Tuesday, April 12, 2011

THAS: The Art of the Exquisite Eyeline Match

The Exquisite Eyeline Match
"One thing Hooper does a lot is create odd, unnatural eye-line matches..." - From Appreciating Eaten Alive #3 post.
More "non-invisible" than "unnatural," it is a filmmaker's unabashed acknowledgement of the jar [verb] of the deliberate frame that often most denotes artistic impulse.

Night Terrors (1993)
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper
Relaxed POV. Shot-countershot that starkly do not mirror each other
(speak individually).

Night Terrors (1993)
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper
Non-existent/abstract POV. An eyeline that does not literally exist
(speaks to an entire world of desire).


Eaten Alive (1977)
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper
A non-existent POV, above. Below, he, by all accounts of the literal geography
of the scene, stares out at nothing, not at her, much less her back like that.
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper

Dubious POV. The exquisite eyeline is the allegorical eyeline!
(Abstracted space is made a metaphor for the male gaze [or the female with her back turned].)

The Funhouse (1981)
Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper

Unveiled POV. The unanticipated gape and ambiguous geography of the eyeline revealed at a pull wide
(and thus the communication's utter tenuousness).

Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper

Ambiguous POV. There is no countershot.
(A gossamer eyeline, staring up only into the ether, without an immediate match.)

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Addendum: The second Night Terrors scene and the Spontaneous Combustion scene are probably two of my favorites in Hooper's entire catalogue.

3 comments:

Chip Butty said...

These are great. They really have the effect of letting you know what the characters are thinking and feeling using more than just their reactions to another character in the scene. There's so much information in Neville Brand's eyes when he realizes Roberta Collins is "one of Miss Hattie's girls," and in Kevin Conroy's when he recalls "those half pint girl scouts in Dallas" to himself.

Now that you mention it, Chainsaw 2 is full of characters talking to each other without really making eye contact: Dennis Hopper asking Caroline Williams for help, Bill Moseley jabbering at Williams in the radio station, Jim Siedow going on about the family history while Williams is tied to her chair...

I think because Siedow, Brand and Conroy are all variants on Hooper's crazy old man archetype, they get a lot of great opportunities to talk to themselves, even when ostensibly speaking to someone else.

The use or disuse of eyelines is also noteworthy in The Funhouse when the barkers are barking outside their tents / attractions, and only zero in eye-to-eye on Elizabeth Berridge, whose reaction shots are very abstracted.

JR said...

More installments of this to come, I'm sure. You mention the TCM 2 dinner scene, which I'm reminded is brilliant. Incredible, demented opera, and I do recall some superb utilizing of Siedow's "lazy gaze."

Interesting observation about the "crazy old man" archetype. I'll have to think about that - he definitely enjoys maniacal rambling as almost an atmospheric device. Though Judd stands mostly alone as an illustration of schizophrenia.

Feel free to riff on this at the Funhouse blog. Hooper does the "glances flirting with 4th wall breaking" a lot (these 'Night Terrors' scenes, and there's two moments of it in TCM 2 that I love: Stretch looking into the camera while DJing, and Siedow kind-of doing it after his Chili Trophy acceptance speech).

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Hooper is a visual genius. If you want more intrincate, beautiful, hipnotic camera work, please see the spanish film "La madre muerta", by Juanma Bajo Ulloa. Dont worry about subtitles. I think is the most Hooperesque film i have ever seen in terms of camera work.