinks it's the monster/bad guy...but it's actually just a cat? >_> Am I off in thinking this qualifies for what you're thinking of?
> ---------------------------------

Sure, I guess so. But where did it come from? Is there one particular film that all the others are ultimately quoting from? I imagine there must be.

"Quote" may not be the right word for this nowadays because it's such a cliche that I doubt anyone remembers where it came from. Do you have any idea, Battie? The first Halloween maybe?
Battie
post #4  on June 7, 2005 - 12:03 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 10:32 AM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Sure, I guess so. But where did it come from? Is there one particular film that all the others are ultimately quoting from? I imagine there must be.
>
> "Quote" may not be the right word for this nowadays because it's such a cliche that I doubt anyone remembers where it came from. Do you have any idea, Battie? The first Halloween maybe?
> ---------------------------------

Absolutely no clue. I've seen it soo many times. I don't know that I saw the cat version until the first Nightmare on Elm Street. Or was it the third? Maybe the second? :P

I don't remember the Halloween movies too well. Deliberately.
ahogue
post #5  on June 7, 2005 - 12:26 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:03 PM PDT Battie wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > "Quote" may not be the right word for this nowadays because it's such a cliche that I doubt anyone remembers where it came from. Do you have any idea, Battie? The first Halloween maybe?
> > ---------------------------------
>
> Absolutely no clue. I've seen it soo many times. I don't know that I saw the cat version until the first Nightmare on Elm Street. Or was it the third? Maybe the second? :P
----------------

This is ordinarily where the ever helpful Underdog shows up and traces it back to Fritz Lang or King Vidor. ;)



>
> I don't remember the Halloween movies too well. Deliberately.
> ---------------------------------

Oh, but really you should give the first one another try, IMO. There's a reason it singlehandedly started the whole slasher genre. Not at all bad if you like that sort of thing. As far as I know the others are hideous (in a bad way -- have to make that distinction, these being slasher films and all).
woozy
post #6  on June 7, 2005 - 12:31 PM PDT  
> The shot in Mean Streets where ... and the baby-carriage-on-the-steps thing -- those are two of the most-quoted that I can think of right now.
>
Ummmm

The car chase scene in "the french connection" where he nearly hits the woman with a baby carriage, is sort of a paraphrase that has been quoted a lot; quite humorously in "Speed".
Battie
post #7  on June 7, 2005 - 12:31 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:26 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Oh, but really you should give the first one another try, IMO. There's a reason it singlehandedly started the whole slasher genre. Not at all bad if you like that sort of thing. As far as I know the others are hideous (in a bad way -- have to make that distinction, these being slasher films and all).
> ---------------------------------

LoL. Well, I was thinking of saying the first one wasn't so bad. Actually, keeping in mind that it was one of the first of its kind, it was pretty good (and I still think that music is eerie).

Plus, ya can't beat Jamie Lee Curtis.
ahogue
post #8  on June 7, 2005 - 12:35 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:31 PM PDT woozy wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > The shot in Mean Streets where ... and the baby-carriage-on-the-steps thing -- those are two of the most-quoted that I can think of right now.
> >
> Ummmm
> ---------------------------------

I know that's where it comes from.
Battie
post #9  on June 7, 2005 - 12:37 PM PDT  
I suppose the most scenes that have been parodied don't count?

"Heeeereee's Johnny!" >_>
woozy
post #10  on June 7, 2005 - 12:39 PM PDT  
> "Quote" may not be the right word for this nowadays because it's such a cliche that I doubt anyone remembers where it came from. Do you have any idea, Battie? The first Halloween maybe?
> ---------------------------------

Could it be as recent as 1978 and the first Alien movie> I remember seeing that the in its second day and the cat scene got the biggest reaction. Not sure I've seen it in an earlier movie but I can't believe in all of the golden age horror movies no one ever thought to do a false shock. Although I'm having a hard time thinking of one.


woozy
post #11  on June 7, 2005 - 12:43 PM PDT  
> > Ummmm
> > ---------------------------------
>
> I know that's where it comes from.
> ---------------------------------

Oh, the way you stated it made it sound as though you were claiming the scene was from "Mean Streets". Did anyone quote it before "The Untouchables"? I remember reviewers made a big deal about it being used in the untouchables and it seems most people quoting it now recognize it as an Untouchables quote rather than a Battleship Potemkin quote (which kind of bugs me...)

ahogue
post #12  on June 7, 2005 - 12:54 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:39 PM PDT woozy wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Could it be as recent as 1978 and the first Alien movie> I remember seeing that the in its second day and the cat scene got the biggest reaction. Not sure I've seen it in an earlier movie but I can't believe in all of the golden age horror movies no one ever thought to do a false shock. Although I'm having a hard time thinking of one.
> ---------------------------------

You might have the origin of the cat-shock technique. That's the earliest I can think of. Imagine, one short scene in one movie being responsible for all those cats getting work for the next several decades. Who would have guessed?

But the false shock generally, surely that's just basic horror/suspense vocabulary?
ahogue
post #13  on June 7, 2005 - 12:55 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:43 PM PDT woozy wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Oh, the way you stated it made it sound as though you were claiming the scene was from "Mean Streets". Did anyone quote it before "The Untouchables"? I remember reviewers made a big deal about it being used in the untouchables and it seems most people quoting it now recognize it as an Untouchables quote rather than a Battleship Potemkin quote (which kind of bugs me...)
> ---------------------------------

IIRC it was parodied in some old looney toones. Other than that I'm drawing a blank.
ahogue
post #14  on June 7, 2005 - 12:56 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:37 PM PDT Battie wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> I suppose the most scenes that have been parodied don't count?
>
> "Heeeereee's Johnny!" >_>
> ---------------------------------

Yeah! That's got to be one of the most parodied moments in film history.
ahogue
post #15  on June 7, 2005 - 12:58 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:55 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > On June 7, 2005 - 12:43 PM PDT woozy wrote:
> > ---------------------------------
> IIRC it was parodied in some old looney toones. Other than that I'm drawing a blank.
> ---------------------------------

That reminds me. Of course we have to include:

- Woman tied to train tracks

and

- Woman/baby/person (??) stuck on an iceflow, heading for a waterfall.

Don't know where the first originates. The second is a Griffith film, isn't it?
woozy
post #16  on June 7, 2005 - 1:45 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 12:58 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > On June 7, 2005 - 12:55 PM PDT ahogue wrote:
> > ---------------------------------
> > > On June 7, 2005 - 12:43 PM PDT woozy wrote:
> > > ---------------------------------
> > IIRC it was parodied in some old looney toones. Other than that I'm drawing a blank.
> > ---------------------------------
>
> That reminds me. Of course we have to include:
>
> - Woman tied to train tracks
>

We I was a tot I used to leaf through my father's film books and I believe I saw a picture from the actual first film using this. It was *very* early. 1904 or so. Within the first year or two that they realized movies could be used for entertainment.

> - Woman/baby/person (??) stuck on an iceflow, heading for a waterfall.
>
> Don't know where the first originates. The second is a Griffith film, isn't it?
> ---------------------------------

Probably, but maybe this was a cliche from a book or a stage play first. Frankenstien (in the Mary Shelley book) was lost over the ice flows and I think Uncle Tom's Cabin had an ice flow over water falls scene.

As for the cat in alien... I'm not sure the cliched scene has to be a cat but it has to something she thinks is the monster and we the audience think is the monster but turns out to be something innocent. In golden horror movies they used to build suspense through foreshadow and the let it deflate to keep you on edge but I don't think they ever "let it blow" to something that wasn't a monster. I think the films were too cheesy for something that clever.

Hmmm, though. I'm sure there were many suspense (not "monster" not slasher) movies of the 70s with a scene with the women feeling tense and being stalked and sure she hears the stock to a quick adrenaline flash to immediate relief that it's some-one innocent. Maybe Alien was the first movie to make it a truly scary monster (alien was the first big budget "serious" monster movie in a very long time) movie and take the suspense/deflate of the innocent in the situation of terrifying monsters and make the innocent thing, the cat, truly terrifying that it takes a moment to realize it *wasn't* the scary thing.

Eoliano
post #17  on June 7, 2005 - 3:06 PM PDT  
> The shot in Mean Streets where the camera floats into the bar

And used by Spike Lee in Do the Right Thing, though I know that Scorsese was quoting an older film but damned if I can recall what it was...

> and the baby-carriage-on-the-steps thing

From Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and Brian De Palma milked it for all it was worth in The Untouchables...
vexkitten
post #18  on June 7, 2005 - 4:35 PM PDT  
Cat People faked us out with the growling brakes of a bus we thought was a jungle cat - the cat trick in reverse. That's one of the earliest and best-known examples of that particular tactic I can remember.

Then there's the double fake-out: It's the monster! No, it's the cat! But now it really is the monster!

Didn't Brazil also parody Potemkin?

The person-in-the-medicine-cabinet-mirror from Repulsion.

The Vertigo camera move (zoom in as you dolly out, or the other way around) gets used by every first-time director to convey shock or disorientation.

And speaking of John Carpenter, the "guy who won't die" has gone so far beyond cliche it's a given. It's been used in everything from Die-Hard to Terminator. But Halloween wasn't the first film to pull this trick. I can recall seeing it in Westworld, Wait Until Dark and Straw Dogs.

Nowadays, unless I see the villain/monster die onscreen and get blown up or chopped into bit, I assume he/she/it is not down for the count.

It's (slightly) interesting that Jason of F13 became a ripoff of Halloween's Michael, but not until the third installment. In part one the killer was his mother, and in part two he wore a sack like the Elephant Man! but now people only recall the goalie mask.

A recent CSI pulled the Silence of the Lambs trick of crosscutting between simultaneous action in two different places in a way that implies that the events are happening in the same spot (the Tarantino episode, not surprisingly.)

The Sam Raimi/Coen Brothers "POV of an inanimate moving object" (is that an oxymoron?) has become so common it's hardly noticed. The arrows zooming toward orcs in Moria, for example.

(I believe Hitchcock said he hated this sort of thing. Commenting on a shot from inside a refrigerator, he said "I wonder who's in the fridge?" I like PJ and LOTR, but could do without the Playstation touches, which I find distancing. Question for the youngsters - do you notice such effects?)

I fear we may have gotten off-topic. Were we talking about specific visual quotes, or just conventions and their origins?


DLeonard
post #19  on June 7, 2005 - 5:37 PM PDT  
I see the cat example as borrowing (or stealing depending on your attitude) and the baby carriage on the steps as quoting or making a direct reference.

Parody is a whole nuther animal, since it depends on the viewer being aware of the original scene.

If we were to use literary terms we would probably want to say allusion with regards to the idea of a visual reference.

I guess the De Palma argument has always been is he making allusions or is he just stealing, so some may feel that The Untouchables is just stealing from Potemkin. Eh. It's a fine line I guess.

One of my favorite examples of the filmic allusion (hey, I'm gettin' all termy) would be in Close Encounters when the aliens start coming in through the floor vents and Spielberg uses a close up of the screws slowly turning. I always felt that was a direct reference to War of the Worlds, and hey, look who's coming out with a remake this summer!!
Battie
post #20  on June 7, 2005 - 7:09 PM PDT  
> On June 7, 2005 - 5:37 PM PDT DLeonard wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> One of my favorite examples of the filmic allusion (hey, I'm gettin' all termy) would be in Close Encounters when the aliens start coming in through the floor vents and Spielberg uses a close up of the screws slowly turning. I always felt that was a direct reference to War of the Worlds, and hey, look who's coming out with a remake this summer!!
> ---------------------------------

You know, I kind of thought that was a remake, but wasn't sure. What number is that...8 for this year? Lmao.
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