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kenmorefield

Film Club: The Wrong Man

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I didn't hear them asher, but if I did, I might wonder if they were some kind of clock or similar contraption. That's at least what they sound like from your description. :)

The sound does not sound like background noise or unseen elements within the room. It was more like the sound of the old film strip presentations that informed you to move to the next frame. If anyone still has the DVD it happens during one of the scenes between Manny and his wife in their bedroom, there are only two scenes like that I believe, one in the beginning and one slightly before she begins her downward turn.

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Good ear, asher, it's a clock that chimes at 5:00 a.m. In the first scene, it comes near the end, and Rose replies, "We'd better get some sleep." In the second scene, it comes near the end (after she hits him with the brush), and it lends an ominous finality to the scene.

Incidentally, I was leafing through a Hitchcock study yesterday (sorry, I can't remember the title at the moment), and the author suggested the superimposition at the end between Manny and the "right" man was an expression of Manny's duality, thus echoing his fragmented face in the broken mirror when Rose hits him with the brush.

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Good ear, asher, it's a clock that chimes at 5:00 a.m. In the first scene, it comes near the end, and Rose replies, "We'd better get some sleep." In the second scene, it comes near the end (after she hits him with the brush), and it lends an ominous finality to the scene.

If this chime does, indeed happen at 5:00am each morning, then I wonder if it is symbolic of their dedication to their relationship; how much their marriage, and each other, does mean to them.

More often than not, the only time my wife and I have to spend together to share in serious discussion, or just chat, is after our boys are asleep. It is not the most opportune time since it is rarely earlier than 10:00PM but it is our only time. At times we may be tired or half asleep but we have to attempt to overcome that in order to maintain our household, it is a commitment, in love, to each other and our little family.

Manny works nights and his waking time during the day consists of both his wife and children's company, therefore, their private time together would be after he returns home from work. Both of them may be quite tired, or half asleep, but they take the time to talk because they are consciously committed to their relationship. This time eventually evolves into only talking about one thing, and that thing is invading their home, threatening their marriage and crushing the walls of their safe haven. This may be the only security they know and have worked hard to get to, especially if we begin to consider issues of prejudice that have been discuss previously, i.e. his ethnicity and their inter-ethnic marriage. It might even aid in analyzing her breakdown. She could be reliving experiences she thought we long forgotten or at least buried in the past.

Incidentally, I was leafing through a Hitchcock study yesterday (sorry, I can't remember the title at the moment), and the author suggested the superimposition at the end between Manny and the "right" man was an expression of Manny's duality, thus echoing his fragmented face in the broken mirror when Rose hits him with the brush.

This is an interesting notion. I read a few things regarding this film before watching it and they said things like,

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The framing of the first scene in the insurance office really stood out to me. You see Manny and the clerk on opposite sides of these bars. Bars become a very significant visual image in this film in general, but here they are used to great effect as a metonym (?) for the criminal justice system. As the scene cuts from PoV shots from Manny, to the clerk's PoV shots. it shows the bars all the time . The bars seprate them from that point on, as Manny is on one side of the justice system and those that accuse him are on the other side. Manny is alwatys on the wrong side of the law so to speak.

The other thing I noticed in this scene is the way that the clerk who Manny talks to first has an incredibly pivotal role. At first she seems to have been an eyewitness, but as the film pans out she seems to have been less and less involved. What is significant is that she plants the idea in the minds of her colleagues so they never really approach the issue from a neutral stand point. So suggests first to the supervisor that he is the man (even though the supervisor appears not to have had a good look at her) and then togther they convince the real eyewitness he was the man before she even has a look. The actual eyewitness is so scared of the man she never takes a good look at him, and even in the ID parade the original accuser is right by her.

Going back to that bars shot I think it suggests her guilt and that she should be "behind bars", in a sense, for what she did as much as Manny. I'd be interested to see the two ID parade shots again.

These are super observations! I never made the "behind bars" connection at all, and only on reflection does it occur to me that the inital clerk who sees Manny completely drives the idea that he is the criminal, even though she didn't actually see the guy to begin with.

If this chime does, indeed happen at 5:00am each morning, then I wonder if it is symbolic of their dedication to their relationship; how much their marriage, and each other, does mean to them.

More often than not, the only time my wife and I have to spend together to share in serious discussion, or just chat, is after our boys are asleep. It is not the most opportune time since it is rarely earlier than 10:00PM but it is our only time. At times we may be tired or half asleep but we have to attempt to overcome that in order to maintain our household, it is a commitment, in love, to each other and our little family.

Manny works nights and his waking time during the day consists of both his wife and children's company, therefore, their private time together would be after he returns home from work. Both of them may be quite tired, or half asleep, but they take the time to talk because they are consciously committed to their relationship. This time eventually evolves into only talking about one thing, and that thing is invading their home, threatening their marriage and crushing the walls of their safe haven. This may be the only security they know and have worked hard to get to, especially if we begin to consider issues of prejudice that have been discuss previously, i.e. his ethnicity and their inter-ethnic marriage. It might even aid in analyzing her breakdown. She could be reliving experiences she thought we long forgotten or at least buried in the past.

I didn't notice the chimes, either, but expanding on asher's point, I wonder if Hitchcock used the recurrence of the chimes to symbolize a twisting of their love and commitment at the early-morning hour. I.e., in that first scene between them it's evident how much Rose and Manny love each other, that she waits up for him, eager to talk about the day's events, their troubles, etc., and how happy he is to see her. And asher, that's a great point about how a marriage often operates like that, especially with kids involved.

On the flip side, those wee hours can also play with our sanity and perception of reality. And at that exact hour when Rose and Manny were so loving in the previous scene, Rose is now sleep-derived, wracked by guilt and anguish, and her perception of Manny is cruelly twisted. The chimes sound again, and now that loving relationship has turned 180 degrees, at least in Rose's mind.

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Finally got around to watching the library copy that's been sitting here for three weeks.

Interesting film. Remarkably free of Hitchcockisms, with a few very noteworthy exceptions. (I found myself flashing back to Munich, and its relative lack of Spielbergianisms; true stories, and the desire to appear "authentic", apparently have that effect on filmmakers.)

Also interesting how Hitchcock, instead of doing his traditional background cameo (out of respect for the "true story"?), makes his appearance by introducing the film a la his TV show (which had premiered on TV only one year earlier) -- except, instead of a shadow walking into a silhouette, we see a shadow stretching down across the screen and threatening to spill off the frame and into the audience.

Love the bit where the shot of the REAL bad guy overlaps the shot of Henry Fonda (I'm guessing that his mouth is moving because he's praying? are there any lip-readers here, and if so, can you tell WHAT he's praying?) until their faces are lined up. It would be interesting to know if the REAL bad guy's arrest really DID coincide with that point of the Fonda character's life.

In the documentary on the DVD, Richard Schickel draws particular attention to the Catholicism in the film, and says it was something he had forgotten until he saw the film again recently. He says the film has "the most overt Catholic symbiology [sic] I've ever seen in a Hitchcock movie," but methinks he's overlooking I Confess (1953), at least.

Anyway, I have a few other thoughts, too, but I'll go back and read this thread first.

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Okay, time for those other thoughts.

First, though, did anyone notice that the title sequence INCLUDES the standard "no resemblance to any actual person is intended..." disclaimer -- even though the titles play immediately AFTER Hitchcock tells us that the story is true?

MattPage wrote:

: Actually though IMDB says that "The Fonda family name comes from Italy, by way of the Netherlands."

Yes, I spotted that too! :)

: The other thing I noticed in this scene is the way that the clerk who Manny talks to first has an incredibly

: pivotal role. At first she seems to have been an eyewitness, but as the film pans out she seems to have

: been less and less involved. What is significant is that she plants the idea in the minds of her colleagues so

: they never really approach the issue from a neutral stand point.

Very, very good point.

kenmorefield wrote:

: 2) This film is inescapably political.

Is it? Perhaps you mean the ethnicity thing, which the film downplays by casting Fonda in the lead. (Hmmm, and what ethnicity is "the right man", once he turns up? Historically, I mean, not necessarily in the film -- as we've seen, Hitchcock was not necessarily bound to cast actors who looked like their real-life counterparts. This may have been one of those "they all look alike" cases where the witnesses, who perhaps were not of Italian descent, couldn't tell one Italian-American apart from another. And I guess there may be something implicitly political about THAT. But the film does not pursue that angle.)

: 6) What do you make of the ending? Is the postscript merely a Hollywood insistence for a "happy ending"

: even if it doesn't fit?

On the contrary, I was struck by how Fonda's "miracle" doesn't come the way he thought it would. I took the postscript to be a matter-of-fact keeping-us-up-to-date kind of thing. Indeed, the fact that the family moved to Florida could almost be construed as kind of sad, in a way, since it means they had to leave behind their earlier life.

: Certainly there is the element of railroading by the police that we've discussed, but it is balanced by the

: judge that declares a mistrial rather than participating in railorading Manny.

FWIW, I was impressed to see that both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer moved for the mistrial -- or at least they appeared to discuss it without animosity before approaching the judge. BOTH sides in that court case realized that the larger system and the larger process is more important than any particular case, let alone any particular side in a case.

Mark wrote:

: She commented that the opening reminded her of Hitchcock's TV show, and she assumed the "true story"

: disclaimer was a joke that he would reveal at the end - "but it COULD have happened that way".

Fascinating, in light of what we've been saying about Fargo over in the Werner Herzog thread.

: (And just now I'm remembering Manny's scene with the doctor, where he says he wants THE BEST care for

: his wife - of course, who wouldn't? But something in that scene also indicates, maybe, that Manny wants the

: best of everything, even if he hasn't the means to pay for it?)

Good point; I, too, wondered how Manny would pay for that, given how pronounced the family's poor finances had been all the way through the movie.

Doug C wrote:

: Mark, I think I agree with Ken that Hitchcock subtly suggests "the right man" may be "the wrong man." For

: one, while we are shown that this man held up one store, we are never shown that he, in fact, held up the

: other stores...and as Ken has mentioned, it's highlighted that the exact same (faulty) process of indictment

: is being used again. More overtly, note what the man says when he is apprehended: "I haven't done

: anything! I have a wife and kids waiting for me at home!" Sound familiar? ;)

Yeah, that was pretty odd, that bit of dialogue. I mean, for one thing, the guy HAD done something, so he's obviously a liar. But could he POSSIBLY expect anyone to believe him, in that situation? I wondered if the real bad guy was MOCKING the guy who had been "framed" for the bad guy's previous actions, there. But again, when your hold-up goes wrong, would you really waste time mocking someone?

At any rate, I guess I accepted that this really WAS the bad guy, based on the subconscious assumption that the real bad guy had been caught and was probably still serving time when Hitchcock made the movie. It would be interesting to know, though, whether Hitchcock had made any effort to get this OTHER guy's side of the story, too.

: A guilty man transfers his guilt to Manny (via the law), Manny transfers his guilt to his wife...as well as the

: man at the end. In a sense, all mankind is guilty and innocent at the same time.

Um, well, the second sentence doesn't quite follow from the first (and the first requires some nuancing, too; e.g., the wife may assume Manny's guilt, but I don't think I'd say that Manny transfers it to her, as though he were the active agent behind that transfer). There is still a real bad guy out there, even if the guy who is caught at the end of the film is not him. In other words, even if the police arrested a thousand men and they were all the "wrong men", there would still be a "right man" out there.

: But the miracles in the film are ambiguous.

No kidding. Heck, if "miraculous" is defined as something coincidental -- the real bad guy being caught at the right time, etc. -- then what about all those amazing coincidences that led to Manny being arrested in the first place (his appearance, his handwriting, the way he mis-spelled "drawer" exactly like the other guy)?

Incidentally, one reason I am reluctant to say that either Manny or the real bad guy has been railroaded is that the cops, whatever their arrogance or presumption, DO actually build up an impressive set of evidence. Maybe it shouldn't have seemed impressive enough (especially since we know it pointed them in the wrong direction), but it is impressive all the same. And I would sure hope that they performed the exact same handwriting test on the second guy. (Note: I wrote this before reading the comment by whoever it was who freeze-framed this scene. If this was a set-up, Hitchcock didn't make the point all that clearly -- certainly this scene was nothing like, say, the equivalent scene in Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line (1988).)

: Looks like it's time to cue Andrew's insights into memory--that it's constructive, fills in gaps, changes over

: time, etc.

Hey, I thought that was MY pet subject! I only spoke on the subject for THREE DAYS at Cornerstone two years ago, y'know. :)

Darrel Manson wrote:

: I also knew that a defense attorney would have a grand time with the women witnesses at the trial of the

: second right/wrong man.

Ah yes, one more reason I am curious to know what came of that second man in real life.

Andrew wrote:

: Lastly on this topic, it was interesting in the scene with the physician to note how he first addresses Manny,

: and spends most of his time explaining things to him, even though Rose is the patient.

Could it be otherwise, though? Given that Rose is the one who "isn't all there"?

asher wrote:

: Another note that I came across, and has been touched on here, is that Manny naturally assumes the guy is

: guilty when all he is told is, "They caught him." Manny then overhears the same women, who fingered him,

: finger the new culprit. How can these women be so certain twice? And why does Manny allow the opinion of

: these women to determine the other man's guilt? Afterall, they were wrong about Manny.

Well, the man was caught IN THE ACT. Maybe not those OTHER acts, but certainly AN act just like them.

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asher wrote:

: Another note that I came across, and has been touched on here, is that Manny naturally assumes the guy is

: guilty when all he is told is, "They caught him." Manny then overhears the same women, who fingered him,

: finger the new culprit. How can these women be so certain twice? And why does Manny allow the opinion of

: these women to determine the other man's guilt? Afterall, they were wrong about Manny.

Well, the man was caught IN THE ACT. Maybe not those OTHER acts, but certainly AN act just like them.

I am not entirely sure that is the issue, at least it isn't the one being expressed throughout this thread. The man was "caught IN THE ACT," as you say, but that does not immediately make him guilty of the crimes that are relevant in

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asher wrote:

: I am not entirely sure that is the issue, at least it isn't the one being expressed throughout this thread. The

: man was "caught IN THE ACT," as you say, but that does not immediately make him guilty of the crimes that

: are relevant in "the wrong man" accusations, that doesn't instantly make him "the right man".

Of course it doesn't. But if we are asking why Manny believes the man is guilty, well, it is presumably because everyone tells him that "the right man" has been caught in the act. There is, in fact, a stronger case against this other man than there ever was against Manny -- especially if this man's handwriting should match the handwriting of "the right man", etc.

: If we assume that he was processed the same way Manny was and the case against him was built the same

: way then I think it is reasonable that we should consider the possibility that this also could be a case of

: identifying "the wrong man."

I suppose it is possible that there is someone ELSE out there who COINCIDENTALLY has the same handwriting as "the right man" AND mis-spells a key word the same way AND dresses like him AND bears a close enough resemblance to him AND tries holding places up AND introduces himself with the words (whether written or spoken) "This is a gun . . . Give me the money from the cash drawer." (These last two points, of course, were missing from the evidence against Manny, as Manny is never seen doing anything like that.)

: This could have been the very first time this man attempted such a thing. He does make a statement, "I've

: never done this before. I have a wife and kids waiting for me at home." We never actually see a gun.

Hmmm. Presumably the cops find out soon enough whether or not he does have a gun. But you're right, the sentence "I never did this before" is interesting (and is VERY different from "I haven't done anything", which is how Doug quoted it). The thing is, do you really believe that the character depicted by Hitchcock and performed by that actor really IS doing this for the first time?

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I suppose it is possible that there is someone ELSE out there who COINCIDENTALLY has the same handwriting as "the right man" AND mis-spells a key word the same way AND dresses like him AND bears a close enough resemblance to him AND tries holding places up AND introduces himself with the words (whether written or spoken) "This is a gun . . . Give me the money from the cash drawer." (These last two points, of course, were missing from the evidence against Manny, as Manny is never seen doing anything like that.)

This quote nicely highlights both a weakness in the case against Manny, and also in the case against the "right" man.

Firstly, if the guilty man had been brought in and asked to re-write the note, there is no way he would make his handwriting look even remotely similar, and if he had his wits about him, he'd proably mis-spell other words as well. So the written case aginat Manny seems majorly flawed in any case.

Secondly, the "right man" is brought in for committing a hold up, but without a note, so one of the MOs linking him to Manny's case is certainly missing.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: Firstly, if the guilty man had been brought in and asked to re-write the note, there is no way he would make

: his handwriting look even remotely similar, and if he had his wits about him, he'd proably mis-spell other

: words as well. So the written case aginat Manny seems majorly flawed in any case.

It DOES seem like an odd test when you put it that way, sure. But, I'm not sure how bogus a person's handwriting could be if he or she was being watched when he or she did the writing -- they'd have to write as quickly as they normally do, etc. At any rate, I assume the cops will perform all the same tests on "the right man" that they performed on Manny.

: Secondly, the "right man" is brought in for committing a hold up, but without a note, so one of the MOs linking

: him to Manny's case is certainly missing.

Actually, this is one of those points where I think the VIEWER can build a stronger case against "the right man" than the CHARACTERS can. I do not expect the woman running the store to remember the precise words the man used, but the viewer has the opportunity to watch the entire movie repeatedly and to compare the exact wording used during those two separate crimes, and to notice how very close they are.

The absence of a note is not very problematic, since the note was given to someone in a highly populated workplace where the criminal might not want to be overheard, whereas "the right man" apparently has every reason to believe that there is only one person minding the store.

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I wrote a joint appreciation of The Wrong Man and I Confess, Hitchcock's two most explicitly Catholic — and, according to Glenn Kenny, "least fun, or 'fun'" — movies. 

I'm pretty pleased with the observation in the longer paragraph below. 

Quote

Intriguingly, although I Confess was made first, and The Wrong Man closely follows a true story, there are a number of notable convergences between the two films.

Both protagonists, although innocent of the crime they are accused of, are compromised by an unrelated secret that seems to support their guilt.

Neither protagonist’s secret is criminal, but their common vulnerability suggests that all of us are either guilty of something in our lives, or at least lead lives that aren’t quite as presentable to the glare of public scrutiny as we might like to think…

This vulnerability to scrutiny is cinematically suggested in both films in a signature shot in which a character slowly peers with one eye emerging around another character’s head, spying at a distance on the protagonist, who is unaware that he is being observed or is suspected of anything. (This key shot is almost the only hint in either film of a third of Hitchcock’s defining obsessions: voyeurism and the implication of the audience in a character’s guilty gaze.)

Part of the transference of guilt in both films involves the emotional weight of the protagonist’s trials, which he carries with stoic emotional control, falling hardest on the woman who loves him.

Hitchcock frames both protagonists’ sufferings in overtly religious images. Father Logan, late in the film, walks a via dolorosa through the streets of Quebec, passing a large statue of Christ carrying his cross … 

Manny clutches his rosary beads under the table in the courtroom — but the shot with the greatest religious significance comes at the climax.

 

Edited by SDG

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