Alfred Hitchcock

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Magic Hate Ball
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#151 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Mon Mar 02, 2009 3:41 am

psufootball07 wrote:Any suggestions on any of these Hitchcock films and whether or not they are worth a view:

Family Plot
Topaz
Torn Curtain
I haven't seen the others, but Family Plot is cute if utterly forgettable (it plays more like an ABC Mystery Of The Week than anything else), Topaz is about two hours and twenty minutes of dreck with a few sprinkles of inspiration, and Torn Curtain is heavily flawed but fairly entertaining.

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psufootball07
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#152 Post by psufootball07 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:56 pm

Hmmm, yeah I guess I will give The Paradine Case and Under Capricorn a shot, as well as possibly Torn Curtain and Family Plot. However having just seen it, I Confess is just one of the Hitchcock films that doesnt nearly get the recognition it deserves.

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domino harvey
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#153 Post by domino harvey » Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:08 pm

Reverse that, Torn Curtain and Family Plot are both far superior to the Paradine Case and Under Capricorn

karmajuice
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#154 Post by karmajuice » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:18 pm

There is one scene in Torn Curtain that outweighs all of the merits of the other three combined. Definitely watch Torn Curtain for that -- even if the rest is mostly forgettable.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#155 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Tue May 12, 2009 8:56 am

Nice work. What made me chuckle was the automatically generated ads.

Hitchcock’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith – Why It’s Awesome by Katie Richardson
The Dramatic Carole Lombard
R KELLY ISSUES STATEMENT REGARDING FORMER PUBLICIST’S ALLEGATIONS….

Vic Pardo
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#156 Post by Vic Pardo » Wed May 13, 2009 10:39 am

TOPAZ has some great scenes in it and an interesting Euro-cast, but it's not a good movie. But it should be seen. Flawed Hitchcock is still better than most current fare. And TOPAZ's great scenes are esp. memorable, including the opening and the scene at Harlem's Theresa Hotel, where Castro stays.

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Antoine Doinel
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#157 Post by Antoine Doinel » Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:26 pm

First it was Charlie Chaplin, now a new photoshoot has Jessica Alba in recreated stills from Hitchcock films.

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colinr0380
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#158 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:38 am

I suppose that I should add in my favourite Hitchcock films but they'll really just be the obvious ones in the top tier: Rear Window, Psycho, Shadow Of A Doubt, The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, The Lodger, Blackmail and so on (I'd also add Vertigo which I'm not particularly fond of but which on dispassionate calculation obviously belongs in the top tier too).

While the classics are endlessly fascinating films and as close to 'perfect' as they come, I find myself constantly being drawn to my list of 'second tier' Hitchcocks - the films with dated special effects; with slightly awkward, forced or over-emphatic moments; with 'difficult' performances, and so on. I find however that the flaws are part of what adds to the distinctive charm of the films and gives them a strange power, in addition to revealing by comparison the techniques in the 'perfect' films in rougher, or more difficult to handle forms. The films I'd place in this 'second tier' of flawed diamonds that either anticipate or spin off from a perfect core of an idea that is fully realised in the top tier would be Rebecca, The Birds, Frenzy, Marnie and the film I want to talk about more today, Rope.

Rope (1948)

Rope would have to place near the top of this second group for me. I find it endlessly rewatchable and entertaining. Rope has some obvious flaws: the performances can be too obvious in their foreshadowing and ironic implications and the long take concept can often distract attention from the story and uncharitably may be described as a gimmick used to jazz up an overly theatrical piece.

Incidentally, I don't really understand why such comments are often used in a negative manner - I love films that emphasise a claustrophobic, stagebound set and in the case of Rope the setting seems more than appropriate - a nightmarish pre-Exterminating Angel dinner party where the guests are trapped by niceties into unwittingly participating in a sick joke, but eventually in the inability to leave for their summer home to dump the body the single set shifts into becoming a prison for the two murderous boys instead.

Rope, with its deep focus photography, frames within frames and overlapping soundtracks of conversations that are faded in and out to provide emphasis (or an ironic, flippant or heartbreaking off-hand comment that counterpoints with the main conversation) is fascinating in itself, but also anticipates Rear Window's further developments of these ideas, in which both sounds and images compete for the main character's (and viewers!) attention.

I especially liked the way that important action and dialogue is staged. At certain times the camera swoops in to emphasise a detail that goes unseen at the time so that the audience notices it first (the snapped champagne glass; the rope hanging out of the chest; the hiding of the cigarette case) and then pulls back into the main action until the characters themselves bring this element fully into the flow of the story by noticing such things themselves or making a comment on it. It makes the audience omniscient and also belies the stage origins in an interesting way by introducing extreme close ups into a stagey piece.

It mixes the best elements of film (the chance to see a characters reactions, or significant objects in close up) with the best elements of theatre (the idea that you can pick out elements of the action that you want to focus on while the 'main' emphasis is elsewhere, should you wish to. Probably best shown in the way that the camera pans away from the circuitous interrogation of Brandon and Phillip about where David could be to the chest being cleared away by the maid, making several trips back and forth until the secret is almost revealed to the assembled company.) Of course there are some detrimental aspects of both included too! (the performances are a little too broad at times which would play great to the stalls but are a little too 'in your face' here; and the work is constantly in danger of being overwhelmed by the technique and all the little touches that over emphasise most points, as if afraid that the audience will not catch them unless explicitly pointed out).

I also liked the way that more and more of the action involves off screen space as the film goes on (culminating in that fantastically chilling and almost ghostly sequence of Rupert's voiceover describing how he thinks the murder happened over pans over the empty room), and that the camera often pulls away from the characters either in shame at watching touchingly naive and ignorant characters being manipulated or in disgust at Brandon and Phillip's actions.

It is interesting that after the main titles the film begins with the close up of the strangling, entering to discover the cause of the commotion just at the moment that a character makes their exit (contrasting with the 'no escape' strangling in Frenzy, which is a similar scene played from bantering beginning until brutal aftermath). Even though we miss most of the 'best part' just catching the end of that act makes the whole deed that much more shocking and would seem to be the action that paralyses the camera into its long take pattern - as if it, as well as the viewer, cannot look away due to their disbelief at the initial action and the unity of time constantly reminds us throughout of the presence of the murder just minutes earlier. There is no jump to later on to safely isolate the innocent characters from the killers in their own scene of the story (perhaps making this even more radical than Rear Window, where all the characters are discreetly housed in their different apartments, at least until everything collapses together at the end and people become aware of their neighbours, and their neighbours aware of them, for the first time), and this just emphasises the guests having a party at a crime scene - it doesn't look like a crime scene, everything is neat and tidy, even if traces may remain but the murder opening the film focuses the audiences attention almost entirely onto the hidden body, as much as it keeps hold of Phillip's attention, wishing that opening moment was just a trick of imagination but knowing that it really did occur. The camera, like Phillip's gaze, continually returns to the chest as if to confirm the presence or absence of the body, but apart from the tell-tale rope at the beginning, there are no clues left until it is opened and reveals David (or not as the case may be - I often wonder what would have happened if in that short time between the maid leaving and Rupert coming back Brandon and Phillip had actually moved the body somewhere else in the apartment. With the chest then being revealed to be empty, would Rupert still have continued with his suspicions. It is unlucky for our duo that they do not think to do this in time, just to be safe in the short term. However seeing them move the body later on in the film would have violated that unstated principle I speak of above, where once David goes into the chest, we never see any trace of him again and he remains in a limbo state until the final confrontation, and even then the audience does not see the body, only Rupert's reaction to it).

I feel that the common reaction to the long takes of the film as just a gimmick being played around with is slightly misguided. Sure it is a novelty as much as Lady In The Lake ran with its first-person conceit to the bitter end, but I feel Hitchcock shows just how important editing is in this film by the way he moves the camera in for close ups or different set ups and we get shown the transition moments rather than having them edited out. Hitch also shows that he is not so wedded to the long take idea that he will not use editing at particularly significant moments. In fact he shows that when an edit does come after a long sustained shot, it adds an extra power and momentum to the new shot in the sequence.

As well as Rear Window, I found myself wondering whether the film also anticipates The Birds in the relationship between Kenneth and Janet. The way that all the partygoers leave in a bunch, nervous and fearful (though for someone else rather than their own safety), and especially in that tentative reconnection between Janet and Kenneth leaving together to offer each other comfort, I couldn't help but think of the final scene with Melanie and the Brenners coming together in the face of a traumatic event.

I also see Rupert's final speech as a kind of precursor to Psycho's psychiatrist. His comments about bringing Brandon and Phillip (but in particular Brandon) to justice play as someone righteously angry. Yet Rupert is flawed in having espoused views on murder earlier on that could have been seen as having an influence on their actions. In that sense there is an undercurrent of backpeddaling from his charges, suggesting that his comments were more intellectual and humourous posturing to see what kind of reaction he can elicit from people (i.e. Rupert is the pre-Internet version of a troll?)

It stuck me as a similar kind of plotting to The Most Dangerous Game's big game hunter hero eventually becoming the prey. And similarly neither 'hero' really recognises the implications for their own stance in others heinous acts - they are allowed to place blame squarely onto crazed evil doers.

The almost gleeful way that Rupert shouts that society is going to kill them to punish them for their own killing seems to neatly sidestep that society is in a constantly negotiated set of values. As Nazi Germany showed, is something being condoned by a society really the true marker of whether an action is a correct, or 'moral' one?

So in the end Rupert gets his ideas explored to their fullest extent, and gets to retain the moral high ground and societal status. Much as an audience can take pleasure in a murder mystery without actually having to kill someone themselves to do so!

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Tom Amolad
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#159 Post by Tom Amolad » Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:12 am

Antoine Doinel wrote:First it was Charlie Chaplin, now a new photoshoot has Jessica Alba in recreated stills from Hitchcock films.
Link's dead, but it can't be hotter than Slavoj, can it?

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colinr0380
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#160 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Aug 30, 2009 11:04 am

Saboteur (1942)

"One ultimately turns into the thing one despises most"

I’m not certain that I would agree with the view that I have occasionally heard made about this film that by not explicitly mentioning Nazism as the terrorist group’s reasons for carrying out their acts of sabotage that it weakens the film. It might mean that the film does not work as effectively as short term propaganda, but I wonder if Nazism was downplayed to reach for a kind of universality. After all that was just the reasoning for those particular times but the nefarious organisation with powerful and respected backers behind the scenes manipulating events for their own gain could be applied to anything from other political regimes to organised crime (plus Nazism would likely have been at the forefront of contemporary audience's minds anyway and would not need to have been made explicit in order to have had that connection made).

Leaving the concept more universally applicable than ideologically specific also lets the theme become more about the fundamental decency and trust of the ‘common man’ set against the upper and middle classes. Either they are active plotters and schemers in the direction that their country takes or they are aspiring to reach that position themselves by allying themselves with the powerful. The idea of a façade of respectability concealing much darker activities could be applied to any period (and the charity fundraiser adds a particularly ironic touch – helping people in public while hurting their interests in private, or even thinking that you are doing the right things in both spheres. I was left thinking of American fundraising for the IRA with that sequence).

It also gets into the idea of things that should be working in our favour turning against us, perhaps most obviously shown in the opening sequence of the fire extinguisher being full instead of flammable fuel and only adding to the disaster. Here there is a sense that kindness of the public as individual is being manipulated and twisted as a whole on the subject of Barry Kane’s guilt. So to make a film that was intended with an overt propagandistic purpose either to work as a piece of isolationism or alternately as an entreaty to go to war would have undermined the theme of the film.

However the ‘fundamental decency of the ordinary person’ is often shown to be rather hotheaded and subject to personal infighting (i.e. the Siamese Twins taking polarised opinions on Barry’s guilt, seemingly just because the other feels differently), or interests (the truck driver’s wish to see some fun and excitement leading him to side with the criminal on the run), naïvety (the blind uncle so saintly certain that Barry is an innocent man) or fairly easy to manipulate through the mass media (Pat herself, taking news reports on the Barry’s guilt at face value and with a patriotism that means that if someone in authority says that turning Barry in is the right thing to do for her country, that means it truly must be the correct action. In a fun moment she only truly allies herself with Barry when the powerful and respected Tobin reveals his fundamental decency and innocence! So the bad guy, purely due to his powerful position, gives her the blessing to run to the innocent hero knowing that what he says about Barry must be true!)

The film seems in the same vein as the previous ‘man and woman go on the run together and try to solve a mystery’ film The 39 Steps, though Saboteur is far more overtly comic that the earlier film. However, as in the reasons behind Pat’s final alliance with Barry, it is an extremely ironic comedy. Some of the moments are laugh out loud funny, such as the maid bringing out a gun in alliance with Tobin her employer, or in a later sequence the unruffled manservant coshing our hero into unconsciousness and then getting back to more butler-ish duties without losing any of his cool! Or the moments where Mrs Sutton is told about the decent policeman unwilling to be paid off by Tobin being killed and instead being more concerned for the loss of Tobin’s “charming house”! Or the "too bad we'll have to lose a good camera" line!

And the wonderful dance sequence where our couple affirm their love for each other has its sickly sweet nature undercut by occurring as the couple desperately try to find a way out of the ballroom, ending with Barry’s “This moment belongs to me. No matter what happens, they’ll never take it away from us” speech to Pat being immediately undercut by being whisked away by another dancer who cuts in on them! (With this dancer being suggested, in Barry’s relatively justified paranoid state, to be working for Tobin and having kidnapped Pat, but eventually it seems he was just an opportunistic lothario without any more complex agenda than that!)

There is also the sequence in the Radio City Music Hall where the real shootout mingles with the over-the-top amount of gunshots and squealing of the girl in the film itself, but this is also given a dark edge with the death of an innocent man in the crossfire.

And the irony that the real criminals are cultured and urbane all with children while our decent but desperate hero (whose decency in returning a $100 bill and revealing that he noticed Fry’s name from the envelope is what kickstarted the whole chain of events and caused the death of his friend) is forced into pretending he is a part of the evil organisation at one point, or has to gag his unwilling girlfriend to prevent her from calling the police. He even has to use a young child as a human shield at one point!

So he’s driven to dark surface acts to keep the inner decency alive, while the outer respectability of Tobin and Mrs Sutton etc conceals an inner corruption. Only the blind man in his cottage sanctuary is able to see through all the obfuscations and know him for an innocent man (a homage to Frankenstein?)

I feel that the ‘on the run’ sequences are the more clunky ones in the film, as our characters are given overly didactic moral lessons by the characters they meet. However they are also mostly saved by the ironic black humour that runs through them, such as the discussion of the life-saving properties of fire extinguishers by the truck driver; the syrupy speechifying of the blind uncle to Barry and Pat (and Barry’s far too smug reactions to being described as innocent as Pat looks on aghast!) being undercut by Pat proving to have not been taken in by this talk at all! Pat’s reactions seem to suggest that the younger generation are more cynical to over charitable views of people but at the same time are more prone to being taken in by simplistic propaganda statements and surface displays of civility and posturing as being ‘real’ ones, as perhaps best shown by her various ironically displayed billboards commenting on the action and shilling products at the same time!

The travelling carnival for me is perhaps a scene too far, partly due to it being the third consecutive ‘moral lesson in the common man’ for our characters as the characters hold an impromptu vote to show real democracy in action.

The aspect I like most about these ‘odd couple on the run’ films is that the hero and heroine, after some bickering, become a true couple in the sense that they work both independently and as a pair towards a common goal. Neither is extraneous to the action – one or the other of the pair may be waylaid at various points and in need of the help of the other, rather than just one of the pair becoming the damsel in distress.

I also like that Saboteur is a film full of failed escape attempts by our heroes, and that ‘luck’ (though bringing with it the associated guilt) is the reason for Barry not being killed in the opening fire rather than his friend. However circumstance and fate then twist in their favour and they have a few lucky breaks that help them to foil the plotter’s short term plans (and to come back into contact with Frank Fry after a long absence). In the end it is fate as much as planning that buffets all the characters, good or bad (I also like the way that the bomb exploding at the wrong time in the ship yard may reference Sabotage, although in this case the mistimed explosion becomes a lucky escape compared to what could have happened rather than a terrible tragedy that fulfils no ones goals.)

Another fun moment comes near the end where Pat tails Fry to the Statue of Liberty (with the breezed over and slightly unbelieveable comment from the cops about how it is a brilliant idea to isolate yourself on an island after carrying out a terrorist attack! However in a sense the cop is right and it is brilliant – for the structure and themes of the film however, more than for verisimilitude) and he shows that he is regaining some confidence and cockiness by coming on to her, with her reciprocating in order to buy time. Marian Keane would have a field day with the phallic way Pat toys with the rolled up tour guide! Though it does also turn her into a kind of living representation of the Statue of Liberty, so after many of the symbols of power being out of the ‘common man’s’ hands for most of the film by the cynical portrait of America’s ruling classes, finally it returns to the Statue as a true everyman symbol and helps to affirm the American ideal of everyone being deserving of a fair chance, unless they try to take such fair chances from others.

It is especially interesting that although the whole middle section details the activities of a wider organisation, the film kicks off and boils down to a face to face fight between wronged man and single ‘saboteur’. It adds a great personal significance to the final fight between Barry and Frank Fry (especially as the film bookends, or rather circles back, to Barry reliving the horror of watching someone die in front of his eyes while he is unable to save them, even if Fry is the bad guy who might deserve his fate). I love the absolute silence punctuated by terse commands by the characters as they hang from the torch, all being quiet until the final screaming plunge to death. While very inspirational of Vertigo there also seems to be a wonderful parallel here with the end of North By Northwest, as Barry is pulled up from perilously hanging from a national monument into the arms of his girl, while of course in the later film Grant pulls Eva Marie Saint into his arms, and his bed!

However ending with this cathartic moment for our heroes slighty obscures the way that the greater criminal masterminds are able to escape without punishment or even loss of status. The small time members of the organisation are the ones who pay the greatest price while those who are respectable and important enough continue on. It is a fascinating twofold end which completely fulfils the expectations of narrative entertainment but leaves the greater threat to liberty as an ongoing battle.

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colinr0380
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#161 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Sep 20, 2009 9:33 am

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

"Everyone was sweet and pretty then, Charlie. The whole world. A wonderful world. Not like the world today. Not like the world now. It was great to be young then."

On watching this film again for the first time in years (yes, I have finally picked up that 14 disc Universal boxset to replace a good chunk of my videos! The menus are shockingly poor though with an awful version of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents tune over the top of them), I came up with a wacky theory that I'll throw onto the forum and see what people feel about it: that Shadow is a negative image version of Psycho.

Instead of the dark house and motel in Psycho being a festering site of murder and madness, in Shadow of a Doubt it is everything outside of the Newton's home that is falling into corruption and the family home is the last standout against the surrounding darkness. Both films also share the need for the delusion of 'normality' to keep everyday life going, when they are starting to lose touch with life as it is lived elsewhere in the country. This is probably best shown by the opening of the film where Uncle Charlie (in an amusing cowardly version of The Killers, though a few years before the Siodmak film, and sort of a precursor to Widmark's opening flight through the streets in Night and the City), gets chased through litter and rubble strewn streets of a city before running to the suburbs to hide out with his relatives. He's been corrupted by too much time in the city and knows it, which is probably why he finds such affinity with the younger Charlie, since they are alike in their wish to escape but she is still a wide-eyed innocent of the outside world. It therefore makes it ironic that it is Uncle Charlie who opens her eyes to the darker world beyond.

Uncle Charlie is presented as the primary infiltrator of corruption and dark ideas into the home but in a way, similarly to Psycho's dessicated mother, the rot is also taking place within the house itself - Charlie's wish for something to come along and shake the complacent family up at the beginning of the film; Ann's interest in knowledge and reading and comments on telephones suggesting that she is going to keep up with the times too; Joseph and Herbie's discussions of how to commit hypothetical murders act as the acceptable form of corruption, though jokey discussion about embezzlement is frowned upon while on duty at the bank by Joseph. Only Emmy, the mother, remains "pure" in her simple pleasures and she is the one who seems to become more insanely deluded as events progress, with the conflict between the two Charlies escalating while trying not to let her become aware of Uncle Charlie's corruption because, like an invalid, the shock could kill her by shattering her world.

But I do wonder about Emmy and whether she actually is aware of the goings on but because the whole weight of running the family home is dependent on her she cannot say anything herself, which leads to that incredible leaving party for Uncle Charlie where she seems to have a nervous breakdown while still keeping up appearances with a rictus grin of happiness on her face all the while. If she were to acknowledge the surrounding darkness then everything would collapse - the rest of the family are given the leeway to give in to their suspicions and casual murder discussions, she cannot. She seems aware at that point that this is a final parting from Uncle Charlie, the illusion will soon be shattered and this may be the last idyllic holiday together they will have. Luckily the best thing for her happens and with Uncle Charlie's 'accidental' death his good reputation is left secure. He can take his place as one of those people in the past who lived better, more moral lives than modern people do.

Similarly to Psycho the central house becomes isolated somewhat from the outside world, or stays still and is left behind while the world moves on without them and coarsens in attitudes at the same time as advancing. (At first the entire town looks like a bastion of perfect Americana, at least until the wonderful sequence of Uncle revealing to Niece the dark side she's never noticed before, including the heartbreakingly minor character of the schoolmate who has become a beaten down waitress at a seedy bar - an underlining of the family home and Charlie's coddled life being the greater delusion) The family then becomes a prime target for ego inflating surveys into 'representative American families' for their aggressive normality - the police know that this is a facade and play into it to gain access to the house while in a way Uncle Charlie is still in thrall to an imagined 'averageness' and wants to return to a time before corruption and this is the cause of his downfall.

There is the feeling from the film that childhood defines people's behaviour as adults. Uncle Charlie's accident when he fractured his skull (with the implication that this is the beginning of his wild and erratic behaviour) is the major example, but all through the film there is the feeling that the characters have already been set into roles that have been set into stone and that they cannot deviate from. Then this also leads into the theme of real and assumed roles - the pretence of being a particular, acceptable, person concealing another, true identity that others may find shocking. This is most obviously shown in the hero worship of the younger Charlie towards her Uncle (perhaps created only through her imagination - has she met her Uncle before then, or is it all created through her mother's stories of him?) turning into a fight to the death. And then this leads to a normal event taking on darker implications due to heightened sensitivity to casual talk of murder, for example, which prepares for a dark event of a death being given a whitewash of accidental respectability (both the train accident but also the plan to kill the younger Charlie and make it look like an accident).

I like the way that the welcoming front of the house becomes barred to young Charlie as her Uncle's superior status in the family and her own suspicions make it, and normality, out of bounds for her. She has to become furtive in her entrances and exits. It's another respectable facade that has been taken over by the bad guy, showing again just how delusional and manufactured any striving towards a completely perfect, or completely corrupt world is - it's all shades of grey. Even with Uncle Charlie gone the suburban facade has been thoroughly shattered for his namesake - just as her Uncle has been sacrificed to keep his name, and the name of his family intact (and brought the town together again), so Charlie has had a rite of passage and left her childhood behind, but has a new male figure in her life with the introduction of her cop boyfriend. She's moved beyond naivety and insularity of family life and into taking a part in society as a whole.

broadwayrock
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#162 Post by broadwayrock » Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:13 am

A rare 1973 Hour long interview with Alfred Hitchcock has recently been uploaded to youtube

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Murdoch
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#163 Post by Murdoch » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:33 pm

This may have been posted before, but I found this hilarious album cover and, since it's Halloween, had to share it:

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colinr0380
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#164 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:15 am

Following on from my comments on Rope earlier, especially my enthusiasm over the empty shot with camera movements as Rupert hypothesises on how the potential murder occured, I had not remembered until watching it again last night but the earlier Rebecca has a very similar sequence of Maxim and "I" in the beach house in which he confesses the events leading to Rebecca's death with pans across the empty space in which the fateful (and possibly inaccurate) event's occured.

Also after reading David Bordwell's recent blog post on the use of bedposts in film, there was a fun moment when Mrs Danvers is leading "I" on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom when just as she pulls out Rebecca's negligee and as the camera moves around the edge of the bed before she puts he hand inside the garment and utters the classic sexually charged line about how thin the material is and invites "I" to touch it, a wonderfully (and strangely given the non-male presence in the scene!) phallic bedpost comes between the pair. It sort of splits "I" off from Mrs Danvers (and the bed) and her recollections of Rebecca as well as arriving at the climax of this sequence of personifying/reanimating Rebecca through her possessions, so the bedpost in its drifting movement across the frame for a moment almost seems like is moving by itself after this invocation.

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Cash Flagg
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#165 Post by Cash Flagg » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:18 am

So, who else wants this for Christmas?

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colinr0380
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#166 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:03 am

"Hello! *waves* I'm modelling our range of life-sized bird fashion broches...the latest must have accessory for the busy gal about town! Comes with attachments to be worn on skirt, shoulder pad or for the truly daring, in the hair! For the 'well dressed but harrassed look' that tells everyone that I'm busy, I'm harried, but I still look good!"

zombeaner
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#167 Post by zombeaner » Tue Dec 22, 2009 9:11 am

I got one for my birthday this year, it was my second best gift (after the new and first HDTV I've ever had)

Jonathan S
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#168 Post by Jonathan S » Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:26 am

No coffin accessory for the doll? (Hitch presented his Tippi doll that way to her daughter.)

HarryLong
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#169 Post by HarryLong » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:29 pm

I'm holding out for the Momma Bates doll ... with rocking chair & butcher knife.

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colinr0380
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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#170 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Mar 28, 2010 1:12 pm

Marnie (1964)

"I'll advise Mr Rutland that you are available"

I grow to like Marnie more and more each time that I see it. I'm beginning to think of the film as a 'megamix' film, recasting a lot of tropes from Hitchcock's Hollywood period. For example the documentary on the DVD mentions links with To Catch A Thief - not just the original idea to cast Grace Kelly in the role, but also that Connery's character of Mark Rutland in Marnie has a sexual obsession with a thief similar to that which Kelly has for Cary Grant. I think there is an element of this but there are also huge influences from Vertigo (the literalised visions of neuroses; the remaking of a woman; the lustful but cold-shouldered female friend), The Birds (the relationship between Melanie Daniels and Annie Hayworth seems similar, though less overtly antagonistic as that between Marnie and Lil. The same with the relationship Melanie has with Cathy and that between Marnie and Jessie) and Rebecca (in the way that Marnie seems out of place in her new upper class milleu that she has married into. Also the cold and analytical relationship between her and Mark seems similar to that between Maxim and "I". Mark could also be seen to have killed off what he married Marnie for by the end of the film, only instead of "I"'s unsure girlish hesitancy replaced by the confident full partner in a relationship in Rebecca, Marnie's mysteriousness and wildness is fully explored and tamed by the end credits. Perhaps the most telling difference from Rebecca is that while Maxim keeps a house full of his first wife's memorabilia, the only evidence that Mark has of his first dead wife is a case of collectibles in his office, which are amusingly immediately destroyed by an 'act of Hitchcock' (or God, whichever you prefer) almost as soon as Marnie enters the office for the first time!)

Of course Psycho is another big element - such as in the mother's influence over the character's psychological state (Lil even ironically appropriates the "girl's best friend is her mother" line to comment on Marnie at one point!), or the petty thief being co-opted into another psychologically damaged person's world (though Mark in Marnie generally bears more of a relationship to the wealthy cowboy in Psycho than to Norman Bates!). But the big influence from Psycho would seem to be the psychiatrist's explanation of Norman at the end of the film - Marnie takes the vaguely unsatisfying ending, with all of its implied condescension and superiorities and makes an entire film about it.

The film is about the stripping out of Marnie's neuroses, apparently performed by Mark just for her benefit. But in no sense could this be considered an altruistic act - in fact this emphasis on Marnie's damaged psyche suggests an element of contempt for her by Mark, especially when his own actions go unchallenged by anyone else and the film as a whole.

It becomes about Mark 'breaking in' Marnie against her wishes, as one would break a wild animal (the persistent animal imagery is quite interesting, though at times a little too on the nose). There are again links back to The Birds here in the domestication of animals and of what could happen if they rebelled against human society, or if you let a domesticated animal run loose again after having taken moral responsibility for their actions (the "Back in your gilded cage, Melanie Daniels" line resonates in Marnie too, as Mark forces Marnie into a marriage pact to avoid jail, putting her into a privileged world but one which is just as much of a prison as if she had actually been arrested). In paying off the money that Marnie has stolen from Strutt (and then potentially paying the rest of the places where she has worked and then robbed from), along with the sense of the rich being able to buy themselves out of any sticky situation they get into, Mark introduces the idea of prostitution long before it gets raised in the final 'explanatory' flashback. Paying the money off in a way sullies Marnie still further as it illustrates the difference between an act performed for 'fun' or for compulsive reasons versus acts that may be morally wrong but which can be paid off, or which need to be performed in order to have enough money to live, for example Marnie's mother's prostitution. The scene following Marnie's robbery of Strutt shows her buying an ostentatious, and useless, fur scarf for her mother (a trophy from the hunt?) and paying for the upkeep of her favourite horse Faurio. So rather than needing the money because she is destitute, she is buying things in a childish manner, or to keep her inner child alive by maintaining her relationship with her mother and her 'toy' in her horse - expressions of a stunted childhood as illustrated by her (again, a little too on the nose) antagonistic relationship with the child her mother babysits, Jessie.

Mark either unknowingly (or knowingly but without a care for the cruel significance) morally dirties Marnie at the same time that he clears her name. He has a very cut off emotional side it seems, treating everything like a business transaction (again like Maxim de Winter). How much money will it cost to 'fix' things? He is driven, and has his authority to the viewer of the film undermined by, his own compulsions that he does not seem to want to acknowledge, if he is aware of them at all. Again this suggests his deep contempt for Marnie - that she needs to be solved and broken in a way that he himself does not.

And so to the honeymoon rape scene - and it is a rape, since Marnie is never a willing partner to it. Instead of being, say, 'raped into independence', it seems that this scene is about Mark raping Marnie into becoming a productive, and not destructive, member of society again, taking on the wifely duties of being available to her husband's needs whenever he wants them fulfilled. Even without the final explanation and 'mitigation' for the reason for Marnie's frigidity, and to give a horrible resonance to Mark's actions that it did not originally have, it is still an incredibly cruel and heartless way to make her face her demons. Again it raises ideas of prostitution - Mark has bought a wife, and she has to fulfil all of the obligations that come with that role.

In a way that brings me to why Mark would choose to become obessessed with Marnie, especially when it is such hard work to break her in and Lil is right there offering herself to Mark on a plate. It is about the hunt and capture, the thrill of the chase. Again there are links with The Birds here, and the available Annie Hayworth, while Melanie herself becomes the hunter and the rare bird at the same time - and then becomes perfect family material once she is passified at the end. The wild antics are just for show when what she really wants is stability - Marnie is the opposite in that Marnie herself wants the wildness, while Mark wants (or at least thinks he wants) her to become stabled. The superficially confident woman is broken down to be rebuilt in the way that her boyfriend wishes.

The hunt scene seems devastatingly pivotal in this transition, as Marnie first sees the things she previously enjoyed - the laws of the natural world and horse riding - become transfigured into a codified ritualistic, and highly mannered, act. The riders getting excited about the act of killing purely for pleasure prepare Marnie for bolting even before she becomes aware of the red of the rider's tunic. This drives her into spurring Faurio into a cross country gallop pursued by Lil (with Marnie symbolically becoming the prey now), until the accident when Faurio breaks his legs. I wonder if Marnie planned to cause the accident subconsciously so as to force her to destroy this significant element of her past life that she had placed such emotion onto? She pushes aside all requests for someone to shoot the animal for her (there never seems to be any shortage of volunteers!), needing to perform this action herself and kill off her past self.

Then the stage is set for the final confrontation, forced by Mark naturally, with her mother and explanation for her neuroses and sexual hang-ups. Once that is done, and mother abandoned, Mark has the perfect wife to mould to his wishes - or, after all her own attempts to escape earlier, will the tables now be turned and he will divorce her now that he has 'figured her out' and her mystery and interest for him have gone?

It is a really fascinating film, sometimes a little too obvious and mechanical in its allusions, but it definitely should be considered one of Hitchcock's major works.

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#171 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:12 pm

Torn Curtain (1966)

"It's all right. I'm decent"

Torn Curtain is generally fine but I'm left a little cold by the much celebrated drawn out murder sequence - I can understand the idea of having to kill the guy about to report them as spies as quietly as possible to avoid alerting the taxi driver outside, so the gun is out of the question, but why kill him using three different methods except just to show off? After all, if you had just used a spade to kneecap the person, why not simply continue to hit him with the spade instead of turning on the gas cooker, dragging him across the floor and killing him that way?

A couple of really excellent sequences, particularly the footstep chase through the German museum and the bus trip to Berlin, feature and I really like the use of moments of complete musical silence, especially in the previously mentioned farmhouse murder scene. It might have been an unavoidable consequence of firing Bernard Herrmann at an early stage but the elements of his unused score on the DVD are, while Herrmann-esque, not particularly essential. The John Addison score used instead is serviceable enough (except for the ridiculous moment of over-highlighting the Hitchcock cameo, while the Herrmann scored take on the scene understates it).

Gosh, and the title sequence is just awful. The original concept of equations on a blackboard for the credits sounds far better than what they eventually came up with - vague distended faces (including bizarrely an emphasis on a very minor character in police biker gear who machine guns the people running away from the bus) and some red flames which I'm glad the documentary on the disc pointed out was supposed to be from a rocket!

It feels very much like a transitional film (the My Blueberry Nights to Marnie's 2046!), but it all just about holds together here. The script isn't great and is rather simply structured to have the characters tell the audience about where they are going, what they are going to do when they get there, and where they have to go after that. Then the film proceeds to illustrate the characters doing just that, with as much emphasis as possible placed on hesitations and drawing out the sequences as long as possible. Only during the farm murder does something happen to stall the proceedings which is also actually unexpected and suspenseful for the characters, and that may be the reason why this sequence is particularly memorable. It also has long lasting consequences for the characters, which no other sequence in the film has, not even the one involving the bus ride or of the German lady looking for an American sponsor to defect to the West. But in the end even the farmhouse murder is another example of a digression to complicate an extremely linear plot as much as possible without having any real impact on the plot's progression. After the first conventional half hour or so almost every scene, beyond the basic procedural information at its beginning and end, could stand alone from every other - no information would be lost for the viewer since no information in these digressions, apart from the murder, has a consequential affect on any other scene in the film.

Eventually, once Newman has gotten his formula and is trying to escape Germany with Andrews, the whole film breaks down into a series of stand alone digressive sequences holding them back from their goal for a couple of minutes at a time. The scene with Countess Kuchinska, with its didactic point making about the desperation of the East Germans to escape to the West, is perhaps the most egregious example, but it is a symptom of a problem that is afflicting the entire film as a whole, not just in that one particular scene.

I was also left thinking that, had I been making the film, I would have added a final scene that I think would have improved my enjoyment no end. I would have had Andrews reveal that she was a British spy and instead of Newman going off to Washington with his newly pilfered rocket equations, how about defecting to Britain instead? Not only would it explain why Andrews, ostensibly an American, speaks in an English accent throughout the film, but it would add an extra irony to further viewings of the film as you could watch her feigning naive ignorance while keeping Newman under close and constant observation, and letting everyone else get their hands dirty in the double crossing murderous amateur spy antics only to swoop in at the end and claim the spoils for herself!

Off to watch Topaz for the first time in a decade next. To quote another implausibly British accented character from early on in Torn Curtain: "Pray for me!"

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#172 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:32 pm

All our thoughts are with you as you subject yourself to Topaz. I thought it couldn't possibly be as bad as I remembered, so I watched it a year or two back. Yikes! I still haven't plucked up the courage to revisit Family Plot.

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#173 Post by domino harvey » Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:14 pm

Since the only salvageable aspect of Topaz is Roscoe Lee Browne, ready your copy of the Comedians to resist praising him for a bad film when you could praise him for a decent one. Topaz necessitates a scorched earth critical approach so as to not mistakenly schedule a repeat viewing in the future

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#174 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:34 am

Topaz (1969)

"...and that's the end of Topaz"

While there is no way to see Topaz as anything but deeply flawed, it is not hideously bad - just overlong, static, episodic, repetitive and stuttering with a TV movie filming style. I was reminded of Narshty's comments on the opening of The Long Good Friday being a really bad and confusing way to start a film. While I do not think Topaz has quite as staggeringly bad a beginning as Long Good Friday, Friday's awful opening lasts five or six minutes before shifting into excellence. Topaz's flawed and mediocre beginning takes up at least the first forty minutes of the film before becoming just fairly good.

There is some bizarrely awful stuff in these opening scenes - the mannequin doll heads for instance, which I never knew that people defecting to America had made for them in order to show what they would look like with a new identity. The overly mannered use of silence, or of preventing the audience from hearing what characters are saying, is interesting once but becomes fairly irritating once the gimmick has been trotted out for the fourth time in succession within such a short space of time. Eventually it feels not like a nice joke that Hitchcock is having with his audience (as Leonard Maltin suggests in his documentary defence of the film), but a comment on how poor the material is that Hitch will take any opportunity to not have to use it as dialogue.

Then there is the repetitiveness of certain aspects of behaviour during the early section of the film. For instance the tour guide around the pottery factory has a halting speech early on which repeats key details in a constant drone that it almost becomes a mantra. The interrogation of the Russian defector also includes certain circular conversations. And the way Rico Parra hovers around the space where his missing red briefcase should be for about twice as long as necessary. They're too mannered to be accidental, but too amusingly broad to work meaningfully. The back and forth of Dubois and Uribe in and out of the hotel lobby also has this meandering quality (When I find myself more interested in the backstory of the Cuban soldier yawning (expressing the views of the audience and providing some of the best low key silent acting in the film!) and genially mugging to camera while lounging next to the lift in the lobby of the hotel in the silent Dubois persuasion sequence instead of being engaged by Dubois's interaction with Uribe, there is something seriously wrong with the element of suspense in the film!)

As in Torn Curtain, characters describe situations and what they will do about them, then talk to others about these plans, who then describe what they will do in response. The moments of actual action are few and far between and feel disjointed and out of place when they do occur - such as the Cuban hotel sequence, or the opening defection, or the originally planned final duel (of which I'll have more to say later).

In a way Topaz and Torn Curtain are a good matched pair - the amateur spy versus the professional; defecting to East Germany versus defecting to America; an initially rocky relationship that eventually has the problems explained and strengthens a couple versus stable marriages that reveal themselves to be adulterous. However the biggest difference would seem to be that instead of the couple being able to relax once they have escaped to neutral territory, for Topaz neutral (i.e. non American) countries are all traitorous.

The film is split into three sections of Washington, Cuba and France, which add their own problems to the film, as they feel totally discreet from one another with their own beginning, middle and end, despite Andre as the continuing character thoughout. So instead of one coherent film it also feels like three mid-length films stapled together, with the relief the viewer might have on finding one ending being short lived on realising that there is yet another huge chunk of the film left to play out.

I only think the film begins to come to life near to the end of the Cuba sequence. The relationship between Andre and Juanita is nice, but never less than conventional, and obviously doomed. This is however the section where the few interestingly filmed moments occur - the captured and tortured spy whispering Juanita's name into Parra's ear in extreme close up is followed by the excellent victim's point of view shot of his legs straightening as he stands up on hearing this name. Then there is the final confrontation between Parra and Juanita which features a similarly beautifully abstracted shot of his arm pulling at hers as he grabs her. All this leads to the celebrated billowing out dress pooling under Juanita as she falls to the floor after being shot - I also like the black and white marble squares underneath the pair in this scene too, making their confrontation feel like a chess game in which Juanita's piece has now been removed.

This does finally make the most significant theme of the film clear though - Topaz is about people being casually used and destroyed by those with more power. In the heirarchy of the film Andre and Nordstrom begin as about in equivalent positions, but then Nordstrom begins to work through Andre, firstly using his contacts to carry out missions (Dubois and Juanita) and then towards more explicitly using Andre himself as the agent. That is quite an interesting structure to the film, showing Andre's downward slide to becoming a defector himself (because the French government which he works for in the equivalent position to Nordstrom's US position turns out to be a deceitful sham authority with no real claim to legitimacy. Unlike the US one, of course!)

The realisation forms the transition between the Cuba and French sections and is by far the most interesting section of the film, as events begin to hit Andre personally (even though his Cuban mistress has now been conveniently silenced from the point of view of saving his marriage, his wife then starts making plans to shack up with the French uber-villain of the piece!) and his family, rather than just his work acquaintances, start getting dragged into events.

The French section also introduces Piccoli, which immediately makes things interesting, though it is a shame it takes 100 minutes for the best actor in the film to make his first appearance! Sadly it is much too late to dig the film out of its rut and finally make it exciting, but at least he got me through the final section.

Now to the endings - I think the originally intended duel ending was rightly changed. It is a return to the ridiculous barely coherent mannerisms of the beginning of the film, and too obviously a final 'action sequence' offered to an audience that undermines the resolutely static nature of the film up to that point. The suicide ending is also rather ridiculous if we consider that the theme of the film is that the people in high places don't end up killing themselves, or being killed (and the montage of Andre being tormented by the faces of people who he put in danger, or were killed, throughout the film just doesn't wash with me. It is something important for the audience to be thinking of, but it seems more honest to leave the character oblivious. By tormenting him it underlines the theme of the waste of these character's lives as they have been used as pawns, and lets him off the hook for the trouble he has been party to by letting him have a brief moment of redemptive guilt. I'm not sure a professionally trained spy would be able to let these issues play on their conscience to such an extent).

I far prefer the current ending of Andre, about to leave France himself to defect to America, seeing Jacques climbing up the steps of his own plane to Moscow. It is funny in its ironic casualness and also fits in with the suggestion of France (and Europe in general) being a place that is morally muddied in its allegiances whereas at least the Russian/American conflict is a simple black and white affair. The characters happily depart to accept their new roles in this simpler conflict, leaving chaos and destruction behind them.

Plus I like to think of both Torn Curtain and Topaz as being films defined by characters walking up and down steps of an aircraft. There is something almost ritualistic about this recurring trope, so it is nice to see Topaz end on a flight of such steps!

So I think it is a film with a terrible first half which pulls itself together into something just about worthwhile at the end, though I get the feeling that mine may be a charitable perspective on its quality!

Though I've been critical of the acting in the film I do think that Frederick Stafford and John Forsythe are actually well cast in their roles as extremely callow, almost wooden characters. Leonard Maltin makes an interesting comment in his defence of Topaz that the audience were likely also put off by the film not including any star names as was usual for Hitchcock. I think while he has a point when he says that a star name would literally (they'd go to see their favourite actor) and figuratively (their favourite actor would become their guide to the world) bring an audience into the film, I think a starry cast would have been a detriment to this work. Apart from Piccoli (whose role perhaps needed a star name due to the late introduction and his importance as the 'bad guy' in the final act), you need people who seem like they could be spies and won't be outlandish or act out of place. Callow actors that the audience witnesses events together with, rather than actively sympathises with. However that obviously means that the basic material does not lend itself to a mass audience entertainment, even before the botched and confusing tone of the opening drives people en masse out of the cinemas (or me to sleep the first couple of times I remember trying to watch it years ago!)

I was also left thinking that the recent film The Good Shepherd has a lot of similarities to Topaz. I like the De Niro directed film a lot more, and that finds a way to incorporate star names (or to make star names act like callow figures) into extremely similar material tackling US interventionism while showing a figure whose defining trait is lack of emotional reaction to the events around them and the people they are manipulating, even when it threatens to engulf his family. Interestingly this is another massively long film, at 160 minutes, and didn't seem to get many positive notices either, but I would certainly recommend that film without as many reservations as I would have to make about the Hitchcock. Strangely The Good Shepherd has the bleaker ending of the two films (no possibility of a return to family values, however imperfect, in this one - especially if we compare the placing of the son-in-law in peril in the final French set section of Topaz with the horrifically successful final act assassination of the daughter-in-law in Good Shepherd), though it is potentially less offensive to US/French relations than Topaz!

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Re: Alfred Hitchcock

#175 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:11 am

Frenzy (1972)

"We haven't had a good, juicy series of sex murders since Christie. And they're so good for the tourist trade."

A truly great film, comical and highly disturbing, often at the same time. It is interesting to see Hitchcock summing up the various stages of his career in these final films - after Marnie's focus on psychological/compulsive aspects and Torn Curtain/Topaz's explicit take on politics and spying, Frenzy tackles the serial killer again as well as the return to London and the wrong man theme. Also in the Inspector's wife continually foisting inedible French cuisine onto her unimpressed husband we have another theme from Topaz - thinly veiled antagonism towards the French and rocky marriages!

I like the way that we have a lead character who has a knack for creating entirely the wrong impression amongst people everywhere he goes. While Blaney never becomes a sympathetic figure, there is the sense that all the people around him are caught up in a nosey, hypocritical world based purely on appearances. Rusk is the epitome of this, but everyone else seems to be pretending to be something they are not to conceal ulterior motives, or is caught up in having to perpetuate a hypocritical lie of day to day 'civilisation' (international travellers rather than just daytripping tourists; concerned citizens rather than just nosey busybodies; respectable marriage bureaus rather than just more socially acceptable versions of pimping services; trying to ape French haute cuisine; the secretary of the marriage bureau taking over her recently raped and murdered bosses position as head of the business; and so on). For example the minister making a pompous self-glorifying speech about cleaning the Thames by removing the "industrial effluent" and "waste products of society" dumped into it at the opening gets brutally underlined by the faceless, identity-less victim inconveniently floating ashore nearby. There's a constant puncturing of hypocrisy, or the social niceties, by ironic revelations of the truth of the situation as people are not allowed to retreat into a comfortable, blinkered, safely contained view of the world, which is a false comfort that allows horrific acts to take place.

I also wonder if all of the amateur sleuths we see commenting excitedly on the situation ("He rapes them first doesn't he?!","Well every cloud has a silver lining") could be Hitchcock's ambivalent comment on the audience he had created and fed over the decades - not interested in anything deeper than the salacious thrill of the sex and violence, not looking past the circumstantial but just wanting a good story to chat about. Perhaps the 'reverting to primitive, subhuman conduct' by being governed by the pleasure principle of immediate gratification that is talked about in the early bar scene (similar to The Birds, although Blaney is completely separate from the talk of motivations while Melanie is of course central to the conversation in the diner), is not just that of a sexual psychopath, but of all those people so quick to rush to judgement, and who may become just as dangerous when their 'desires are frustrated'. The film also works as a kind of 'is this what you want?' comment on the salacious fascination with murder and the revulsion of seeing the acts staged in explicit detail - the headline which casually titillates a newspaper reader, or becomes a barroom talking point, is the destruction of the whole world of the person who is actually involved in the real events.

Richard Blaney's already on the outside of this sensation-led world even before he becomes the wrong man - a failure at marriage and at the army (with the pointed reference to his involvement in the Suez Crisis) meaning he doesn't really have any legitimate role in society any more, except to be used as a patsy. That raises the interesting question of when Rusk decides to implicate Blaney in his crimes - does he do it immediately on meeting Blaney and realising he is in such a desperate situation, or does he just turn him in on a spur of the moment plan when Blaney reappears later on? It seems that he has been visiting Brenda Blaney's marriage bureau a while previous to the beginning of the film, so has he been setting up this situation just waiting for the moment Richard got fired to attack her? Or would he have done the same thing if Richard had not been fired from his bar job?

The attack on Brenda in her office really should be considered up there with Psycho's shower murder (and is structured the same way from long build up to flurry of action and final shot of the dead, despoiled victim, her dignity violated by the act as much as anything else) though this one is far more disturbing in the way the rape is drawn out, and the horribly resigned way in which Brenda finally submits to this act, before too late realising she is to be murdered as well.

Compared to Topaz's clumsy, gimmicky feeling tricks with sound, there is a moment as Brena gives in to Rusk when she says what sounds like an obviously looped in line "Please don't tear my dress. I'll take it off if you like", which feels far more devastating than the earlier protestations because of its feeling of detachment. When combined with the almost Breillat-prefiguring use of nudity doubles (as well as close ups of parts of clothed struggling bodies similar to those between Juanita and Rico Parra in their confrontation in Topaz) there is a feeling of detached abstraction that makes the scene more powerful and brutal for its lack of emotionalism. In its superficial lack of compassion for Brenda it focuses the viewer much more on her reaction to the events. Then the strangling itself is filmed like the shower scene in Psycho - all jagged fragments of quick action until the final drawn out moment of the character's death.

The other moment where total silence is used, when Rusk targets Babs, is also masterfully done. I think the different, 'gimmicky' feel of the use of sound in Topaz is perhaps because it feels so obviously done just for the effect of showing the audience an action in a different way, whereas in Frenzy these moments occur when you can feel they could also be expressing the emotions of the character at that point - the resignation of Brenda to what is about to happen, or the disoriented feeling Babs has at that point, having just quit her job and potentially about to go to France with Blaney. (I sort of see Babs as a Nancy Sykes style character - she gets the briefest glimpse of a possible new life away from the grubby world that is all she knows, but then is devastatingly killed by falling into the wrong hands - or getting wooed back into the old world - before she can finally escape) Similarly the fluid pull back from the apartment and into the street doesn't just feel like a cinematic trick for its own sake, but also to show how close all this normal activity is to a murderous one. Even the more mannered playing with sound during the courtroom sentencing of Blaney has a nice pay off when Blaney's angry protestations of innocence cut through all the filmic gimmickry.

I'm ambivalent about the potato truck scene, in which Hitchcock seems to be trying to play Rusk's attempts to get a piece of incriminating evidence back from his latest corpse for cheap laughs (though I like the totally abstracted snippets of murderous activity in his flashback realisation of where his pin must have gone). It seems to turn into a slapstick scene about the corpse getting its own back on the murderer by kicking him in the face at one point, but at the same time it feels quite upsetting to see Rusk pulling the potato sack over his head as if he were pulling a skirt over his head instead to perform a sex act. The scene still has a queasy way of making the viewer root for Rusk to find his evidence and escape, as well as never letting us forget how hideous and violating his actions are. Even when we are asked to laugh about them.

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