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Mise-en-scene and Cinematography of the original(1932) “Scareface”

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For my paper I have decided to view the original “Scarface” which was directed by Howard Hawks. This film stars Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak and George Raft. This film was made in 1932 and was in black and white. The film was to take place in Chicago and show a realization of the prohibition era. This was about the organized crime in Chicago and loosely base on the life of Al Capone. This film is a certain character that moves up on the mob ladder until his own weaknesses catch up with him. The main character in this film is Tony Camonte. Tony is the man that has not fears and does not hesitate for a second to kill somebody. In this film you can see a reoccurring symbol that signifies many things. This symbol is the “X” in the very beginning of the film you when you see the title “Scarface” and in the background you see the “X”.

This symbol is repeated throughout the film, whether it is on a woman’s gown, in the bowling alley to signify a strike, on a wooden beam after the recreation of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre or the scar on Tony’s face; either way the “X” is a symbol for death and that some one is or already did die. One other place we see the “X” is on the door of Guino Rinaldo and then he is killed by Tony. Since the “X” symbolizes death we learn that Tony will eventually die in the movie because he has a scar on his face of an “X”. The filmmaker wants the audience to realize the reoccurrence of the “X” this is way the symbol is shown is so many times. There is another symbol we see in this film we see a sign that says “The World Is Yours” This sign gave the Tony charter a sense of power and greatness.

This film uses both kinds of setting a set and on location. Since this movie is from the 1930’s you can distinguish the difference very easily between the two. The sets were constructed very well and look pretty realistic. There were some scenes where they were on a set and the background was a film itself playing to show that they were in a car and the background was of traffic behind them. In this film there is the use of tight framing and loose framing. Tight framing is used very often in this film because there are always people around the main character. I think that this shows us that he is powerful and that everyone wants to be around him.

This film is one of the best of it’s time because it uses the lighting to show mystery, set scenes and show emotion. The lighting that is used in this film lets the audience really get an idea of what the mood is like. There is a lot of low-key lighting in this film. The low-key lighting gives the sense of darkness and a mysterious effect. Low-key lighting is us in most crime and horror films because it helps with the suspense. This film is a great example for the use of low-key lighting. This lighting is used almost throughout the film. Shadows are very important in this film. You can see that the shadows used in this film can emphasize the characters and what is happening. There are many scenes where you can see the shapes of shadows. The main shadows that are scene are window shadows and shadows of a person that is about to convey something to the scene.

The audience can also see that the lighting when Tony is in the room is low-key lighting but Howard Hawks the director makes sure that the audience could still see the scar on Tony’s face. Most scenes that we see Tony, the filmmaker shows him from his left side of his face to emphasize Tony’s scar. Three point lighting is used on Tony in this film as well. Howard Hawks used panning in this film especially right in the beginning of the film in the reports office were the director pans across the inside of the whole office. Swish pan is used in the car chases to show intensified chaos. The film is also sped up so the audience knows that it is a fast car chase. When watching a black and white film you can distinguish the shadows and style of lighting that is being used in the film. It is very easy to express emotion and mystery in a black and white film. The texture is also great to see in a black and white film, how it’s sort of grainy and pure but realistic.

This film was and still is a great example of low-key lighting and a classic gangster film of it’s time. Many directors today could view this film and learn many things from it. This film has influenced many other films about gangsters and organized crime. I believe the way Howard Hawks moves the camera, the pans over the domino effect of violence, the expressive close-ups all add to the overall effect of this film.

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