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A2 FILM STUDIES – FM4 – Popular Film & Emotional Responses ‘THE BIG SHAVE’ - Analysis Fading in from white, Scorsese begins his film by presenting us with several shots of various appliances and objects situated in and around a common family bathroom, such as water faucets, a sink, a shower head, etc. These shots are edited together in time with Bunny Berigan’s seminal jazz hit “I Can’t Get Started (With You).” This song, which is grand, booming and grandiose in its’ nature, serves almost as a stark contrast to the boring, bland and banal images which we are seeing. The music and the visuals simply do not match. There is strangeness and oddness here. Scorsese, through the use of the visuals and the music, could be inferring that something bizarre is about to unfold. The music then builds in tempo as we see a young man, dressed in a white vest, enter the bathroom. He is shown to be yawning and scratching his hair. Scorsese, through establishing this unnamedcharacter, along with the images of the bathroom, may be trying to establishverisimilitude and to give the events depicted as realistic and random a sense aspossible.The young man is then shown taking off his vest. This action is repeated three times,each time from a different angle. This use of repetition may be Scorsese attempting todraw our attention, and trying to imply that the taking off of the vest is key, and thatsomething is going to happen as a result of this (perhaps the big shave of the title?)The young man is then shown applying shaving foam. This action is presented throughuse of regular cuts and shots, with no emphasis being given by Scorsese. It could beinterpreted as Scorsese wanting to maintain the sense of verisimilitude he has so farestablished, and that this is just a random, boring occurrence which happens everymorning.Scorsese then presents us with close ups of the specific parts of the young man’s facewhich he is shaving, for instance his cheeks or his chin. There are also cutaways to theyoung man putting the razor underneath the tap to clean it off. This is done withemphasis, as it is also edited in time with Berigan’s music. Scorsese, possibly, isattempting to draw us into what he is doing, and possibly give us a clue as to theconsequence of his actions.We then cut to an extreme close up of the young man looking into a mirror. Only the tophalf of his face is seen. We can see that he is moving about and possibly touching hisface, but we do not know why. We then see he is applying more shaving cream. Thedesired effect here may be to create confusion – we cannot comprehend why anyone
A2 FILM STUDIES – FM4 – Popular Film & Emotional Responseswould want to shave straight after they just have done. This starts becoming more andmore confusing and surreal and the music itself, by just being included in the filmbecomes more and more unnerving.We are then presented with more close ups of the specific parts of his face that he isshaving. When he reaches his moustache, the camera pulls back and we see a very thickand long line of blood on the right side of his face, underneath his ear. By Scorseseemploying this “big reveal,” he may be trying to set the wheels in motion and imply thatthe big shave of the title is about to be seen.We are then presented with a close up of the young mans face in profile followed by apull back which reveals more bloody nicks and cuts. His face appears almost to beovercome with these cuts, and that the red of the blood is slowly replacing the white ofthe shaving foam (perhaps Scorsese trying to convey the idea of purity verses violence,a theme prevalent throughout his entire body of work?)The idea of purity versus violence is emphasised by continuous cutaways to the sink overwhich the young man stands. The pristine white of the sink is slowly beset with a flood ofscarlet red blood. This unnerves us. The viewers cannot understand why he is doing thisto himself. The violence, the infliction of pain upon himself is mindless and senseless. Wecannot, as viewers, possibly comprehend why he is doing this to himself, but maybe it isin the meaninglessness and the pointlessness of the violence where the meaning and thepoint of what Scorsese is presenting to us can be located.With the onslaught of violence and self-harm seen throughout the course of the film, itcould be argued that Scorsese, by building verisimilitude, through the bland, boring,pristine white bathroom and the young man going about his (seemingly) daily routine is,as the film goes on, and as more blood is spilt, he seeks to destroy it. Perhaps Scorsesewished to blindside us - we could not expect this to happen, and so when it does, it is allthe more shocking.The film ends with the young man running the blade of the razor against the neck,essentially slitting his throat. This happens at a point where both the music and theviolence on screen reaches its crescendo. Scorsese could have used the music for anumber of reasons. A) as a framing device - the film starts and ends exactly when thesong does, and so the events seen in the film, the way they are edited, and the way theyare presented, are almost constructed using the song as a guideline. B) as a way ofestablishing black humour. The nature of the song, verses the nature of what is seen onscreen, complement each other in such a way that it, rather than making us enjoy thepiece, it makes us recoil in disgust, and the song could have been used by Scorsese tomake the impact of the piece all the more shocking.