FEATHERS, The Novel: A Comedic Ornithological Melodrama

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In the movie's first half, the director layers on the sexual tensions and the bitchy wit until you're at the screaming point--and then unleashes a cataclysmic natural horror so unspeakable it could be something out of the Bible. All technical elements are superb. Hitchcock, so well known for his use of music, shows here how terrifying silence can be, and 'The Birds' remains an intensely quiet picture, even punctuated, as it is, by sudden noisy violence. The set pieces, like the fireplace scene, the playground scene, and the visit with Dan Fawcett, are studies in perfection.

The cast is smooth down to the tiniest roles, with the proto-Altman ensemble scene in the diner being one of the most memorable segments in a film chock-full of them. And it is literally impossible to imagine better-cast actors in the leads.

Hedren is perfect as Melanie Daniels, the party girl who, while not nearly as clever as she thinks she is, may just be telling the truth when she says she's looking for something more meaningful in her life. Rod Taylor is charming and somewhat inscrutable as the local-boy-made-good who thinks he knows what he wants. Suzanne Pleschette is smoldering as the cynical and perhaps sexually ambiguous schoolteacher who takes Melanie in. And perhaps most important, Jessica Tandy is a searing, twitchily hypnotic presence as Lydia Brenner, surely one of greatest supporting characters in the Hitchcock pantheon.

As the movie runs on, the director gleefully ignores one loose end after another, leaving the viewer with an epic catalogue of unanswered questions at the climax the most important of which is articulated by the diner's birdwatching crone: Why? And if you're the kind of moviegoer who likes having everything neatly explained, you'd best try something else.

But if you like ambiguity and a healthy dose of existential nightmarishness , it doesn't get any better than this.


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Despite spending most of his career within the realms of the thriller genre, Alfred Hitchcock hasn't restricted himself where variation is concerned. Most of his best work represents a different type of thriller, and The Birds is no different. It is often said that Psycho is Hitchcock's first foray into the horror side of the thriller, and it is indeed; but it's not the complete horror film that The Birds is.

Often cited as an obvious influence for Night of the Living Dead, The Birds follows Melanie Daniels as she travels to the seaside town of Bodega Bay with a pair of lovebirds for Mitch Brenner, an eligible bachelor that she met in a pet shop in San Francisco. However, while there the birds of the coastal town begin to attack the residents and so begins a terrifying tale of man's feathered friends waging a war against humanity It could be said that the plot of The Birds is ridiculous, and it is.

The idea of birds, a type of animal that isn't aggressive, attacking humans despite living with us for millions of years is preposterous and is never likely to happen. However; it is here where the film's horror potency lies. Birds live with us in harmony; we're so used to them that for the most part we don't even realise that they're there, and the idea of something that we don't notice suddenly becoming malicious is truly terrifying. Especially when that something is unstoppable, as the birds are portrayed as being in this film.

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The fact that the birds' motive is never really explained only serves in making it more terrifying, as it would appear that somewhere along the line they've just decided to attack. Of course, the film could be interpreted as having Melanie's arrival, or the presence of the lovebirds as the cause for it all; but we don't really know. This bounds the film in reality as if there was a reason given, it might be improbable; but there's no true reason given although there are several theories , so it can't be improbable! The first forty minutes of the film feature hardly any - if any - horror at all.

Hitchcock spends this part of the movie developing the characters and installing their situation in the viewers' minds, so that when the horror does finally come along, it has a definite potency that it would not have had otherwise. In fact, at first the birds themselves come across as a co-star in their own movie as there are brief references towards them, but they never get their full dues. However, once the horror does start, it comes thick and fast.

Hitchcock, the master craftsman as always, uses his famous montage effects and never really shows you anything; but because you're being bombarded with so many different shots, you'd never realise it. Many people have tried to copy this technique, but most have failed.

Hitchcock, however, has it down to an art and this is maybe the film that shows off that talent the best. There are numerous moments of suspense as well, many of which are truly nail biting. We see the birds amassing and ready to strike - but they don't.

And this is much more frightening than showing an attack from the off. Hitchcock knows this. The final thirty minutes of The Birds is perhaps the most thrilling of his entire oeuvre. First, Hitchcock gives us an intriguing situation where numerous inhabitants of the town give their views on the events, and also explains the birds' situation with humans, even giving the audience an angle of expertise from an ornithologist's point of view. He then follows it up with a truly breathtaking sequence of horror that hasn't been matched since for relentless shock value.

Hitchcock has made many great films, and this certainly stands up as one of them.

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Here, Hitchcock gives a lesson in film directing and creates a truly macabre piece of work in the process. I dread to think what the state of cinema would have been if Hitchcock had never picked up a camera, but luckily for us; he most certainly did. This is one of Hitchcock's most well-known movies. Along with Psycho, it's the movie that most people identify with him.

Many pages have been written about it and surely there will be more. I know that the superb technical aspects of the movie have been discussed a lot, so I'll try to focus on something I noticed yesterday when I watched it. It's scarier when there are no birds on screen. The tension, the silence, the uncertainty, the mystery. That's what suspense is about. I was amazed of how carefully Hitchcock builds the suspense in this movie.

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You watch the birds standing there, and they do not move, they are just waiting. Even when you think they are dumb something tells you they are thinking.

They are analyzing your moves. This was possible with the aid of a top-notch screenplay, and great performances of the actors.

Bird Molting - Pin Feathers - Blood Feathers

This was probably the most difficult film for Hitchcock, specially for the technical aspects that were involved, but when you watch it, it really was worth the pain. The main plot is well-known: Melanie Daniels Tippi Hedren ,a young girl goes to Bodega Bay looking for Mitch Brenner Rod Taylor ,a handsome man she met in San Francisco, when suddenly, the birds start attacking humans by no reason. Pretty straight forward, and by this date very outdated, but Hitchcock adds his magic and the script spices this with the very complex relationships between the characters.

The complex relationship between Mitch and his mother Lydia played by Jessica Tandy , and the conflict that she has with Melanie is very interesting and brings back memories from Psycho. Also, Melanie's relationship with her own mother and the bond that she creates with Lydia and Mitch's 11 years old sister Cathy Veronica Cartwright is fascinating. The scene when the four of them are trapped inside the house with the birds waiting outside is classic; not only is, as I wrote above, a perfect example of the use of suspense, it is an awesome study of the characters and how their relation grows.

I think that this particular movie was main inspiration for George A. Romero's claustrophobic climax in his landmark film "Night of the Living Dead" The technical aspects may be the focus of many studies, but the characters deserve to be praised, even the support cast with a few lines develop a personality of their own. The restaurant scene is Hitchcock at his best with witty dialogs that are both humorous and creepy. Very good ensemble.

Overall, this is an awesome movie, many reviewers have said it, I know. But I wanted to point that beyond the technical advances this experimental movie features, it is a perfect example of why Alfred Hitchcock is considered, "The Master of Suspense". Some films are so well made that watching them unfold sequence by sequence creates the feeling of surrender to a higher force. Hitchcock, no stranger to spellbinding his audience, was known for bringing a sense of intense masochism into the viewer's eyes. In VERTIGO, Scotty and Judy begin a dizzying affair which itself is as obsessive as narcotic and culminates high above the bell tower, filled with revelations upon revelations.

In itself, it's a masterpiece of misdirection. Hitchcock has no wrong man in his story, no chase sequences or at least, none that involve Cary Grant and some Bad Guys , and no double-crosses. All he presents here is Tippi Hedren's arrival to the small town of Bodega Bay, a series of Meet Cutes between her and Rod Taylor, what could pass as romantic suspense, and the most impressive sweeping of the rug right out from under the audience's feet at precisely halfway through the movie when the plot makes a left turn into uncharted territory.

Who else can lay claim to that feat? Hitchcock, in revealing the black petals of his deadly flower revealing themselves, opening up, and swallowing the viewer whole at this precise mark is one of the un-topped achievements in cinema history. And so begins a sequence of events that proceed at the vertiginous crescendo of domino's falling. We've seen the birds amass and attack in increasing ferocity. We've seen the damage they've done to the little city. Hitchcock, of course, has one better on the viewers during the film's overpowering climax: making their presence oppressive and omniscient through the use of sound imitating their shrieks until it becomes deafening and everyone is twisting and turning in revulsion among the corners of the house in reaction not only to their fury but to what they might imagine as their horrible deaths.

Hitchcock never once gives an emotional release, and then he outdoes himself in using the most hackneyed excuse for a plot device: Melanie ascending the stairs because she heard a rustling noise, the quintessential "Don't go there," which is the oldest trick in the book. Because we know what lies on the other side of the door The stroboscopic effect of the last attack is petrifying as it is unflinching. Melanie, waving the flashlight in a weak signal for help, being slammed against the door, as Mitch tries to get inside but finds he cannot.

Melodrama Unbound: Across History, Media, and National Cultures

As Melanie begins slumping and surrenders to the birds' attack, she has an odd mixture of horror and pleasure. We, of course, can't do anything but watch and watch and watch. Hitchcock had always been attracted to the theme of rape. Because his professional relationship with Tippi Hedren was brittle at best, this sequence, somehow out of place and character, seems more in tune with his love-hate attitude towards blonde women and his need for their total submission.

I notice how he makes Rod Taylor's character suddenly incapable of saving Melanie right at the end which heightens the viewers agony -- they want, they need her to survive the birds' attack. It's almost as if he, the Director as Ringmaster, were pushing the Heroine right to the edge of the abyss for one last moment before bringing her back to the relative safety of family. Even then, with the vague ending, Hitchcock seems to sort of wink at the audience and tell them that it's still not over -- and this is the sort of thing only a sadistic imp of a personality would do.

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It's been considered Hitchcock's last masterpiece before returning to almost full form for FRENZY, and in many ways, it is the setup for the more graphic, cruel violence of the latter film. I know this movie is often described as a "masterpiece" and for the life of me, I don't understand why. First of all: the acting is completely wooden from virtually everyone in the movie. It could be that the actors could find no motivation for their characters. Whatever is supposed to be happening or building between the characters in the first half of the movie seems to lead to absolutely nothing int he movie.

It's vague back story for the sake of back story. If Hitchcock was trying to have us care about the characters, he failed miserably. Second, and perhaps most important: what do the birds have to do with any of this vapid soap opera that is occurring on the ground? Nothing at all. And that would be fine, if somehow the bird frenzy created some sort of empathy in the viewer or brought about a change or revelation in the characters.

But no, I found myself not caring if the whole town got eked to death. The characters all come across as shallow, self-centered, bitter people.

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