CINEMATOGRAPHIC USES OF EDWARD HOPPER’S WORK. RECLASSIFICATION AND COMPLEMENTARY READINGS
USOS CINEMATOGRÁFICOS DE LA OBRA DE EDWARD HOPPER. RECLASIFICACIÓN Y LECTURAS COMPLEMENTARIAS
USOS CINEMATOGRÁFICOS DA OBRA EDWARD HOPPER. RECLASSIFICAÇÃO E LEITURAS COMPLEMENTÁRIAS
Laura Muñoz Pérez1 Professor in the Department of History of Art / Fine Arts of the Faculty of Geography and History of the University of Salamanca. Graduated in History of Art by the University of Salamanca and Doctor in History of Art in the same University. Author of the book “Art, culture and press in Salamanca. A panoramic of the twentieth century”. Much of her recent work revolves around the architecture of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. These works have seen the light in numerous national and international congresses and in several publications of scientific character. In the teaching field, she has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Pontifical University of Salamanca as well as in different Portuguese universities such as the Nova University of Lisbon, Coimbra University, Oporto University or Portuguese Catholic University. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1645-6710
Almudena Muñoz Pérez1 She holds a PhD in Audiovisual Communication from the Pontifical University of Salamanca, specialized in narrative and mythology, she has combined academic research with film journalism, film festivals coverage, participation in collective books, literary reviews and has written her first solitary academic book for the UOC, entitled “From ink to image: 50 transits from literature to cinema”.
1University of Salamanca. Spain
Conscious of the interrelationship that the artistic disciplines manifest between them, it is understandable the permeability that a field of expression such as cinema observes during its still short life cycle, assimilating influences, suggestions, languages, expression systems, textures, colors or impressions that refer to past or present moments of the History of the Art. Although we do not discover anything new by showing this syncretism between cinema and, in particular, painting, we would like to focus this proposal on the relationship established between the canvases of the American Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and cinematographic art. In fact, it is Hopper’s poetics that is identified by the sensations he stimulates in the spectator, because of the tense calm that he senses where, in reality, there can be from a latent mystery to a complete banality. From these experiences the cinematographic field feeds heavily, an expert in the deception of making us see what does not exist and to hide what is before our eyes, just like many of Hopper’s creations. This correlation, back and forth, known the artist’s fondness for the cinema, presents, in addition, the particularity of transcending the scene of classic American cinema to arrive fresh to the XXI century, where it still remains valid in examples that we will try to dissect.
KEYWORDS: Cinema, Painting, Edward Hopper, Twentieth Century, aesthetics
Conscientes de la interrelación que las disciplinas artísticas manifiestan entre sí, es comprensible la permeabilidad que un campo de expresión como el cine observa durante su aún breve ciclo vital, asimilando influencias, sugerencias, lenguajes, sistemas de expresión, texturas, colores o impresiones que remiten a momentos pasados o presentes de la Historia del Arte. Si bien no descubrimos nada nuevo haciendo ver este sincretismo entre cine y, en concreto, pintura, nos gustaría focalizar esta propuesta en la relación establecida entre los lienzos del estadounidense Edward Hopper (1882-1967) y el arte cinematográfico. Y es que, en efecto, es la poética de Hopper identificativa por las sensaciones que estimula en el espectador, por la calma tensa que éste intuye donde, en realidad, puede haber desde un misterio latente hasta una completa banalidad. De estas vivencias se alimenta en gran medida el ámbito cinematográfico, experto en el engaño de hacer ver lo que no existe y de ocultar lo que está ante nuestros ojos, exactamente igual que muchas de las creaciones de Hopper. Esta correlación, de ida y vuelta, sabida la afición del artista por el cine, presenta la particularidad, además, de lograr trascender la escena del cine clásico americano para llegar fresca hasta el siglo XXI, donde aún sigue vigente en ejemplos que trataremos de diseccionar.
PALABRAS CLAVE: Cine, pintura, Edward Hopper, siglo XX, estética
Conscientes da inter-relação que as disciplinas artísticas manifestam entre si é compreensível a permeabilidade que um campo de expressão como o cinema observa durante seu ainda breve ciclo vital, assimilando influências, sugestões, linguagens, sistemas de expressão, textura, cores ou impressões que remitem a momentos passados ou presentes da Historia da Arte. Se bem, não descobrimos nada novo mostrando esse sincretismo entre cine e, em concreto, pintura, gostaríamos focalizar esta proposta na relação estabelecida entre os quadros do americano Edward Hopper 1882-1967 e a arte cinematográfica. É a poética de Hopper identificada pelas sensações que estimula ao expectador, pela calma tensa que intui onde, em realidade, possa haver desde um mistério latente até uma completa banalidade. Destas vivencias se alimenta grandemente o âmbito cinematográfico, experto no engano de ver o que não existe e de ocultar o que esta adiante dos nossos olhos, exatamente igual que muitas das criações de Hopper. Esta co-relação, de ida e volta conhecida do entusiasmo do artista pelo cinema apresenta a particularidade, ademais, de lograr transcender a cena do cinema clássico americano para chegar fresca ate o século XXI, onde ainda segue vigente em exemplos que trataremos de ver por partes.
PALAVRAS CHAVE: Cine, pintura, Edward Hopper, século XX, estética
Correspondence: Laura Muñoz Pérez. firstname.lastname@example.org
Almudena Muñoz Pérez. email@example.com
“I cannot always agree with what the critics say. You know, it may be true or it may not be true. It is likely to be what the viewer looks at the pictures. What he sees in them... that’s what they really are.”
Edward Hopper (Hobbs 1987: p. 19)
“What are you looking for?: I am looking for myself.
All his work is a vast self-portrait.”
Brian O’Doherty (2013)
The painting of the American Edward Hopper (1882-1967) showed from its beginnings an evident interrelation with other artistic disciplines, such as the poetry, the story and, fundamentally, the cinema. Numerous specialists, from different points of view and deepening in multitude of examples have been in charge of confirming that back and forth relation between the pictorial and the filmic with Hopper as an agglutinating nucleus. It is not, therefore, on this occasion, to turn into long and profusely treated subjects, but to try to go back to the origins, from Hopper influence / inspiration films, their foundations, whether purely aesthetic or also moral, argumentative, ethical, etc. The point is that the text of this writing is as follows: although it is clear that Hopper’s art has served as a springboard for other creative disciplines and that, in most of them, the interpretation given of the painter’s works has been inclined to the mysterious, lonely, melancholic, isolated and even the conflictive, dramatic, criminal, dark or dirty of the most intimate face of the human being; and so, from this starting point, it is desired to verify or to refute whether these readings are, in fact, a response to what Hopper himself wanted to express in his canvases (including his own feelings, sensations or experiences) or if, on the contrary, during the path of assimilation from the pictorial to, in this case, the cinematographic, the realities that objectively express the paintings have been added, manipulated and reformulated.
In this way, our desire will be to distinguish, through some cinematographic examples, those works that perform an explicit and respectful homage to Hopperian values (without going to judge them morally or artistically) and those other films that, in function of that distortion, not always malicious, that has taken place around the work of Hopper, have adapted their esthetics according to a predetermined end. In one case, therefore, we could speak of influence and in the other, on the contrary, it would be more correct to refer to inspiration or reinterpretation.
First of all, it is important to clarify that this two-way approach to Hopper’s art is logical if we consider the reflection of Renner, who asserts that the realistic excesses of the American paintings tend to be distorted until they fall into illusion and fantasy (2002, p.7). Thus, in order to clarify and understand this statement and to contextualize the Hopperian work, there are two sources of information that are going to be of vital importance, as well as highly explanatory: on the one hand, Hopper’s own life and professional trajectory (also formative) And, on the other hand, his opinions and points of view, that we must sift from a wordy career but little given to the literary or verbal expansions.
With respect to his professional career, and although his scholars investigate and emphasize the Hopperian learnings during his youth (especially in Europe) (1), it gives the impression that, when interpreting his work, it is obvious that many of the elements which formally shape Hopper’s praised singularity are actually the fruit of the convergence of ideas, techniques, styles and iconographic motifs seen, lived or learned by many generations of artists, including Hopper himself. An example of this is the encounter / conflict between the man and the nature, that is vertebral part of the Hopperian thematic. Although it must be read in a contemporary way in what concerns here, attacked by elements unrelated to this confrontation from the historical point of view (we refer to gas stations, railroads, highways, level crossings, lighthouses, etc.), this dilemma forms part of the American idiosyncrasy from its origins, having acquired a charter of nature during the nineteenth century thanks to the Hudson River School and some of its authors, such as Thomas Cole (2). This if we make a reference to painting because, in fact, it is a living disquisition in other American artistic disciplines, especially in literature, in which the conflicts posed by a rapidly developing society -such as the American one- facing the forces of the wild nature are worked by names like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville or Edgar Allan Poe. Even extending the perspective further, Renner is right to observe how it seems to be an international argument, since it is clear that in the nineteenth century Europe and despite the obvious differences between one continent and another, artists are also interested - romantic in general, being Caspar David Friedrich the most eminent example (3)- the great natural landscapes against which man is an impotent or overwhelmed observer and can only ask what should be the role of society in the sustaining or transforming of these environments (Renner, 2002, pp. 8-9).
(1) A pesar de lo cual Hopper afirmó: «The only real influence I’ve ever had was myself»(Souter, 2007, p. 37).
(2) De quien Hopper admiraba sus puntos de vista elevados.
(3) En su caso, incluso, la idea de la mirada desde/a través de la ventana, esto es, el recurso del cuadro dentro del cuadro, resulta coincidente entre Friedrich y Hopper, obligando al espectador a mimetizarse con el/los protagonista/s de la obra quienes, para facilitar esta tarea de hermanamiento, o bien aparecen de espaldas o bien nos hurtan su mirada. Mediante este recurso se puede lograr abrir un fanal hacia otra realidad, que incluso puede dejar de ser terrenal para convertirse en espiritual o trascendente (Kranzfelder, 1995, p. 182).
Otro importante window watcher, cercano a Hopper tanto como amigo como vecino, fue el novelista y periodista John Dos Passos, interesado como el pintor en dar testimonio de la vida diaria de la gran ciudad contemporánea en obras como Manhattan Transfer (1925) o en su trilogía USA (1930-1936) (Troyen, 2007, p. 132).
A theme derived from the previous one, and evident in the work of Hopper (whose career takes place, completely, during the XX century), is the one of the technification of the society, with the advantages and disadvantages; The changes, in short, that brings with it both the urban and the rural environments. With regard to this subject, it is necessary to mention the parallels between Hopper and the Impressionist European painters (whose works he has occasion to know in the various visits as a student) (4) and Americans, being constant in both the references to railways and train stations, bridges or boats, although the aesthetic and conceptual motivation of our protagonist (detailed realism) does not coincide with the rest of the aforementioned (vibrant and fleeting impression). In addition, it seems that in the case of Hopper there is some other particularity that should be emphasized in his obsession with this matter and is that
(4) Estancias especialmente prolongadas y prolíficas en el caso de París pero que le allegan también a España u Holanda en 1906-1908, 1909 y 1910.
The railroad line that ran through towns like Nyack along the Hudson inspired Hopper’s early images of trains viewed from the landscape surrounding the tracks (...). The abandoned areas surrounding railroad tracks and train yards are a recurrent theme throughout his work than once one is familiar with Hopper’s imagery (Bostwick David, 2007, p. 31)
In spite of this biographical peculiarity, Hopper’s closeness to authors like Claude Monet (in the ethereal touch of the sky and the grass) is evident, which forces him, therefore, to qualify his innovative capacity in this field. In this respect it is possible to cite as a comparative example the canvas Railroad Train (1908).
Another issue of main transcendence in Hopper’s iconography is that of domestic (also, to a lesser extent, professional) interiors, usually occupied by female figures, in solitude and self-absorbed attitude, engaged in trivial activities such as resting, reading, grooming or gazing, meditative, through the window. Precisely as a consequence of his awareness of intimacy, they are usually naked or half-naked, enjoying the freedom of not being subjected to the social imposition of appearance (5). While this accumulation of factors, and the fact that the viewer does not know the true nature of these women’s feelings, has provided a rich breeding ground for many experts, who have interpreted the images as keys to desolation, depression, moral baseness (infidelity, abandonment...) or even prostitution, the truth is that, once again, the painter is updating, in a contemporary urban and American way, an artistic convention that can be traced back to the seventeenth century, specifically in authors like Johannes Vermeer or Pieter de Hooch, masters in the penetration in the domestic nucleus with the purpose of placing the objective in its feminine occupants and in their daily chores (6). It is true that, once again, Hopper seems to be closer to the European Impressionists than to the Dutch classics, specifically Edgar Degas, who also had among his favorite motives the voyeuristic look on the naked woman (generally during her personal hygiene), impregnating her with disappointing connotations, social and human, to which the American painter feels close (7).
(5) Among its many possible examples, we quote here Summer Interior (1909).
(6) In addition to worrying about the behavior of diagonal light by affecting the objects that make up these interiors and the elements that draw the pictorial scenarios. An example of this affinity is Girl at a Sewing Machine (1921-1922), which Bostwick David (2007) considers the modern transposition of Vermeer’s lacemaker (c.1669). The approach to Vermeer is well established between scholars and intellectuals. In fact, the writer John Updike dedicates to the artist the poem Two Hoppers (1983), that ends of the following way: “Hopper is saying, I am Vermeer”.
(7) Moreover, artists contemporary to Hopper, distant in the formal and the conceptual, also work the principle of the human being faced with the immensity, almost always overwhelming and oppressive, of the world that has come to live, which can end up causing sadness, loneliness , Deception ... Such is the case, for example, by Giorgio de Chirico, Edward Munch, Max Ernst or René Magritte, among many others. Among Americans, closest to Hopper in everyday experiences and experiences, are Reginald Marsh (as Hopper, centered on women, painting urban spaces and cultivating social tensions in his paintings) or Charles Burchfield (author of mystical landscapes, startling houses And suggestive environments).
Continuing with this formative journey, which draws the profile of the artist’s habitual iconography, it is impossible not to mention the admiration that Vermeer and Rembrandt arouse in Hopper. Since the first has already been discussed, it is now possible to affirm the influence that Leiden’s master leaves on the American, particularly in the practice of engraving, in which both coincide in their quest for meticulousness, in the strong contrasts achieved between the deep tones of the interiors and the lights that project the window frames, in their passion for the nocturnal scenes, illuminated intensely by artificial lights, many of them diagonal or in the voyeuristic tone with which they both face the feminine nude, subtle and secretly erotic. Hopper, who blatantly manifested the influence received from Rembrandt, considered him “tremendous” and, although he neglected the religious side of the Dutch engravings in favor of the daily instants of the great city, he left as evidence of this affinity such works as Evening Wind (1921), Night Shadows (1921), Night in the Park (1921) and the East Side Interior (1922). Compared with Rembrandt’s, and in spite of the formal and symbolic differences that separate them, these creations manifest a common appreciation for the emotionality and sensibility of the impalpable (Bostwick David, 2007, pp. 49-52 and Levin, 2000, pp. 39-61).
Outside of the pictorial field, Hopper feels also close to the new artistic techniques, of which photography is, then, the most settled. In this sense, he clings to the work of authors like Alvin Langdon Coburn, Karl Struss or Charles Sheeler. After all, the rupture with canonical methods of framing and representation in perspective takes on an expert rank in this discipline, achieving unusual images that Hopper exploits as shown by, for example, The City (Troy, 2007, P 112).
If we stick to purely technical issues, which in Hopper’s case are also highly praised and cause, in large part, the nuances with which the messages of his paintings are read, it is not all, either, an inventive radicalism. In fact, with respect to the light and atmosphere of his paintings Hopper drinks, for example, from his compatriot Winslow Homer. His markedly objective tendency, on the other hand, comes from his admiration for French realism (both pictorial and literary) (8) in matters such as pleasure for the anecdote and the detail or the combination of natural and artificial light; elements that are particularly intensified after his European travels (9). Hopper is also drenched in the old continent of Gustave Doré’s art (for example, in the occasional use of low points of view), that of the landscapers of the Barbizon School (in this case, in the recurrence to anecdotal elements that slightly alter the represented landscape, like large herds grazing), of Camille Pissarro (elevated and panoramic perspectives), of William Turner (relation between the nature and the threat of the technification) (Kranzfelder, 1995, p. 184) or the French engraver Charles Meryon, with whom he shares the passion for the architectural fragmentation of viaducts, bridges or roofs captured from high points of view, with which later to form unusual panoramas. In this regard, Bostwick David states: “Hopper was probably attracted to Meryon’s ability to discover beautifully balanced architectural compositions within small segments of the city streets” (Kranzfelder 1995, p. 44).
(8) He was an admirer of the literature of Emile Zola.
(9) In, for example, Summer Interior (1909), which also sees a marked resemblance to Degas’ painting: Intérieur or Le Viol (1868-1869) (Bostwick David, 2007, p. 41).
Through the examples mentioned, in which is evident Hopper’s interrelation with an artistic baggage, both theoretical and practical, acquired over the years, is intended to propose the theory that, with his works, the artist does not deploys a revolutionary, formal and iconographic world, but there is much of its own interior history in it, logically nuanced and sifted by his experiences. Therefore, what of remover and influencer can be seen in his work will therefore be subjective, as well as the interpretation that we want to do the experts or the public. At this point it is interesting to cite the words of the artist Brian O’Doherty, when he affirms that his friend “obtained a neutrality that made his paintings susceptible of many readings, according to the possibilities of the observer” (Renner, 2002, p. Hopper, 2006, p.25). Each spectator contributes to shape the image from his experience and personal opinion and fill the narrative gaps left by the painter deliberately. In this way, the beholder becomes an active part of the picture (Hopper, 2006, p 56). Not surprisingly, Hopper himself stated that his aim in painting was to create “the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature” (10) but also, as Troyen annotates in his study, “without an indication of a motive or resolution” In spite of everything, there is no doubt that among his sources of inspiration are the urban masses, silent, concentrated in themselves, solitary in their wandering around the city and absorbed in their daily actions, achieving a result more closer to the realism of the ordinary than to the mystery of the extraordinary (Kranzfelder 1995: 137).
(10) In the paper Notes on Painting from the retrospective catalog of his work, the MoMa of New York made between October and December 1933 (Bostwick David, 2007, p.52 and Roberts, 2007, pp. 166-170).
It is probable that in this choice he had, on the one hand, his calm personality but also the message, probably unconscious, of William Merritt Chase, one of his first masters at the Correspondence School of Illustration of New York. Among the recommendations that the artist tried to instill in his students there are two that are present in the art of Hopper, which confirms in him the combination of learning with respect to the past and seeking a personal path both sincere and simple. These two tips encourage to dignify the ordinary object and, therefore, to find the beauty in the common, and to be as open and receptive as possible to any influence, giving occasion for the inspiration to be discovered in any possible way, without fear of seeming unoriginal (Bostwick David, 2007, p. 36). In a similar way, Hopper, shortly afterwards, was told by his master Robert Henri, who, even though he belonged to a generation after Merrit Chase, shared with him the idea of cultivating a mind permeable to the muses, which can be found in any place or form (Bostwick David, 2007, pp. 37 and 44).
If we flavor this first part of the exhibition, based on Hopper’s experiences and learning, with excerpts from conversations, interviews or reflections that have been preserved about him, we will observe that the hypothesis raised at the beginning of this paper has more appearance of verisimilitude, because the painter never gave or wanted to give such an emotional (especially negative) and subjective content to his paintings. In fact, it seems that he only wanted to expose, before the public, part of his own feelings and internal experiences, without suggesting or mediatizing him for it. It is clear, therefore, that his work is not merely narrative or realistic but also symbolic but in a different direction from the dark, mysterious or truculent work that most of his students have wanted to ponder (11). He exemplifies this reality, for example, the interior history of Summer Evening (1947). When Hopper was questioned whether the male and female figures on the canvas hid some hidden and therefore mysterious narrative content (there is talk of marriage proposals, rejections, ruptures...), he assured: “The figures were not what interested me; it was the light streaming down, and the night all around. (12)” In this way, his approach is confirmed that the figures have no other purpose than to occupy a place in the composition and, through them, to be an instrument for the space and light experiments that interest him (13).
(11) Renner atribuye este cambio al análisis que, a partir de 1928, comienza Hopper a hacer de la obra de Charles Burchfield (2002, p. 29).
(12) Tan consciente y preocupado estaba por estas cuestiones que, en ocasiones, elaboraba modelos de cartón de sus composiciones para después colocarlos al sol y estudiar así los efectos de las luces y las sombras (Roberts, 2007, p. 170 y Kranzfelder, 1995, p. 98).
(13) Excepción aparte la ofrece Office at Night (1940), para la cual realizó bocetos centrados en la figura de la secretaria, que fue evolucionando desde la naturalidad de la trabajadora hacia la voluptuosidad de la pin-up girl, cuyas curvas deja patente su ceñido vestido. La erotización y sexualización de esta figura, insólita en el resto de obras de Hopper, es causante, por ejemplo, de que cuando es citado como fuente de inspiración para el film noir, se asocia su arte a mujeres hermosas, cosificadas, complementos secundarios del protagonista y/o desencadenantes de la acción, normalmente de funestas consecuencias, en especial para el hombre. Pese a lo comentado con respecto a esta obra, Hopper insiste en la banalidad de lo expuesto y en su desinterés por la intrahistoria del cuadro. “The picture will have to tell, but I hope it will not tell any obvious anecdote, for none is intended” (Troyen, 2007, p. 191 y Debecque-Michel, 1993, p. 100).
Another case to be emphasized in defense of Hopper’s purity and asepsis is that of Sun in an Empty Room (1963), one of his later works. Inquired about what he wanted to express in this work, he replied: “Myself” (Schmied, 1995).
In fact, in the light of Hopper’s personality and not the imagination of his interpreters, to mention another example, his work House by the Railroad (1925), is better understood, popularly famous for having been an inspiration to Alfred Hitchcock to recreate the terrible motel Bates of Psycho (1960). Regarding the canvas, Renner says:
On the one hand, that house was presumably built before the railway; at least it speaks of a pre-industrial architectural style. On the other hand, it seems completely lost in its environment (...). The tower, the covered facade and the side terrace, originally designed to contemplate nature, give half to the tracks, while the house is built diagonally with respect to them (...). In this house next to the railway, the windows, which partially reflect the light, also produce this effect of abandonment and crushing by civilization (2002, p. 34).
This analysis, which is still a subjective and personal interpretation of the specialist, is far from the gloomy, violent and malignant dressings that he observes its use in the film of Hitchcock, which would confirm the idea that in Hopper there is a first reading, which is the pure one of the artist (more or less evident), a second one, tending to the misrepresentation by its experts and even, in some cases, a third one, as in this one, motivated by cinematographic (or other) necessities, that are far removed from the original claim. With respect to the first, the closest to the mind of the author, in this case comes from the psychological impact that, in young Hopper, leaves the architecture before and after the Civil War, that which he could contemplate and appreciate in the city Of Nyack, New York, where he was born. Bostwick David’s claim has sense when he states that “these surroundings set the physical stage for Hopper, and his fascination with late nineteenth-century American buildings and landscape in particular can therefore hardly seem surprising” (2007: 29). Something similar happened when Hopper moved his permanent residence to New York in 1913 (whose architecture remakes in his mind and recreates in his canvases) and also when he decided to spend his summers crossing the landscapes of the near coasts of New England, like Gloucester or Truro (Massachusetts). In short, “Hopper’s mature work was determined by his early years and travels” (Bostwick David, 2007, p. 52).
Even in those cases in which Hopper’s canvas expresses, in a pristine way, feelings of solitude or isolation - for example, Gas (1940)- the background of these will not be mysterious or fearsome but a response to a dark socio-economic reality economic that the United States traverses in the years after the Great Depression of 1929 and which depopulated the fields to engender in the city an abundant and cheap layer of unskilled labor, which has to settle for living in its suburbs in a state of alienation which, in itself, provokes sadness, seclusion, dejection and loneliness (Kranzfelder 1995: 129). There are, therefore, in examples such as the one mentioned, critical feelings towards governmental decisions, melancholy for the lost situation or personal reflections about the validity, quality and irreversibility of human decisions but, in no way, phantasmagoric sensations permeating the image. It is true that Hopper seems in these cases to reproach the man for his decision to abandon nature so that it, sooner or later, will take its toll and banish him, becoming wild, aggressive and therefore a dark and inaccessible enemy (Kranzfelder, 1995, p. 133). But, in any case, it is not a free threat but a coherent and proportionate response to a previous human decision (even though we are proceeding here to humanize and rationalize the rural world, which does not act according to this logic). There is, therefore, nothing capricious, random or mysterious in the result provoked by the decision-making of the human being. Finally, if we observe that, at the same time, the apartment, the house or the city painted by Hopper also do not seem to be authentic homes, places of refuge and welcome, we conclude in the definitive exclusion of man both from the natural frame as the domestic or urban one (Renner, 2002, p. 60), without it being so much a punishment to be redeemed or endured or a grief to be ashamed of as a logical consequence of the exercise of free will that man enjoys / suffers.
Once again, and in light of this interpretation, if we follow Hopper’s reflections, his works take a different perspective from the specialized one, being a prototypical example of this one of his most emblematic works: Nighthawks (1942). Paradigm of solitude in the big city, the isolation of the individual, the decadence of the human being in vice and depravation and even recurrent source of inspiration for the noir side of the film or literary genre, its author affirmed on this icon of 20th Century art: “Nighthawks shows what I imagine is a street at night; it is not necessarily something especially solitary” and, if it is for the spectator, it is because, as Hopper himself concludes, “perhaps I have unconsciously painted the solitude in a big city “(Renner 2002, p. 80 and Bornay, 2009, p. 6) (14). The feelings that we want to add to a suggestive work, in the words of his maker, will be welcomed, but being aware that with the urban portraits of New York, as is the case, Hopper seeks only to capture fragments of a city with which he was obsessed (Renner, 2002, p. 86). Fortunately, some experts escape the tangled interpretations that Nighthawks seems to suggest and approach, in their points of view, to those already cited by Hopper himself. This is the case of the commissioner of the Chicago Institute of Art, Frederick Sweet, when he states that in the painting, Hopper “presents no social problems, crusades for no cause, airs neither grudges nor ambitions. He is honest, direct, clear-cut, impersonal” (Barter, 2007, p. 195). It is not surprising that, as Barter asserts, one can spend hours contemplating the picture without discovering an obvious and irrefutable meaning in it, since until today Nighthawks has managed to preserve its imperturbability and its mystery, if it had it (Barter, 2007, p. 209).
(14) Apart from that, Office at Night (1940) offers sketches focused on the figure of the secretary, who evolved from the naturalness of the worker to the voluptuousness of the pin-up girl, whose curves show her tight dress. The erotization and sexualization of this figure, unheard of in the rest of Hopper’s works, causes, for example, that when it is cited as a source of inspiration for the film noir, its art is associated with beautiful, reified women, secondary complements of Protagonist and / or triggers of the action, usually of dire consequences, especially for the man. Despite what has been commented on this work, Hopper insists on the banality of the exposed thing and in its disinterest by the intrahistory of the picture. “The picture will have to tell, but I hope it will not tell any obvious anecdote, for none is intended” (Troyen, 2007, p.191 and Debecque-Michel, 1993, p.
Moreover, even at the compositional, chromatic and luminous levels, Barter finds abundant parallels between the Hopperian and several European works, whose memory the artist probably treasured from his youthful stays on the old continent. Thus, even in this aspect, so exalted and copied, Hopper cannot be rupturist. Barter observes parallels between Nighthawks and Place de l’Europe, temps de pluie (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte (chosen frame, in the form of intersection, with prominence of both exteriors and buildings); Femmes à la terrasse d’un café le soir (1877) of Degas (bored mood of customers visible in Hopper through the glass and night scene, marking the distances between exterior and interior by the contrasting use of the artificial light); Au café (1878) by Édouard Manet (spiritual and mental distance separating the characters, even though they appear to be physically together and talking) or Vincent van Gogh’s Le cafe de nuit (1888) (Powerful Use of Color) (2007, pp. 196-198).
Leaving the artistic and aesthetic issues of this example to one side, if we stick to his personal trajectory it does not appear that Hopper put many of his intimate feelings in his works in terms of the interpretations that these critics do, since, unlike the agreed in them, the artist is known to have an orderly and generally peaceful existence, satisfied at the moment when he could abandon the advertising practice (which he hated) in favor of painting exclusively, stable in marriage (married to Josephine / Jo Verstille Nivison, with whom he had no offspring and was his recurring model) (15) and even monotonous, in that he barely changed his address in his entire life and, after his experiences of youth, never left the United States again.
(15) It is necessary to qualify this seemingly idyllic relationship, for although Hopper and Nivison enjoyed a long-lived marriage, probably a consequence of their opposing temperaments (sullen, simple, taciturn, functional, prudent, restrained, modest, and calm though amusing, With a sense of humor he, perfectionist, intractable, manipulative, temperamental, controlling and maniacal, but also curious, talkative, expansive, spontaneous and very loyal to her husband), the truth is that there are many experts who observe a competitive vein Between both (she was also a painter) and, consequently, a certain frustration in the woman to see sacrificed his race by the success of its husband. Their relationship, therefore, must have been more complex and multifaceted than it appeared. In this sense, Renner (2002, p.11) and O’Doherty (2012, pp. 23-30) manifest themselves.
Closer to the interior ahistory of Hopper’s work from the angle of the personal and from the perspective of the academic and formative, let’s see how some of the conclusions reached in the cinematographic field are translated. According to O’Doherty: “Hopper’s angle of vision, his cutting technique, and his approach to the application of light, often come close to the conventions of cinema and theater” (Renner 2002: 66). In fact, it seems consensual, regardless of the interpretive bias given to Hopperian works, that in these
The assumed viewer is analogous to a camera in a film... The camera analogy is important for it enabled Hopper to be intimate and distant, to show glimpses of people’s everyday lives without seeming to invade their privacy... The observer then becomes an actor, the painting a script and the play a reading of the script by the actor / viewer (16).
(16) Reflection by Robert Hobbs in Mamunes (2011, 27).
Hopper’s connection with the world of cinema seems defined in his pictorial trajectory and so, in fact, he is observed by his experts, all of which leads us to the next section of this writing.
Indeed, since 1914 Hopper works as an illustrator and graphic designer advertising, doing, among other commissions, posters of Hollywood films and their corresponding hand programs and receiving even an economic compensation for, for him, the pleasure of viewing feature films (Bostwick David, 2007, p. 47 and Monterde, 2012, p. 7). Work, in this case, joins to enjoyment, because Hopper is a lover of this medium of expression and, in fact, spends a lot of time in the cinema, even outside his working hours. That is why cinema ends up exerting an influence (besides being a passion) in Hopper (17). But how has the reverse way been trodden on? With what has been analyzed about his career, his influences, his vision of art and, above all, his lack of transcendental pretensions, why have Hopper’s paintings become a filmic reference of what has to be a certain American culture, of the concealment of the drives under the patina of the honesty of the working or middle class?
(17) Also through a good number of works of Hopper in which its experts believe to see footprints. In addition to those cited in the Muñoz and Muñoz text (2016), Hopper influences feature films such as Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), The Crowd (1928), The Maltese Falcon John Huston, 1941), Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944), The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945), Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946), Lady in the Lake (1956), The Caked Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958), and The Oncle (1940), The Naked City (1949), The Live Naked City (Jacques Tati, 1958) (Maire, 2012, p.11, Zunzunegui, 2012, p.16 and Bourget, 2012, p.25). We leave aside the analysis of films that are also valued by specialists in the subject and at the same time as different as Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann, 1955), The Night of the Hunter (Robert Mulligan, 1971), Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959), To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962), The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963), Point Blank The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973), Nighthawks (Ron Peck, 1978), The Driver (Walter Hill, 1978), Heart Beat (John Byrum, 1980), The Elephant Man Dennis Hopper, 1990), Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990), Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991), Al di là delle nuvole (Michelangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders, 1995), Dead Man My life without me (Isabel Coixet, 2003), Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003), Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch, 2005), Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005), The Secret Life of Words Bel Coixet, 2005), Das Weisse Band (Michael Haneke, 2009), The Inner Island (Félix Sabroso and Dunia Ayaso, 2009), Map of the Sounds of Tokyo Yesterday never ends (Isabel Coixet, 2013). In the audio-visual field, the TV series Boardwalk Empire, created by Terence Winter (2010-2014), is also categorized in this section.
In order to try to shed some light on such an ambitious and widely branched-out concept, we have tried, as discussed at the beginning of the essay, to distinguish those feature films in which there is an explicit will to honor or copy some of the Hopperian principles from those others in which more than of real influence we can speak of inspiration, sharing with Hopper places common to the art of an era, fruit of a political, economically and socially complex and changing America.
Let us now begin to observe, more specifically, the reasons that explain, from the cinematographic, this separation raised as a study proposal (18).
(18) In order to elaborate this list of films, the works of Levin, Maire, Zunzunegui and Bourget cited in different points of this essay, besides the critical contributions of Frodon, 2012, pp. 18-19; Doss, 2012, pp. 26-28 and Ortiz-Villeta, 2012, pp. 20-22. The specific chapter dedicated to black cinema, independently studied in Muñoz and Muñoz, already mentioned (see note 18), is left out of this work.
As has been mentioned, in a first group we could combine, regardless of their genre, those films in which the weight of Hopper’s work is not only evident, explicit and definitive, but also close to literality, which in general has to be read in the key of homage and of transposition of the two-dimensional of the picture to the multidimensional of the cinema.
An example of this first trend, within the genre of suspense, is Wim Wenders in The Million Dollar Hotel (2000), considered by him as his most hopperian work. In it compositional strategies and sensations characteristic of other of his films are visible, also imbued of the spirit of Hopper (like Der Amerikanische Freund, 1977 or The End of Violence, 1997) (19). In this sense, although there is no literality (because the action takes place in Los Angeles), there is a direct inspiration, visible in elements such as illuminated by lamps or neon signs in the street, chromatic contrapositions usual in Hopper (yellows in the interiors against bluish exteriors) and individuals focused on their tasks, some of which pose next to windows or deserted urban landscapes.
(19) They are studied in the Muñoz and Muñoz essay. See footnote 18.
Despite the commented presence of Hopper’s work as a starting point for several of Wenders’ films, there is no doubt that the most faithful film to this cinematic-pictorial entente is Do not Come Knocking (2005), a dramatic genre film that is the maximum stylization of the tribute to Hopper by this filmmaker (a tribute to Hopper in his own words) (Mamunes, 2011, p. 141). Here he copied both his way of composing the scenes and his chromatic intensifications (Figure 1), with a narrative that also lacks the obscure associations that are visible in other of his works, which gives more purity to the pictorial appropriation made in this time.
Changing director, a melodrama is what Douglas Sirk builds in All that Heaven Allows (1955), film that we can include in this set although curiously it seems that Sirk did not have Hopper in mind as a crucial influence for the making of his piece except in the use of colors. We say this because Sirk’s film shows a certain desire for salvation for his characters, as if he wanted them to meet (or collide) and that forced them to know each other and, consequently, to rescue each other. And that kind of desperate search for happiness is not visible in Hopper’s painting. However, as we have anticipated, Sirk manages to execute a clean tribute to the work of the painter because both manifest energetic contrasts between the color and the luminosity of the scenes.
They also belongs to the melodrama Far from Heaven (2002), whose director, Todd Haynes, agrees with Wenders in his admiration for Hopper’s aesthetics (and, curiously enough, for Douglas Sirk, just mentioned). The film clearly belongs to the first group given that, lacking noir intentions, it saves many of the rough meanings both gender-specific and critically associated with Hopper’s painting. It is true that, despite everything, the plot takes place in a world of solitudes, secrets and dissatisfactions not necessarily hopperian. However, from this one it reconstructs the image of a typical American residential neighborhood in the 50s that serves as a setting for everyday stories never completely revealed, like the flashes of Hopper and, like them, pass before the viewer as slides that everyone can see about the lives of their neighbors (through windows (figure 2) or in gardens, porches and other public places of the town) (20). In addition, it should be remembered here that Hopper claimed to represent himself and his inner experiences in his canvases, something that the characters of this film do, who dig into their feelings and experiences looking for who they are and feel under the prototypical appearances - so minutely portrayed by Haynes (especially in the color palette) - that the publicity or the films in technicolor of that time tried to impose to the Americans like way of life and, therefore, of the way towards the happiness.
(20) In Safe (1995), Haynes demonstrates that his style, Hopper’s debtor, can adapt even to a more modern context, in which the protagonist feels harassed by the solitude and pessimistic thoughts; Elements that are manifested especially in domestic interiors, both day and night, in which the drama takes place. Although manipulated in its essence and its meanings, the impression left by the painter in the aesthetics of this director is almost indelible in all his works. In the same way, Haynes adapts the Hopperian aesthetic principles to the time of the Great Depression in the mini-series of television Mildred Pierce (2011), whose five chapters were directed by him. In them they abound the windows-frame, behind which women glimpse themselves in solitude; Diner environments and contrasting lighting.
Haynes goes back to the subject of the clash between reality and appearances, with the unhappiness or frustration that this can bring with it, in the romantic drama Carol (2015), where once again the environment suggests sensations that do not always correspond to the accuracy of what is represented, as exuded by Hopper’s painting. The American way of life of the 50’s, treated as a thing in a well-equipped house, a late-model family car, a cozy neighborhood and a fridge full of food and personified in traditional “blessed” families with several children, can hide, as the experts in Hopper suggest, professional, sentimental, sexual, vital dissatisfactions in short. If we add to it a rather literal aesthetic resemblance (contrasts of lights and shades marked between exterior and interior (figure 3), solitary restaurants, offices contemplated from the street, premeditated use of color: blue in emotionally speaking cold scenes (figure 4) And yellow for warm or hopeful moments), it is possible to emphasize that for this director the impression of Hopper is evident, premeditated and respectful with the original starting point although intentionally unbalanced towards specific sentimental objectives that, luckily for him, come to coincide with the partners associated with Hopper by its specialists.
Terence Davies also recomposes a time in the family drama The Neon Bible (1995) with the aim of recreating, with a false and sugary wrapping, a concrete historical moment, that of the 1940s. The result cannot be, a chronicle but an evocation. In order to achieve this, he does not directly recreate Hopper’s paintings but his style, as if he were mounting new paintings starting from the painter’s own resources (figure 5). And again, despite the stylistic influence, Davies falls into the conventionalism of enhancing the sad aura of history, associating it with the melancholy that one wants to impose on Hopperian aesthetics. In this way, it is imperceptibly driven away from its belonging to the category which is now the subject of study in order to approach what we shall see later.
Something similar happens in another drama, Scener ur ett äktenskap (Ingmar Bergman, 1973), whose resemblance to Hopper is merely aesthetic but undoubted. The film recreates scenes of couples in minimalist interiors, giving prominence to the colors and coinciding in a clean style and composition. But the film turns out to be both an exploration of loneliness or the tribulations of married life, re-attributing to Hopper’s men and women who inspire them -mostly when similar feelings appear paired. Thus, in spite of not pretending, the spectator understands that, in the work of Hopper, as in the feature film, the figures share only problems, non-communication or bitterness. This is why we commented that the film-painting relations in this case are, stricto sensu, aesthetic or stylistic.
Another director for whom the explicit presence of Hopper’s artistic gaze is recurrent is Terrence Malick, whose rural dramas could be seen as readings associated with the paintings of the American painter. This is the case of Badlands (1973) whose protagonists, trapped in a monotonous and paralyzing life, obtain an escape, sometimes only fictitious through their imagination, projecting themselves towards a different future, towards a dream or a promise, in the same way that the characters in Hopper’s paintings, isolated in their solitude, may imagine another different state in it. The trap in this case, probably partly influenced by black cinema, is that although the protagonists manage to flee from their physical and mental closure, the idyllic end does not occur, imposing to it certain limitations. This loads with pessimism and dismay the outcome of the plot, a fact that, as has been emphasized, is an interested amplification of the reality of Hopper’s painting despite the good intentions of the initial influx.
The same happens to Malick in Days of Heaven (1978). The representation of the landscape in the film, vast and unadulterated, is assimilated to that portrayed by Hopper in his rural paintings (especially when in this case the action takes place in 1916, which would find us in a contemporary context and even previous to that which Hopper could take as a starting point). On the other hand, the house in which the protagonists live (figure 6) is the stylistic and semantic counterpoint of Psycho’s mansion (although its common hopperian linkage is evident) (figure 7). Identical correlations are visible in the characters, characterized by their silences and their way of infiltrating the film practically just posing and contemplating, waiting for events that never materialize. However, it is this hue of sadness and hopelessness that, as in the previous case, although it is close to the historical interpretations made of Hopper’s paintings, it is still just that; a personal, and therefore subjective, point of view of the work of art, brought to the screen in similar terms.
The list of filmmakers for whom Hopper’s repertoire is an aesthetic milestone throughout his career is completed by David Lynch, several of whose films will be mentioned in this writing. One of the most literal in his use of Hopperian poetics is the customs story The Straight Story (1999), in particular in his calligraphic reflection of the pure American landscape, through which the look of the camera simply glances (the tractor in the feature film, Figure 8), without pretending to judge what he observes but without avoiding, either, to leave a sediment of solitude; an aftertaste that, on the other hand, is consubstantial with a country as vast as the protagonist, full of stories, more and more remote, of pilgrims, explorers and pioneers. There is, a priori, no social reading -neither of the artist nor of the traveler- in what are but a set of prints of a fraction of American reality, as in Hopper’s canvases, although it is inevitable that, a posteriori, the spectator and the critic elaborate one or several interpretations (as in the paintings of the painter).
Next to the thriller, the drama or the customs story genre, the magic of Hopper arrives, in this category, even to the comedy, in which it is necessary to quote a filmmaker who shares with the painter his love and knowledge of the American architecture, in particular of the profiles he draws in New York. Although Woody Allen does not seem like the type of director who observes an influence or makes evident or conscious tributes to Hopper, being an intellectual rooted in the American capital, it is almost inevitable that he admires the artist. Thus, the Hopperian atmosphere, which links characters with urban settings, is visible in films such as Manhattan (1979). By means of very open plans in which the figure only seems a silhouette, Allen obtains that evocative impression that the works of Hopper have and that can be confused with nostalgia (21). It is true that, beyond that, the director’s fiction is based, as is well known, on the speed and mordancy of his dialogues, the word being one of the most absent elements of Hopper’s work.
(21) Tinted and emphasized here thanks to black and white photography, which can be associated with an ancient, classic cinema, seen from melancholy, rather than film noir.
Something of this same presence is observed by the critics in the comedy Sweet and Lowdown (1999), also by Allen. The difference with respect to Manhattan is in the resources employed, namely the colors, the plays of light and shadow and the general tone of the scenes, moderately optimistic or, at least, hopeful (within a general melancholy aftertaste) that, despite the asepsis inquired by Hopper in a conscious and pretended way, can detach from some of his works (especially those in which he recreated the world of theater and spectacle).
The aesthetic weight that Hopper leaves in the American cinema reaches the extreme that, in this category that we are shelling, it is possible to include a piece belonging to a genre, a priori, distant from those that are usually habitual when reproducing the Hopperian environments. It is the musical Pennies from Heaven (Herbert Ross, 1981), explicit homage to Hopper (through the reproduction of the Nighthawks’ diner) (figure 9) and also to many of the topics of black cinema. Although the debts are obvious, the film behaves like a nostalgic exercise of sweetened memory of a time and an environment (those of the noir) that are seen with innocence at the same time that with candor. The society portrayed typically by the black genre represented the most abject of it, that is, men and women with whom no one would want to identify. However, the passage of time and cultural re-readings of their feature films have idealized these scenarios, promoting the fantasy of living as their sullen characters, wrapped in mystery and tormented by love or passion. In this sense, this potpourri of misrepresened references proposed by Pennies from Heaven ends unleashing a reading of Hopper’s poetics very different from the one intended by the author, assuming a dangerous interpretation of an intention, in principle, pure.
In order to finish referring to this branch of case studies, and without abandoning the field of the audiovisual world, it is essential to mention, as an example of the literary use of the Hopperian aesthetics, that of the Mad Men television series, created by Matthew Weiner (2007-2015). His references and relations with Hopper’s painting are established from several fronts. On the one hand, the most literal, is recovered in its scenes through its characterizing elements: houses, streets, wardrobe, diners, look through doors and windows (figure 10)..., giving to the result a contemplative and reflective tint present also in the paintings of the painter. This is particularly visible in the characterization of domestic offices and interiors, in which very open plans are used that dwarf the character and thus highlight their isolation (figure 11). However, in spite of this literality, once again the interpretations made to Hopper’s work in a symbolic way, relating being alone with feeling alone (melancholy, drama, social isolation resulting from personal secrecy, vital or professional crossroads...), are present too, in Mad Men.
Returning to the elements that are faithful to Hopper’s poetics, it is possible to see in Don Draper, protagonist of the plot, a transcript of the painter himself and the essence of his artistic concerns, as both seek themselves through third parties and are invented / projected onto other selves (22).
(22) As the series progresses in time, aesthetics of other decades are imposed, further away from Hopper and his work, although his spirit remains.
Leaving aside this group of contributions (which could undoubtedly be increased with more examples), we find the category of films that, although debtors of the aesthetic, framing or style of Hopper, we consider that they are the fruit of an inspiration (more or less direct) than an explicit and conscious homage to Hopperian principles.
With many ingredients of the genre of suspense but from its peculiar optic, in this group it is possible to quote several of the contributions of Alfred Hitchcock. In the case of Vertigo (1958) the British seems to take from Hopper some of its flagship elements, such as very saturated colors and the choice of a contrasting color palette. Also from Hopper are the scenes of interiors in urban buildings or the characters that, in solitude, walk in silence by different scenarios of the city (figure 12), like the museum. However, the protagonist’s own drive, which is unable to contemplate a picture and, like a voyeur, needs to get involved in what he sees until he adds (or forces) a story to him, could be a perfect example of what happened to the works of Hopper. The spectators, often criticized by the critics, do not limit themselves to seeing their pictures as isolated tables and without an obvious meaning; Simple fragments of life that do not have to be assembled in any history. On the contrary, we feel the need to complete the incomplete and to invent a story behind the image. This is precisely what the protagonist of Vertigo does, making it also in its most rugged, disturbing and morbid aspect (figure 13). Perhaps because of this (and by the use of angles similar to those of pictures like Office in a Small City ) (Mamunes, 2011, p. 57), this has been one of those films that has contributed to the creations of Hopper somber meanings that they originally did not have. It is not possible to speak as much of homage as of reinvention or reinterpretation of the Hopperian modes, with a later route and trajectory, that yes, of great fortune in the world of the cinema.
Something similar can be said about the future influence of Rear window (1954), with that voyeuristic eagerness to contemplate (until spying) someone in the distance - isolated and alone, never in a group - within the space that reveals a window frame, employing chopped planes and illuminating the interiors strongly and artificially. Something of Hopper is in form but not, in total, in intention, biased by Hitchcock and his plotting purposes. It is curious to note as a parallel, probably unintentional, that the protagonist of the film, in his eagerness to imagine and rebuild the lives of his spied ones, gets to assign them fictitious names, curiously something that Hopper and his wife also did with the figures of his paintings (Mamunes, 2011, p. 57).
A before and after in the genre of the thriller is determined by Psycho (1960), the same director; Film in which its hopperian reference is one of the most well-known but also of the most distorted with respect to the original premise. This is the presence and prominence conferred on the Bates motel, which is a ghostly and terrifying translation of Hopper’s House by the Railroad (1925) (figure 14). Hitchcock appropriates, in a gothic tone, Hopper’s simple field scenes, transforming the solitary house, which has been left out of fashions and the passage of time and progress, into a house of terror (Mamunes, 2011, p. 57). In fact, the film succeeded in turning this architectural style of the nineteenth century into a symbol of the cinematographic gothic, although in reality it had nothing to do with the original pretensions of Hopper. On the other hand, the voyeurism of Rear window, leitmotiv in that film and essential character also in Vertigo (and something definitive of the fetishistic, obsessive, capricious and misogynistic personality of Hitchcock), also becomes present again in Psycho, with the same Hopperian origins That in those cases and with identical load of manipulation. And it is that the sick obsession of the protagonist of Vertigo also applies to that of Norman Bates for “breaking” the stage or the glass between picture and viewer, between observer and observed, in details such as withdrawing the shower curtain with impetus or in opening holes in the walls of the hotel. Moreover, the director exaggerates, according to his needs, the angles from which he photographs the planes and appeals, once again, to the urban scenes, in particular those of offices, in which the action begins. Finally, the recurrence of black and white photography instead of color photography serves to strengthen relations with the classic noir and to sharpen the sensations that the viewer must experience during the viewing. Hitchcock reveals himself once more not only as a master of suspense but also of deceptive maneuvering.
The gigantic house, isolated and arrogant, is not the exclusive protagonist of Psycho since, in fact, it had already been used, although with a different symbolic tone, in Giant (George Stevens, 1956) (figure 15). The fatalistic, oppressive and disheartening component of the environment is similar in both films although the reasons explaining it are different. In this case we move away from the suspense to approach the rural drama, attending the history lived by the American wilderness, besieged by the capitalist civilization, before which it surrenders both in terms of urbanization as a source of resources that fatten the system (in this Case, oil). The combination of all this becomes a disastrous sensation when portraying the exteriors of a film that, we insist, despite its hopperian aftertaste, imbues the scene with pessimistic nuances more exaggerated and hopeless than in the original oil painting.
Several films of Michelangelo Antonioni also belong to the dramatic area that can fit in the category that we are structuring. Il grido (1957), L’avventura (1960), L’eclisse (1962) and Il deserto rosso (1964) seem to observe certain reminiscences of the cultural education of its director, who, directly or indirectly, alludes to Hopper. The truth is that the images of these films include hopperian essences of a merely compositional type, such as urban scenes devoid of life (figure 16) or in which the human figure is minimized by architecture (figure 17), chopped planes, characters looking to the horizon (especially women) and supported on walls, beds or windows or sitting indoors (figure 18). The truth is that in dealing with films with virtually no narrative plot and no resolution of the latter, with wandering dialogues or open endings, they could pass as extended and moving versions of Hopper’s images. However, the fact is that all of them are overflown by a palate of fatalism that, remains commented, although it is usually associated with the work of the American painter, the truth is that to a large extent is due to the literary and critical pollution that it has added to him over time and, in short, has ended up imposing a biased reading of his works.
The gay drama Querelle (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982) establishes formal connections with Hopper in the previous underlined line, that is, characters who seem to pose as they contemplate the horizon, as if they were weighing serious decisions in their lives. In this film, too, the color palette, very saturated, could remember again the Hopperian spectrum. However, once again, while there are elements that agree with Fassbinder’s possible admiration for Hopper, there are also features that are far removed from the painter’s imagination. The plot itself, centered on the world of male homosexuality, does not seem to manifest connections with Hopper, nor does the solitude emanating from its protagonists because, as has been repeated on many occasions along these lines, this is an interpretative addition, possible or not, to the reality of the canvases.
Blending drama with fantasy genre is Eraserhead (1977), which allows to re-reference to David Lynch. In the film the director’s constants are repeated when it comes to joining Hopper, although in a less explicit and literal way than in the studied The Straight Story. It emphasizes the use of dormitories inhabited by a single personage or the industrial urban exteriors. On the other hand, the dream character given to the story, combined with the use of a black and white photograph, distorts the purity of the canvases, once again tending towards solitude, which leads here the characters to madness, fantasy, fear and restlessness.
In 2001 David Lynch returns to resort to the hopperian influence in Mulholland Drive (23). Saturated colors, closed environments (diners, offices, dormitories...), a certain type of light, very blinding (pertaining, on the other hand, to a hot city like Los Angeles) and the solitary landscapes of the city are close to the art of Hopper to the extent that Lynch, like the painter, juxtaposes scenes to which he does not give a “coherent” explanation or resolution. Finally, his closeness, which does not belong to the black genre, adds a decadent and threatening imprint that amplifies meanings absent in the real and final purpose of Hopper’s paintings.
(23) He will do it again in Inland Empire (2006), which presents one of Hopper’s most original and baffling reinterpretations hitherto seen: a typically Hopperian interior with anthropomorphic rabbits. The meaning of the image is as elusive as can be the stories of the pictures of the painter. Thus, we could face a social or human critique or anything else, in fact.
It seems quite clear that, since the 70’s and until now, the homages that are made from the cinema to the work of Hopper are increasingly more Mannerist and, therefore, added to a previous plot. They are more like intellectual or dandy notes, sometimes even of unconscious origin (News from Home, Chantal Akerman, 1977, Stranger than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch, 1984, House of Games, David Mamet, 1987, Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch, 1989; Short Cuts, Robert Altman, 1993, Kauas pilvet karkaavat, Aki Kaurismäki, 1996) or, in the worst case, simple scenographic, environmental, chromatic or chronological coincidences that are intended, perhaps with somewhat pretentious purposes, to give an artistic patina not always consistent. So it seems to us that it happens in Alice Does not Live Here Anymore (Martin Scorsese, 1974), Choose Me (Alan Rudolph, 1984), Trouble in Mind (Alan Rudolph, 1985), Coffee and Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003) o The Brink’s Job (William Friedkin, 1978), in which the resemblances are sometimes limited to the setting in the diners of the fifties also portrayed by Hopper. The same thing could be said of Bagdad Café (Percy Adlon, 1987), whose luminous exteriors and of solitary aspect (but not abandoned), such as gas stations, could approach the aesthetics of some semi-rural environments of Hopper. The relationships that the experts try to establish in these cases between film and painting are forced, without the consistency of other examples studied.
A case in point is Shirley: Visions of Reality (Gustav Deutsch, 2013), a film that fuses in one, and in a sensible way, the two cinematic and interpretative approaches given here to the work of Hopper because, on the one hand, reproduces literally The pictures of the painter (figure 19 and figure 20), accurately copying his frames, distances, colors, objects, costumes, postures, light... (24) but, on the other hand, he adds to these canvases a story that, in painting, can only be imagined or presuppose. Curiously (or perhaps not so much), this narrative accessory is decanted by a melancholy reading, in this case that of a woman oppressed by society, who would like to break the bonds and conventions of her life in order to launch herself to perform functions and roles that were prohibited in her time (between the 30s and 60s in the United States). The film is, more than any other analyzed, a conscious dialogue of its director between cinema and painting, recognizing both the influences that Hopper received from the seventh art and those he offered to the cinematographic environment. However, he has taken that purpose further by adding movement and three-dimensionality as well as narration, which inevitably alters the original meanings (or, rather, imposes it a concrete one).
(24) To the extent that, to ensure that the frames were viewed exactly the same as the frames, it was necessary to perform optical distortions on the set, for example with beds measuring three meters wide or very narrow seats.
Without prejudice to many other valid examples and categorizations, as well as to the work and analysis carried out by experts in the field that have been mentioned throughout this paper, a proposal is exposed that, fundamentally, did not want to lose sight of the premise from which it is born and gives it meaning: the art of Edward Hopper.
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