North by Northwest Discussion Questions

 Please post your responses to the following questions on the class message board.

  1. Research the double dissolve in North by Northwest online.  Is it justly celebrated. Can you find another example of tour-de-force montage in North by Northwest?
  2. The cornfield sequence has been praised by numerous critics for its complex construction. Is there another sequence in the film that strikes you as a sophisticated construction?




8 Responses to “North by Northwest Discussion Questions”

  1. Leonela Tase Sueiro Says:

    North by Northwest Lecture

    1. Robbie’s surroundings in a late scene in Atonement consists of a long uninterrupted tracking shot encompassing the entire panorama and some details; it shows the disastrous effects of Dunkirk and the war as well as Robbie’s deprivation.
    2. In The Great Train Robbery, from the previous lesson, a night shot of the train station, when Pierre and his partner are checking out the police officer’s routine, morphs into a matching daytime shot of the same pat of the train station.
    3. I haven’t really seen so many “egregious” examples of postmodern editing, but recently there was a film that had far too many five-second scenes that did nothing to help the story or to involve the audience in it.

    North by Northwest Discussion

    1. There is a match cut from the suspenseful, scary Mount Rushmore scene to the honeymoon, train scene that is also very well-achieved.
    2. Another sophisticated construction in this film was the scene that takes place right after River and Eve escape the house and run onto the top of Mount Rushmore. It must have taken work to put all those effective cuts together and match the shots on location with the ones that had to be shot in a studio, plus the music, the choreography, and the dialogue.

  2. Abby Sinclair Says:

    1. In the movie, there was a tracking shot when Grant walked across the road to the man in the brown suit. The camera tracked towards Grant as if it were Grant’s point of view.

    2. There was a match cut at the end of the film when Grant pulls Eva Marie Saint up from Mount Rushmore. The match cut goes to him pulling her up to his bunk on the train. It skips over the courting, the marriage proposal, and the actual marriage of the two characters.

    3. I remember watching one of my favorite movies, Goonies, and one of the boys had told one of the reporters, at the end of the movie, that he had fought a huge octopus. The audience, including me, would probably not understand why that scene was in there because it was pointless.

    1. I thought the scene was so cool where it was showing the creepy Mount Rushmore, negative looking, then a match cut to the gorgeous and beautiful looking honeymoon. I admired the film editing.

    2. I thought the coolest shots were the shots from far above showing the entire setting for the chase show Grant and Eva Marie Saint being chased by the villains when they were across the face of the monument. The shots really embellish the chase showing how crazy and difficult the success of their escape appears when being compared to the difficulty of their environment.

  3. Sam Wexler Says:

    Yes tracking Samuel l Jackson’s car as he drives into a lot to kill his employee in the film Jackie Brown.

    Yes I saw a match cut recently when I was watching another assigned film for this class. The film was 2001: a space odyssey. In the film there are apes and the apes bludgeon another ape to death with a bone over a dispute regarding a watering hole. Anyway, the bone gets thrown in the air and then a match cut happens fast forwarding to a shot of a space ship cruising in space.

    I had a very difficult time finding the definition of postmodern or postmodernism but I believe I have. There is a video with the caption wait till the end. This video of a man stacking a series of blocks and right before he puts the last block on it cuts to a video of a metal fork scratching a porcelain plate.

    Another example of a match cut exists in the movie when it contrasts from the Mount Rushmore scene with its dark ominous feel and the honeymoon train scene.

    The neatest shot I saw was the shot of grant and Eva being chased. The way that the shot the chase over the monument was my favorite by far.

  4. Dillon Miller Says:

    1) The double dissolve used in North By Northwest is indeed a clever edit and a good example of the master of form that Hitchcock was. As for the praise it has received, I found no such celebration of the edit as was described. Admittedly, there is a lot packed into that series of 3 static shots. The establishing shot is clever in reflecting the Capitol building onto the CIA suggesting some kind of power struggle. However, I think that the 3rd shot of the newspaper shines the most in that it tells the viewer that enough time has passed for a newspaper article to be written about the murder. The drunk driving scene is another example of tour-de-force montage in the film, specifically when Thornhill’s point of view is shown. For a few seconds different shots of roads are combined creating a disorienting single shot that ends when Thornhill snaps back out of his drunken stupor.

    2) As said in the question, the cornfield scene in North By Northwest does have a very sophisticated, well thought out structure that is suspenseful and memorable. Another sequence in the film that stands out to me as much as the cornfield one is the auction sequence. Once again, Hitchcock reminds us that he is the master of suspense. The scene kicks off with a revelation (albeit an obvious one) that Eve is associated with Van Damme, the man who keeps trying to kill Thornhill. An undercover CIA employee watches from the crowd as everything occurs. As the scene progresses, Van Damme’s men cover all of Thornhill’s possible exits. At this point it seems as though Thornhill has no way out. What can he do to escape his inescapable situation? Well, disrupt the auction to the point that he is arrested of course. This sequence is both hilarious, dramatic, and as suspenseful as the cornfield sequence, making it one of my favorite scenes in the film.

  5. lorenzo gonzales Says:

    1. I am not quite sure what the double dissolve is and i hope to learn on Monday. I believe an example of the tour-de-force is in the scenes when roger is drunk driving after he had been forcibly given large sums of alcohol and it shows his view as he has to drive through the night back to the city. Also by Mount Rushmore when roger looks through the scope to see if closer up.

    2. Another sequence in this film that deserved praise was the scene in which Roger was “shot” and carried out and it was done with such precision that the mass audience in the restaurant had no clue that he hadn’t actually been shot.

  6. Austin Camelo Says:

    1. The double dissolve was one of the many brilliant film techniques that Mr. Hitchcock used in this film. Another scene was after the dark Rushmore. After the dramatic Rushmore scene it cut to the two kissing on the train then it went to the outside of the Honeywell train.
    2. I thought it was the scene when roger and eve were being chased in the forest above Mount Rushmore was a sophisticated scene. The trees were placed strategically and it must have taken the director and the rest of the crew a long time to construct all the trees and crate the sense of a forest.

  7. Zachary Dorsay Says:

    1. An interesting tracking shot that I have seen is in the opening sequence of La La Land, where we follow characters through a dance sequence in conjested traffic. The innovative part is that the scene is extremely long, a difficult task to perfect seeing as multiple stunts are occurring throughout. Although this scene looks to be one fluid take, it’s actually multiple different shots stitched together smoothly in order to trick the viewer into thinking it is one long scene.
    2. A match cut can be found in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where an ape throws a bone into the air. The shot of the bone then cuts to a spacecraft in space. Because the apes have just discovered the use of tools, the bone could represent the future, and throwing it into the air shows the viewer that they are about to be brought to the future.
    3. A good example of an egregious postmodernist film would be “Run Lola Run”. This film doesn’t bother with trying to convince you it’s story is real. Instead you are greeted with playful editing that switches in between animation and live action filming. The film’s story loses its context and reasoning all for the sake of being amusing.

    1. The match cut from the Mount Rushmore’s eert feeling during the night to the relaxed and joyful honeymoon contrasted each other greatly.
    2. The bidding scene also had relatively sophisticated construction compared to Hitchcock’s other films due to its fast pace compared to other shots. The cuts to significant actions around the room hinted at how the scene would progress. The crop duster scene also contained fast pacing and cuts that suggested later actions.

  8. ruby bullock Says:

    Discussion Questions
    1. A montage that held a lot of power in the film North by Northwest was the scene at the auction. Thornhill tracked Kendall to the auction where she waits with Vandamm. The shots alternate between a vengeful Thornhill striding defiantly into the building and Vandamm giving a sensual touch to the back of Kendall’s neck. The shots start off as long, dramatic visuals up to the point where Thornhill and Vandamm stand together behind Kendall. It then gives short cuts between the three as words are exchanged. As the discussion becomes more heated, the speed of the cuts increase, adding to the building frenzy of the scene.
    2. A scene from North by Northwest that I found to be particularly captivating was the drunken driving scene from the beginning of the film. They way the scenes were shot and arranged emphasized the unstable feeling experienced by Thornhill and adds to the suspense by bringing the viewer into the face of danger. A dissolving effect is used to overlay two different sections of road to enunciate Thornhill’s inhibited perception. It is these things combined that create a composition that reflects the essence of the scene in many of its elements.

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