David Bordwell's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

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While the films of classical Hollywood differ in various aspects, there is a unifying style that allows one to look at each film as a piece in a larger picture. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a 1958 film directed by Richard Brooks and based on a play of Tennessee Williams, remains conservative throughout which makes it an ideal film to look at to understand the paradigms, as David Bordwell would put it, that ultimately determined the way in which Hollywood films were made. Bordwell uses three different ‘levels of generality’ to describe the common elements among Classical Hollywood films. The first level, devices, is primarily about the technical aspects of the film and deals with the use of common cinematic conventions such as dramatic…show more content…
It is also the longest shot of the scene at about a minute and thirty seconds in length and it provides a turning point for the conversation between Brick and Big Daddy. The length allows the shot to swell to an emotional climax that leads to much quicker cutting in the following shots to build up tension. Hitchcock frequently used similar editing techniques, for example the rapid cutting in the shower in Psycho or the quick cuts as the fire is about to make the car explode in The Birds. It starts by pulling out of a medium close-up on Brick to a medium wide shot, queueing the audience that movement is about to happen. From pulling out though it is apparent that the lighting on Brick has changed dramatically between the two shots, as traditionally more care is taken into lighting close-ups. Brick starts to move to the door with the camera panning with his movement until he arrives at a door that is blocked by Big Daddy. In Classical Hollywood, most camera movements are done through motivated character movement and this film clearly follows this rule with this shot being a stand out representation for this technique. This framing is maintained until we yet again see another instance of camera movement as Brick and Big Daddy then move to the center of the room. At about this time we notice there is some slight thunder outside though it is not overpowering, however once Skipper’s name is mentioned the thunder overwhelms the scene and provides a pause in their conversation. This film uses sound cues often to let the audience know that what is being said is either important for the plot or emotionally important. While most are subtle this is the one cue in the film that feels a bit over the top, as in real life nature is not able to weigh in on the conversations of people. Even without the thunder cue, it is apparent from Paul Newman’s terrific acting and Big Daddy’s movement at
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