FRAMING FOR THE FILM
Hitchcock made Frenzy late in his career (it was his penultimate film) after what many scholars and fans consider to be a period of "lesser" films: Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969). Atypical of most of his Hollywood career, Hitchcock made the film in the UK, shooting (also atypically) on location in and around London. The film's gritty style may strike you as quite unlike the sleek Hollywood films Hitchcock made (even Psycho). In its lurid subject matter, you will find similarities to Psycho, Shadow of a Doubt, and Marnie, though Frenzy goes even further in its graphic depictions of depraved sexuality and violence. For example, the film has a disturbing scene of rape, the complexities of which we will discuss in class. Otherwise, the film's interrelations of sex, violence, marriage, and death will be familiar, as will its coupling of these factors with a tone that is, by turns deeply disturbing and darkly comical. Along these lines, and as we did with the Shirley Jackson story, "Jack the Ripper," please pay attention to the film's tone vs. its subject matter.
Frenzy is a complex film with a number of running motifs that place focus on food, sex, and the body more generally. It is also arguably a study in different versions of failed masculinity. We have discussed this topic in many of Hitchcock's films, though perhaps it was never more apparent in his work than it is in Frenzy. See what you think of this thematic interest when you consider the representations of women in the film. Ask yourself whether or not you find the women to have strength and power, and if they are victims whether you find their victim status to outweigh that strength and power (if any). It might also be helpful to come up with a list of character traits as you watch the film, tracing what kinds of conflicts arise.
Finally, it will be helpful to think through parallels between Frenzy and Psycho, as Julian and I decided to bookend the course with these two films because of their compelling shared concerns around masculinity and femininity and their complicated and shifting active and passive, sadistic and masochistic roles.
As I explained in class, this forum is a chance to air out initial ideas you might have for the final essay. Accordingly, I have listed the topics below, as-is. Try to produce a thesis paragraph of not more than 250 words as your response. If you responded to the prior post topics for Marnie, you need not respond to this one. Choose only one of the topics below. Please post your response by midnight, Wednesday, 5 December.
I. Representations of Women, 1
Compare and/or contrast the representation of women in Marnie and Frenzy. Despite their differences, is there a consistency between the two films as feminist texts? If you find the films’ treatment of women to be significantly different, take the time to discuss the complexities of that difference. Tease out these issues with some reference to either Charlotte Perkins-Gilman or Shirley Jackson. You may choose to use the story as a framing device, drawing your argument from its key themes and conflicts. You may also choose to treat the story slightly more peripherally, as long as a reference to it forms a significant part of your argument.
II. Representations of Women, 2
The stories by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman and Shirley Jackson are clearly interested in the struggles of women against larger forces — historical, political, familial, cultural – that oppress them. Choose one of these stories as a basis for a feminist reading of either Marnie or Frenzy. Both films feature characters whose roles arguably shift and blend between monster and victim. Take the time to explore the complexities of these roles, using the themes and concerns of the two feminist stories as your guide.
III. Urban Gothic
Write an essay that discusses the significance of the urban setting in Frenzy and “Jack the Ripper.” What key symbols, conflicts, and themes arise explicitly from the urban environment where these works take place? What power does the city hold over its subjects in these works? In the Gothic more broadly, architecture—particularly houses—is intertwined with character physicality and psychology. How are such links between character and setting also apparent in these works?
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