Analysis #2

The theory of the “male gaze” in cinema was first developed my Laura Mulvey in her book, Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema and has become one of the most well known film theories ever.  In her study, Mulvey discusses the influence of patriarchal society on popular cultural and mainstream cinema.  Mulvey approaches her theory from a psychoanalytical perspective and believes that Freud’s “castration complex” can help us understand this idea of the “male gaze” better.

Freud believed that male children develop a “castration complex” during their phallic stages.  This occurs when the child becomes aware of the differences between males and females, which in turn causes them to develop an unconscious fear of becoming castrated, literally or symbolically (being degraded or looked down upon). Because of this the threat of women must be controlled, by means of punishment or fetishistic scopophilia.

Mulvey explains that this will eventually lead to two other Freudian complexes:

1. Voyeurism: Mulvey quotes “pleasure lies in ascertaining guilt, asserting control or subjecting the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness”.  The male spectator essentially becomes the voyeur. This then links to scopophilic instincts or as Mulvey says ” the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as an object. At the extreme it can be fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive  voyeurs”.

2. Fetishism: To fetishize the female body in a way that it becomes an object of pleasure, rather than of fear.  This is done to relieve the anxieties brought about by the castration complex.

Mulvey believed that the misogynistic nature of our culture encourages us all to identify with the male perspective.  Since the film industry is dominated by men, we have no choice but to view things through the “male gaze”.  It is even evident in films that are meant for a mainly female audience (chick flicks), to convey the male desires of women (ex. pretty women, legally blonde, sex in the city).  Although women seem to be portrayed as more independent, they are still reliant on men for their happiness.

Films which don’t conform to the norms of mainstream cinema, are then placed in the category of Avant Garde.  For example Kenneth Anger’s awesome short film, Kustom Kar Kommandos represents two unique aspects of film which were not common in mainstream cinema;  the homosexual male gaze and the fetishization of automobiles, as means to relieve sexual anxieties.

Kustom Kar Kommandos

This short film was made by Anger to portray the male obsession with automobiles and the not so obvious sexual connotations related to these obsession.  However through slow camera movements, music, pink backgrounds and fluffy sponges the spectator becomes well aware of  Anger’s erotic portrayal of the Californian hot rod world.

The homosexual “male gaze”

The fact that Anger was gay, is not really a surprise once we watch Kustom Kar Kommandos.   One of the first shots in the film is a slow motion shot of the lower half of the man washing the car.  Later on we also get a shot of the guys butt. In a way we can tell that Anger was sexually attracted to the men fixing their hot rods in the first place, which led him to make this film.

Fetishizing Hot Rods

I really enjoyed this short film!! especially the way Anger displayed the sexual components of what seemed to be an ordinary car:

– The first shot is of the car, which is obviously phallic shaped.

– The seats resemble vaginas. (LOL this is hilarious)

– The man is caressing  ever inch of the car with a fluffy sponge.

– The two carburetors on the top of the motor look like breasts.

–  The vibration of the car is very sexual.

– There’s also an emblem of a fisherman on the hood of the car (also phallic shaped).

–  The shifter (phallic shaped).

Kustom Kar Kommandos is an amazing short film.  It truly goes against the norms of cinema and the typical “male gaze” we see in other films.

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“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end…but not necessarily in that order” (Jean-Luc Godard)

Jean-Luc Godard is such an AMAZING director and perhaps one of the greatest directors ever!  What is so great about Godard is that he broke the rules of film and created something completely different from what french filmmaking was, prior to the French New Wave.

Godard and other young French directors of this era felt that they needed to create a new style of film, that was unique to france.  They were influenced by American’s films, not through style or themes, but because they admired American films for having a style of their own, that portrayed American culture.  This was something French films lacked.  They felt that film needed to represent popular culture, rather than the past.

GODARD’S STYLE

Godard’s films are works of art, which in a sense, are more meant to be looked at, rather than understood (kind of confusing).  He tried to push the boundaries of film, through various unorthodox techniques of cinematography, story lines and editing.  Sometimes his films were comical and sometimes very serious, yet they were all created in Godards unique style.

Another aspect of Godard filmmaking that I feel is extremely important to mention, is his courage.  He has made many films, on issues that he believed in, without worrying what people may think.  For example, many of his films were based on his beliefs in Marxist philosophies and the struggles of the working class.  He also made films that criticized the oppression of certain groups of people, for example one film/documentary that he made, which many people aren’t aware of, probably because even till today, it is such a controversial issue, was called ici et ailleurs (1976) and was based on the palestinian/isreali conflicts.  In many of his other films, he addresses the Vietnam War and the beliefs many french people had during this time, regarding  American imperialism.

Jean-Luc Godard is not only an artist, but a pioneer.  He disobeyed the rules of filmmaking and by doing so, he was able create beautiful  and timeless masterpieces.

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PSYCHO…

 

Alfred Hitchcock’s, “Psycho” is perhaps his most famous film and in my opinion one of the greatest horror films in history.  However, it is so much more than just a horror film; it is a masterpiece involving so much detail and hidden meanings.  Although I have seen this film several times, I still learn something new each time I watch it, which is what makes many of Hitchcock films so great.  Anyone who has watched Hitchcock’s films can admit that he a genius and one of the greatest directors ever!

MIRRORS

One thing we notice in this film is the significant abundance of mirrors used.  Mirrors, not only can be used to represent split personalities in a character, but also can be used to see the world and ourselves more clearly.  In Psycho, several characters are reflected through mirrors.  Marion is reflected in her office, in her house, at the hotel and even in the car as she glances several times through the rear view mirror. Marions reflections may represent the battles she is having within herself.  She has a sense of guilt for stealing the money, however she still does it. Norman, is also another character reflected through mirrors many times. Only in his case it is a way to represent his split personalities.  But the most frighting of all the mirror images was the one of the double reflection of Lila in Mrs. Bates bedroom.  This immediately lead us to believe that there is something terribly wrong and that perhaps Mrs. Bates or Norman are not who they say they are.

SPLITTING IMAGERY 

Another popular affect used in Psycho, was the splitting or cutting of images.  Marion splits the picture of the Phoenix horizon at her job. There was also the cutting in the shower scene, the blinds split the characters in certain scene and Marions cars is split by a telephone pole.  Hitchcock used these imageries to represent the split of the minds of the characters and the audience watching the film.

WE ARE ALL VOYEURS 

A common theme in many Hitchcock’s films is the idea of whose “looking”.  In fact Hitchcock played with this theme a great deal, because not only do the characters in the film often secretly “look” at one another, but the audience is also participating in the looking and Hitchcock was well aware of this.  For example when Marion steals the money, although we know it is not the right thing to do, inside we secretly hope she does not get caught and are even angry at the policeman for being so suspicious.  We also have divided feelings about Norman. Since he comes off as the one being controlled, we feel sorry for him even when he cleans up after his “mother” kills Marion.  We even hope that the car in the river does sink even if it is wrong of us.  Not only are we accomplices in the crimes committed, but we also approve the covering up of a horrible act of madness! So it is true, in fact that we are all voyeurs, sitting in our seats watching others, as did Norman when he watched Marion through the peep hole. The most important scene of the watching theme, was the shot of Marion’s eyes after she was killed. She watched, what the audience was still unaware of. That the actual murderer was not Mrs. Bates, but Norman dressed up as women.

BERNARD HERMANN

If it wasn’t for Bernard Hermann music, this film may not have been as great as it was.  Not only is the main song historic, but all the sounds had a great deal of influence on the quality of the film.  Something very interesting I read once before, was on the song played during the shower scene.  Hermann used a sound that resembled that of a screeching bird. Bernard Hermann had worked on several other Hitchcock films and may be one of the greatest film composers ever.

BIRDS BIRDS BIRDS

Alfred Hitchcock must have had some sort of fixation for birds because he used them in many of his films.  In Psycho especially we notice this reoccurring bird theme.  They are on many of the photos, Norman’s hobby was to kill and stuff birds and they are also mentioned several times throughout the film.  The theory is, that since birds are scavengers that prey on helpless animals, they represent Norman preying on the helpless characters in the film.  Norman had even taken the role of a bird which was depicted through the birdlike shadows of him on the walls, as well as through his eating habits (because after all, as Norman mentioned that birds eat a lot and so did he throuhout the film).

PICTURES SEE EVERYTHING

One thing I noticed this time that I never noticed before was how the photos and paintings on the walls seemed either alive or able to tell the future.  Many times through out the film, especially when the characters were guilty of something, the people or animals in the pictures would be facing them, as if the were ashamed.  Also when Norman murdered Marion and the bird picture fell, it seemed as if it was trying to look into the bathroom. Another scene was when Marion was leaving the office and walked past the painting of the Phoenix horizon and then the painting of the river where she would inevitably end up in.

Norman also removes from the wall a painting of “Susanna and the Elders” which is a biblical story of the three old men who spied on a women preparing for her bath.  They were then taking over by passion and leaped out at her with threats of sexual blackmail.

AMERICAN DREAM

This is theme depicted in Psycho, as well as many of the other films we’ve watched.  The fact that people are constantly chasing this idea of the American dream but never really achieving it is a very important theme.  Marion goes as far as to steal so that she is able to reach this “dream”, but is also unable to fulfill it.  Norman sums it up when he says ” I think we’re all of us clamped in our private traps. We scratch and claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it we never budge an inch”.

Later on this idea of money solving everyone’s problems is destroyed.  It is even more ironic that everyone thinks Norman killed Marion for the money, but to their surprise he really did it out of “passion”.

 

Psycho is a film with so much substance.  It is not only a horror film, but a film that reveals all of humanities flaws.  Every character in the film was hiding from something; Marion from the stealing the money, Marion’s co-worker was hiding the tranquilizers, Cassidy hides undeclared checks, Marion’s boss hides whisky in the office and Norman hides his madness.  We all have things which we hide in our lives and this film opens our eyes to this.

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TRIAL SCENE IN FRITZ LANG’S “M”

Shot Description                                              

Shot 1

Cinematography: MLS

Shot Duration: 11 seconds

Sound: Foot Steps, Beckert yelling

Editing: Beckert turns around, the camera then cuts to the next shot.

 

Analysis 

–  After finding out about Beckert’s crimes against those children, I assume the audience feels that Beckert deserves what has come to him, yet the strange part about it is that he was caught by criminals rather then the police. The audience is anticipating what is going to happen and who Beckert is seeing once he turns around.

Shot 2

Cinematography: LS

Shot Duration: 30 seconds

Sound: No sound, until  Beckert yells “Help”.

Editing: LS begins from the left side of the room and moves slowly to right side.

 

– This shot is very interesting. We don’t expect there to be such an enormous crowd of criminal waiting to give Beckert a trial and punishment for the crimes he has committed.  We also notice that at the center of the crowd is a  table seating the leaders and so called, prosecutors.

Shot 3

Cinematography: MLS

Shot Duration: 5 seconds

Sound: Beckert is screaming to be let out.

Editing: Beckert is facing the crowd and turns around in terror and tries to run up the stairs.  He realizes what he is about to face.

 

–  After noticing the crowd of criminals that are against him, Beckert turns around and desperately begs to be freed, yet they are reluctant.

Shot 4

Cinematography: MLS

Shot Duration: 5 seconds

Sound: leader of the gang speaks

Editing: Camera focuses on the main prosecutors.

 

– The prosecutors of the trial inform Beckert that he will not be let out.

Shot 5 

Cinematography: MLS, CU, MS, LS

Shot Duration: 47 seconds

Sound: Beckert and blind man speak.

Editing: Shot goes from Beckert walking while he is speaking.  Feels a hand on his          shoulder (blind man’s hand), moves into a MS of both the men, and then goes into a       LS of Beckert and the crowd of criminals.

–  Beckert attempts to plead innocent and explains that there must be a mistake.  However we notice the guilt and terror in his eyes as soon as someone grabbed his shoulder. Beckert and the audience soon find out that it is the hand of the blind beggar who was there on the day he committed the murder and is also the key witness in this trial so called “trial”.  Beckert is now aware of the troubles which he is about to face.  The beggar informs everyone  that this is no mistake and that Beckert is in fact the one who committed the crimes.  The beggar then shows Beckert a balloon that resembled the one he had bought for the Elise Beckmann ( the little girl he murdered).  The balloon covers most of the shot and is looking down at Beckert, as if it were the dead girls spirit.  Beckert begins to move backwards in terror, until he reaches the table.

Shot 6

Cinematography: CU

Shot Duration: 3 seconds

Sound: gang leader speaks.

Editing: Camera moves to a close up  the gangs leader. There is then a straight cut to next shot.

 

– We move to the interrogation of Beckert by the gang leader.  He as Beckert “where did her bury, little Martha?”.

Shot 7

Cinematography: LS to MS

Shot Duration: 11 seconds

Sound: Beckert speaks.

Editing: Camera is at a LS and moves to a MS. Then it straight cuts to the next shot.

 

– Beckert explains that he didn’t even know little Martha.  While in the background, the beggar is being escorted away.

Shot 8 

 Cinematography: CU to MS

Shot Duration: 16 seconds

Sound: leader speaks

Editing: Shot cuts from CU of the pictures to the MS of Beckert.

–  The leader of the gang continues to interrogate Beckert by showing him pictures of the other young girls that were murdered and after each picture the camera switches over to a guilty looking Beckert.  He expresses this guilt through his facial expressions.

Shot 9

Cinematography: LS, MLS, MS, CU

Shot Duration: 30 seconds

Sounds: The crowd is screaming.

Editing:  We go through series of shots that follow Beckert as he is trying to escape,        but through force he captured and thrown on to the ground.

 

–  Beckert is now aware that everyone knows his secret.  He must now try to escape before they kill him.  He tries to fight his way out, but there are too many people holding him back.  When the shot goes to a close up of his face we are able to feel struggle, before he finally gives in and is thrown to the ground.

Shot 10

Cinematography:  MS

Shot Duration: 12 seconds

Sounds: Beckert speaks while crowd yells.

Editing: Camera faces Beckert as he speaks yet we are still able to hear the crowd.

 

–  After being thrown to the ground Beckert is in pain.  He is also screaming at the crowd and telling them that they have no right to treat him the way they do.  However the crowd is not sympathetic.

Shot 11

Cinematography: MS, CU

Shot Duration: 53 seconds

Sounds: the people in the crowd speak.

Editing:  The camera starts by showing a women, then moves to the gangs leaders and then goes to a moving CU of some of the men in the crowd.

–  The crowd become very shocked and angry.  They don’t believe that Beckert should have any rights considering the horrible crimes he has committed.  Yet the gang leader quiets the crowd down and informs Beckert that is he wishes to have a trial, then they will proved him with a lawyer.  The leader also informs him that he should not be worried, since all of the jurors are experts in crime, considering the amount of jail time they have served.

Shot 12

Cinematography:  CU, MS

Shot Duration: 40 seconds

Sounds: Beckert and defense lawyer speak.

Editing: Camera moves from a CU of Beckert to a MS of Beckert and his lawyer.

 

–  Beckert cannot believe what is going on.  He refuses to have a lawyer in an absurd trial.  He is then patted on the shoulder.  The camera moves into a MS, which reveals Beckerts so called lawyer, who then advises him to watch what he is saying.

Shot 13

Cinematography:  MS

Shot Duration: 25 seconds

Sounds: Beckert yelling, crowd laughing.

Editing: Camera again focuses on Beckert while speaks, but his voice is overlapped by the laughter in the crowd.

 

–  Beckert tries to convince the crowd of criminals to send him over to the proper jurisdictions.  He doesn’t believe that these criminals have the right to determine his fate, especially when they are just out to kill him.

Shot 14

Cinematography:  MS

Shot Duration: 30 seconds.

Sounds: Gang leader speaks.

Editing: Camera focuses of gang leader, then there is a straight cut to Beckert.

–  The gang leader explains that they will not hand Beckert over to cops because then he will not receive the punishment that he deserves. They need to ensure that he can never do what he has done again.

Shot 15

Cinematography: MS, LS

Shot Duration: 50 seconds

Sounds: Beckert speaks

Editing: camera focuses on Beckert, yet moves for a second to a LS of the crowd.

–  This is one of the greatest and most dramatic shots in the film.  Beckerts speech gives the audience an good understanding of his character and the reasons why he has committed these crimes.  He claims that he forced to do these things and it is something inside of him that he is unable to control.  The only way he is able to turn it off is by killing someone.  We are able to go inside the mind of a truly sick person.  In Beckert’s speech, he also mentions that unlike these other criminals who are able to stop their crimes and do them mainly out of laziness, he has no control over what he does.  Which is why they have no right to put him on trial.

Shot 16

Cinematography:  MS

Shot Duration: 2 min 15 seconds

Sounds: Beckert speaks

Editing: Camera mainly focuses on Beckert, however every so often moves to the  audience, so that we can witness their expressions and feelings of what he is                saying.

–  The gang leader is unclear about what Beckert is saying.  So Beckert goes on to explain his madness in such great detail.  The audience realizes now that Beckert truly has no control over his actions.  It is like a drug for him, that if he doesn’t take will cause excruciating pain.  Peter Lorre truly gives an outstanding performance his role.

I chose this scene because it is the point where the audience is able to understand the pain that Beckert goes through.  Before this scene many of us probably wanted him to die, yet after we realized how much he was suffering inside, we begin to feel sympathetic towards him.  The difference between the criminals in the crowd and Beckert is that they are able to change, but he is controlled by his sickness.

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Vittorio De Sica as a lawyer in the film “It Started in Naples”

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UMBERTO D.

Umberto D. directed by Vittorio De Sica, tells the story of an elderly man by the name of Umberto Ferrara, who is trying desperately to collect enough money, so that he is able to pay off the debt he owes to his landlady.  As we witness the struggle’s Umberto is facing, the audience is also introduced to the parallel struggles of a pregnant young maid that works in Umberto’s building. It is not often that films, especially during these times to depict the struggles of every day life.  Im sure that many people were aware of these controversial issues, but to be exposed to them on film, was quite unheard of.

What was most interesting about many of the Italian Neorealist films was there depiction of the working class struggles and the extent of poverty that spread greatly throughout many European countries.  Since these films were made during war time, as well post war time we are able to witness the events that the majority of Italians were facing during these turbulent years. Similar to many Italians, Umberto had to figure out a way to adjust to the struggles of life and by doing so he was forced to set aside his pride.  He sold his valuables, contemplated suicide, attempted to beg for money and even tried to separate himself from, possibly the only true friend that he had ever known, his dog Flike.  Throughout the entire film the audience wonders whether  Umberto will triumph or perish.

 

In the last scene of the film, we are exposed to a great deal of close up shots which effectively reflect the scenes emotional nature and leads us to what seems to be a resolution.  In the midst of all the drama Umberto faces, he fails to remember what truly matters in life.  We get the sense that he is deciding to continue to live life after all.  He realizes the importance of those who love him and the obligations he owes them.  Yet we could never be quite sure how Umberto’s life ends up, we are still happy that he has come to accept the situation he is given and move forward.

What else can I say? but that I have always loved Italian Neorealist films such as Umberto D, Bicycle Thieves, La strada and Two Women.  They all share that one thing; which is their truthful depiction of reality and the struggles that regular people face during times of hardship.  There are not many films made to tell the story of the working class.  And even more interestingly enough is that many of the actors used in these films are people that  have faced these issues first hand and they are a tremendous contribution to the quality and believability of the film.

 

 

 

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ROSEBUD…………

Citizen Kane has been considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest film of all time and in my opinion, rightfully so.  It changed the film industry forever and Its influence continues to be evident today.  From it wonderfully original story of the “American dream” gone wrong, to its breathtaking cinematography, Citizen Kane is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. This is my analysis of the different elements of the film:

 

WHO IS CHARLES FOSTER KANE?

A main theme in the film was the question of, who is the real Charles Foster Kane? and although we were able to get different interpretations of who he was thought to be, by his closest friends and companions, no one actually knows who the real Charles Foster Kane was. And because he was never able to tell his own side of the story, we set out on a mission to find out who the man behind all the money and power really was.  The key to this is by figuring out the meaning behind the word he utters before his death, “ROSEBUD”.

 

WHAT IS ROSEBUD?

We find out at the conclusion of the movie that ROSEBUD is a sled he had as a young boy and also the last memory he has of his parents.  Rosebud signifies Kane’s only comfort and stability, as well as the pivotal moment that changed his life.  Not only does Rosebud give us an understanding of the extent that Kane was traumatized by the day Thatcher took him from his home, but also his sentimental actions  regarding the snow globe that he is holding on to at the time of his death.  The scene with the snow globe also brings him back to a time of happiness that he was never able to get back.

 

WHAT WAS KANE’S OBSESSION WITH POSSESSIONS?

On several occasion throughout the film, Kane shows his desire to have control of things.  We see this through the many statues of people he bought, which also symbolize his desire to have possession over people as well.  He treated everyone like statues, there for his pleasure alone.  He expected people to act like the statues that decorated his home, possessing no opinions or thoughts.  Susan complains that Kane always wanted to be loved, but never loved back.  He only wanted “love on his own terms”.  Susan also mentions that Kane never gave her anything but things (possessions), that don’t mean anything.  He never gave anyone love and never really opened up to anyone.

 

WHAT AMERICAN DREAM?

Another aspect which made Citizen Kane very unique for its time and ours was its criticism of what other films depicted as desirable, this idea of the “American Dream”.  Before Charles Foster Kane was supposedly rescued from a life of poverty and given what people would call the privileged life, he was actually a very carefree and happy child.  Money could not give him the happiness that he received when he was a child and those times before he became wealthy remained he fondest memories.  It is possible that Orson Welles criticized these American norms, because of his leftest political views and his criticism of the materialistic values Americans believed in, specifically this notion of the American Dream.

REFLECTIONS AND DOORS WAYS

The cinematography created by Greg Toland in the film was one of the most breathtaking aspects.  The use of mirrors and reflections were used several times, which usually symbolizes self confusion, mental reflection and self analysis.  We also notice several occasions where characters are framed, such as the scene when thatcher first comes to Kane’s house and is speaking to his parents, also the scene when Bernstein framed in the background while Kane fires Leland.  At the end of the movie when Susan leaves Kane she is also framed in what looks like a tunnel of doorways and also Kane is framed at this time when the butler looks back at him.  And lastly were two of my favorite scenes one was when thatcher first arrived at Kane’s home to take him away and is speaking to his parents while Kane is happily playing in the snow outside away from the horrible conversation that are going on inside, which is nearly identical to the scene when Leland and Bernstein are sitting at the table having a conversation about Kane during the newspaper celebration and you can see a reflection of Kane through the mirror dancing, these are the only two moments of happiness we witness him in.

 

 

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The Lady Eve

 

 

The Lady Eve is known as one of Preston Sturges most memorable slapstick comedies.  It stars Barbara Stanwyck as Jean Harrington, a sneaky con artist and Henry Fonda as the naive Charles Pike, an ophiologist and the heir to the Pike Ale fortune.  Although The Lady Eve seems like any other romantic comedy about a man and women that fall in love, but are forced to deal with hardships along their path to being with one another, it is actually a lot more complicated.  It deals with themes of reality verses illusion and includes numerous misunderstandings, symbolisms and complications.

        One of the first moments that we notice Jeans desires, is in the memorable scene on the boat as she spies on Charles through her mirror as he rejects all the other gold diggers that are on the boat while he reads his book titled “Are Snakes Necessary” which is a pun on the popular book of the time called “Is Sex Necessary”. Sturges brilliantly uses the snake in many occasions throughout the movies to symbolize sex.  Such as the scene when Jean lures Charles to his room.  She thinks that he uses the word snake as a metaphor for his sexual desires but is shocked when she finds out that he actually has a snake in his room.  

        One of Sturges most important themes in this film was the idea of reality verses illusions.  There were many instances when Jean was dishonest about herself to Charles.  We also notice this when Charles ridiculously falls for the so called “twin”, when he should obviously have been aware of the impossibleness of it all, yet was blinded by his love of anything that resembled Jean.  I guess that Sturges was trying to depict the irrationality of people who are in love and the things that one gets suckered into when they do fall for someone.  

        The lady Eve is an amazing work of comedic art and has really set the stage for the romantic comedies of the future.  It also makes you realize that your better off being a sucker in love, than lonely cynic. 

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