Monday, November 01, 2010

Crossing the Line

I want to add a bit more about the style in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Of all the tricks Mamoulian pulls out - the roving camera, the first person shots, all the fancy transitions (radial wipes, lateral wipes, lap dissolves and such), and holding those transitions halfway through, all the special effects and makeup and whatnot - I want to pick out one - the 180 degree cuts, especially between closeups. I suppose those things are just made for me - Ozu fan that I am - seeing it here, in a Hollywood film, is quite wonderful. I like the variety you get, too - the shot opening this post is a reverse angle on the shot opening yesterday's post on the film - that is, a cut between fairly long shots of the audience and Jekyll at his lecture...

Then there is this - starting with a profile shot of Jekyll and a girl at his clinic:

Cutting in to these shots - the girl, starting to walk, and Jekyll encouraging her:

...And later - in the love scene between Jekyll and his fiancee, Mamoulian repeats the series of shots, pushing it even further - starting, again, with a profile two shot:

Then cutting at 90 degrees to Rose Hobart, then 180 degrees to March, then back to Hobart closer, and so on:

It's pushing the principal about as far as you are likely to see. Of course, Mamoulian establishes frontality from the beginning of the film - the subjective camera device justifies it at first, but it doesn't take long for the motivation to disappear, as seen in the shots above.

And all of it sets up and pays off the doubling theme, playing on the image of a man looking in a mirror - and allowing for mathced images across time. Jekyll in the mirror -

...becomes Hyde in the mirror...

And from there - you can expand the principal - Jekyll slicking his hair back - Hyde slicking his hair back (in a mirror, naturally, with Ivy on hand, as before...)

... and so on. A clever, innovative, piece of work indeed, and all its tricks integrated into its story and themes - films like this just make me sing...

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