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Mr. Arkadin

Peeping Tom

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Often referred to as the British PSYCHO, PEEPING TOM is the film that led to the end of Michael Powell's career. Looking back, it's hard to see precisely why PEEPING TOM was so controversial, especially since it's nowhere near as outright shocking as PSYCHO. True, PEEPING TOM asks us to accept the murderer as the protagonist, but such a notion has become significantly less shocking than it was at the time of its release. It's no AMERICAN PSYCHO.

One might call PEEPING TOM the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed (it's interesting that Hitchcock would later attempt a film very similar in concept to PEEPING TOM, KALEIDOSCOPE), though this name probably does a disservice to Powell's film, which does create a unique identity for itself. It's not just a Hitchcock knock-off. There's a surreal use of color that doesn't quite echo anything Hitchcock ever did. Hitch probably came closest with VERTIGO, but even then, it's not in the same ball park. I'm not sure Hitchcock ever built a film around such a sympathetic monster, either. And in terms of quality, PEEPING TOM can go head to head with more recognized classics like REAR window.

Contemporary critics seem to be fascinated by its subtext. PEEPING TOM deals with the darker side of filmmaking. I even believe Scorsese said that if you've seen 8 1/2 and PEEPING TOM, you pretty much have the entire story on filmmaking, or something similar. In PEEPING TOM, people die for art, reduced to mere tools for the artist's use. PEEPING TOM creates a rather gruesome, expressionistic vision of the dehumanization sometimes involved in cinema.

Anyway, if you haven't already seen it, you should. It's quite different from Powell's collaborations with Pressburger, but is nevertheless an excellent film.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Cool! I'm going to try to make it to 8-1/2 on the big screen in a few weeks, maybe I'll try to get this around the same time. Then I'll know entire story on filmmaking, or something similar. :)


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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It is also a flawed film. All the better for it, I think. For such a very English gentleman, Powell was decidedly a lover of melodrama. When I showed this to my students, they all giggled throughout. The acting can be considered hammy and though I personally think it is spot on, I can understand why some may think so.

Approach it with the reverence built up around it by critics and you may just be baffled. Approach it as a creature of its time and you may just fall in love.

(It should also be said that a lot of the film's greatness lies in the dedication of the scriptwriter, Leo Marks. Powell, I think, was wise in being so involved with his screenwriters.)

Also, I do sometimes wonder about the quote from Scorsese (which is often referred to when discussing Peeping Tom) on the sadism of directors - life or art. It strikes me as a bit of a cop out plea for sympathy. The church of art absolves your sins... That both films Scorsese mentions are about male directors, and female subjects whose lives are irrevocably changed because of their intervention (in, needless to say, violent ways) is perhaps not as disturbing as it may initially seem. Rather, it is pathetic.

Edited by gigi

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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For such a very English gentleman, Powell was decidedly a lover of melodrama.

Yes, but I wouldn't count that as a flaw. The term melodrama may often be used pejoratively, but as far as I'm concerned, melodrama can be just as sublime as the most subtle, restrained drama. It's all a matter of how it's done. As far as I'm concerned, PEEPING TOM is an example of fine melodrama.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Oh no, it isn't the melodrama that makes the film flawed. It is the direction. Perhaps much of this is the low budget, but it is all too often a visually cliched film, and similarly the dialogue is often painfully stilted. Powell was just trying a bit too hard. Previously Powell's films rather effortlessly evoked emotion, here you can see it being constructed.

The melodrama, I mention, because people don't expect it and are often disappointed because of the pious tone critics tend to have towards this film (an apologia, perhaps, for its intitial reception?). I largely blame Scorsese for that. Not that it's not great, one of my all time favourites, but let's acknowledge that it is the sad, weird little brother to the cinematically distinguished 'The Red Shoes' or 'Colonel Blimp', and love it for that.

Edited by gigi

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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I saw this on the big screen several years ago, thoroughly smitten by the Powell/Pressburger collaborations, and didn't know how to react to Tom. I can't say I liked it. I might say I appreciated it. But I didn't really dig into the film to try to figure out what to appreciate. I've done some reading on it since, but have had difficulty shaking off my initial, cold response to the film.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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This is a "cold" film in many ways, but it oddly gains in warmth with each successive viewing. I think part of its "charm" (if that's the right word) is its very tawdriness. (Miles Malleson furtively buying girlie photos at a drugstore--stuff like that.) And it does fall in with Psycho as a sympathetic portrayal of a mass murderer.

Question for gigi: Do you believe that the ending sees Mark reunited with his dead father? I've always loved the last line: "Goodnight, Daddy."

Edited by Nathaniel

"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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Decided to rent this from Netflix, thanks to the Top 20 discussion, and I'm very glad I did. What a marvelous film! Very creepy of course, but with a killer that thankfully one does not cheer for, but rather empathize with as a tormented soul. Excellent music, using simple instrumentation - mostly a single piano's staccato rhythms - to ratchet up the tension most effectively.

This is my third Powell (with or without Pressburger) film, after Col Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death. The wit, engaging characters, and lush color leave me eager to see more of their work.

And also, the 50 minute documentary on the Criterion disc is well-crafted and full of interesting info - among other things, giving interesting background detailing Powell's choice to use his own home for some scenes in the film, while casting himself and his son as the killer's father and the killer himself as a child, respectively.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Decided to rent this from Netflix, thanks to the Top 20 discussion, and I'm very glad I did. What a marvelous film!

I'm delighted you enjoyed it. As some of the commentary above demonstrates, PEEPING TOM is an odd film, and you're never quite sure whether someone will connect with it or not. I do hope we can muster enough support to find a spot for it in the Top 20.

This is my third Powell (with or without Pressburger) film, after Col Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death. The wit, engaging characters, and lush color leave me eager to see more of their work.

The best is still ahead of you. Just wait until you get to THE RED SHOES!

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I recently watched this in effort to catch up on the Top 25 Horror films and I am so glad I did. It was such a good movie watching experience. Although, while watching I realized that I had seen bits and pieces before but never the entire film and an intentional viewing.

I keep watching thinking this reminds me so much of Hitchcock except Peeping Tom adds something Hitchcock may have been missing - Freudian theory.

It also reminded me of Lang's M as much as it did Hitchcock. Mark is like the child who got away from Hans in M or, at least, what he may have turned into. I wonder if this was an influence on Polanski's The Tenant.

The only down side was that the lead actor reminded me of Jean Claude van Damme, which required a little getting over.


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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I was trying to hold off until October to see this, but I don't think I'll be able to hold out much longer.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I was trying to hold off until October to see this, but I don't think I'll be able to hold out much longer.

I love the intentional way you decide to watch film(s). I think it adds a lot to the experience, the viewer interaction, and the film knowledge gained - all of which can be evidenced in your responses. My recommendation is that you hold out until October and add to the experience.


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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I was trying to hold off until October to see this, but I don't think I'll be able to hold out much longer.

I love the intentional way you decide to watch film(s). I think it adds a lot to the experience, the viewer interaction, and the film knowledge gained - all of which can be evidenced in your responses. My recommendation is that you hold out until October and add to the experience.

Yeah, October is usually set aside for horror, and it was particularly fun last year as I was able to blog a bit of it. Not as much as I'd hoped. It all comes down to the time you have to actually sit down and think about it. I've been looking forward to attempting that again this year because of our Top 25, of which I've not seen six. I also had the idea that I might attempt all five of the Romero zombie films in chronological order.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I also had the idea that I might attempt all five of the Romero zombie films in chronological order.

And skip the Zack Snyder one?


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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I also had the idea that I might attempt all five of the Romero zombie films in chronological order.

And skip the Zack Snyder one?

I was hoping to stick with the original Romero canon, which IIRC the Zack Snyder one does not fit into. I actually did research it to see which ones I would watch (some are already in my queue for next Oct., actually) and I know I read about the Snyder film but I believe I decided that it didn't fit with the rest. I could be wrong about that though, and would gladly like to hear why. These aren't my favorite films, and taking them on would actually be an experience in growth or at least an understanding of all the love. I've never been much of a zombie guy, fell asleep on these kinds of films quite a bit. (As Overstreet likes to point out, I fell asleep next to him at 28 Days Later, but what he doesn't understand is that I fell asleep not once, but six or seven times during that film, and my dream visuals kept blending in with the jarring on screen visuals that woke me up with their loud noises in the movie itself. It's one of the more unique horror experiences I've ever had, and it was when I was sitting right in between Thom and Jeffrey.) :)

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I also had the idea that I might attempt all five of the Romero zombie films in chronological order.

You mean all six?

These aren't my favorite films, and taking them on would actually be an experience in growth or at least an understanding of all the love.

Hm. Maybe. I imagine you might just end up torturing yourself.

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I also had the idea that I might attempt all five of the Romero zombie films in chronological order.

You mean all six?

Night... Dawn... Day... Land... Diary... Survival... Huh, I guess it is six. And they are all in my queue, I guess I just lost track.

These aren't my favorite films, and taking them on would actually be an experience in growth or at least an understanding of all the love.

Hm. Maybe. I imagine you might just end up torturing yourself.

Perhaps. I thought the documentaries might be of some help too.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I also had the idea that I might attempt all five of the Romero zombie films in chronological order.

And skip the Zack Snyder one?

I was hoping to stick with the original Romero canon, which IIRC the Zack Snyder one does not fit into. I actually did research it to see which ones I would watch (some are already in my queue for next Oct., actually) and I know I read about the Snyder film but I believe I decided that it didn't fit with the rest. I could be wrong about that though, and would gladly like to hear why. These aren't my favorite films, and taking them on would actually be an experience in growth or at least an understanding of all the love. I've never been much of a zombie guy, fell asleep on these kinds of films quite a bit. (As Overstreet likes to point out, I fell asleep next to him at 28 Days Later, but what he doesn't understand is that I fell asleep not once, but six or seven times during that film, and my dream visuals kept blending in with the jarring on screen visuals that woke me up with their loud noises in the movie itself. It's one of the more unique horror experiences I've ever had, and it was when I was sitting right in between Thom and Jeffrey.) :)

I was writing that in the tone one might use to say, "If you haven't seen the Gus Van Sant version, how can say you've really seen Psycho?"

I haven't actually watched Snyder's zombie movie, though. It might be brilliant for all I know. I just don't have much desire to find out.


It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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All those Romero films are still in my queue. They won't make my October films AGAIN this year.

Peeping Tom I am attempting, and re-attempting. Wow, what are snorefest. I might make it to the end soon, and I guess I should watch the commentary to "get it." But right now I am thinking, ugh, what a horrible film to be in the Top 25. Stiff. Really, really stiff. And honestly, do all films that were once great, once pushers of the cinema in their time really transcend that particular time to matter to us now?

Kinda feels like I'm missing the point, at least with this crowd. I'm more like a teenage IMDB user on this one. It feels to me like it felt when I watched that horrible John Wayne movie a year-and-a-half ago.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Kinda feels like I'm missing the point, at least with this crowd. I'm more like a teenage IMDB user on this one. It feels to me like it felt when I watched that horrible John Wayne movie a year-and-a-half ago.

You actually watched "The Conqueror"?

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Kinda feels like I'm missing the point, at least with this crowd. I'm more like a teenage IMDB user on this one. It feels to me like it felt when I watched that horrible John Wayne movie a year-and-a-half ago.

You actually watched "The Conqueror"?

I think it may have been called The Exsearchables.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Karlheinz Bohm, who played lead character Mark Lewis, died on May 29th at age 86.

Story here.

Edited by John Drew

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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What a strange film. Having just rewatched Blue Velvet, I think I need a soul patch or something.

I dislike the way the film cuts away from the actual violence itself, from the moment of violence. It's very clever in the way that it does so, but it comes across then as being interested, in a lustful way, to the lead up to the violence without making the audience confront the consequences of that violence. I've mentioned elsewhere that several years ago I bought a used book about Jack the Ripper that had actual casebook photos of a few of the murder scenes. (I didn't even know such things existed.) It made it hard to watch filmic portrayals (like From Hell) of the events leading up to it. It's not that I want to see the violence, just that its elision allows us to maintain a taste for the artistic or psychological foreplay without having to admit the reality of what comes next. (As far as the "whatever you imagine is far worse than what we could show you" argument, I've never bought that, particularly if your imagination has been shielded, individually or corporately, from certain sick realities.) It's like, the end of The Vanishing (the European version) is just about the sickest think I've ever watched, but I have a certain respect for the film ending with the full horror of the victim and not cutting away, even if I never want to see it again.

Not quite sure where that leaves me, voting wise, as I phase between: "That's sick--I don't want to see it" and "That's intellectually and spiritually dishonest to not show the sickest parts of the sick thing."

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