Cinema Studies: North by Northwest


I got to see a much older Cary Grant play the whirlwind role of Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. This was the first Hitchcock film that I've seen and it really blew me away. There were so many beautiful compositions in this film! I loved some of the surprising yet suspenseful shots! I learned a new film editing technique, called a Match cut! Overall, this was a great movie and I'd recommend it to anyone!

The Suprisingly Suspenseful Shot

One of my favorite shots of the film was this one:

The overhead angle is unsettling for the viewer. Why would Hitchcock do this? Because he's building suspense! Notice how Thornhill (gray suit) is being cornered compositionally? The eyes of the man standing up are above Thornhill's. This is both subtle and jarring. It's SO great!

The Beautiful Compositions

Seriously. Just drool over these for a moment.

When the credit screen was rolling in the beginning, I noticed that they were designed by Saul Bass (legendary graphic designer). I could see his influence throughout the film. Look how many grids and angles there are... from the skyscraper windows, to the train, to the bookcase, to rows of corn, to the forest of Mt. Rushmore, and even the house of the villain. Angles and grids everywhere!

The Match Cut

I learned a new film editing term called a Match Cut! It's a cut between two similarly composed shots that combines them metaphorically. North by Northwest does this at the end of the film:

This match cut skips the proposal, marriage, and connects one of the most suspenseful moments in the movie directly with the honeymoon. The first time I watched it, it was kinda weird. But it worked.

Incidentally, I found another match cut in the animated film, The Croods. It happens between the scene where Guy wakes up above a river of lava and then cuts to a similarly composed shot where he says "That was too close!".

It had great comedic effect! Plus it varies up the 'traveling' film in an interesting way. I'll be doing a Croods Cinema Study in the summer I think.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to studying some more Hitchcock films this month!