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Entries in Alfred Hitchcock (64)


AFI Fest: Hitchcock/Truffaut

Hitchcock/Truffaut has a kind of sacred place among film books. Though it's rarely assigned in class, since its original 1966 publication the collected interviews between Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut have unofficially defined auteurism, the role of the director in Western film, and - most obviously - public opinion about Hitchcock. The immediate result of the publication was to turn public opinion about the Master of Suspense from lowbrow entertainer to underappreciated artist, and to further solidify Francois Truffaut's image as critic-cum-creator, a critical distinction upon which the members of the French New Wave thrived. With a book this prominent in film history, a movie about the book is a lofty goal to say the least. Historian and director Kent Jones uses his movie as an unfocused if zealous love letter to Hitchcock, that ultimately falls short of its goals.

The movie Hitchcock/Truffaut attempts to be many things. On the one hand, it is a historical documentary which explains who Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut were and why their legendary interviews exhaustively analyzing every single one of Hitch's films was so important to film history. In this endeavor, Jones is primarily aided by the original recordings of the interviews. Unedited and untranslated Hitchcock is even more blunt and humorous than the published book let on. He gives a rather graphic explanation of the famous green-lit scene in Vertigo before suddenly cutting the interview short with a clipped "Off the record!" Jones includes the scenes that Hitchcock and Truffaut discuss, which allows the audience to observe critically with the directors' eyes and compare what Hitchcock says he's doing to the end result. It's a testament to Hitchcock's notorious control that there's little difference between what he describes and what appears onscreen.

This leads to Kent Jones's second goal in Hitchcock/Truffaut: a formal analysis of Alfred Hitchcock. As this was the primary motivation of the original book as well, parts of this can feel redundant. Jones brings in various directors to explain what they love in Hitchcock's films - Richard Linklater talks about time, Wes Anderson talks about precision, David Fincher talks about suspense, Scorsese talks about everything. The more directors Jones brings into the conversation, the more wide-reaching he reveals Hitchcock's influence to be. Directors who at first glance have little stylistically in common react with the same joy to discuss their favorite parts of Hitchcock's films. However, this formal analysis begins to drag, as very little new is discussed beyond what Hitch himself states.

That is the greatest flaw with Kent Jones's film: he doesn't add more to the conversation. Hitchcock/Truffaut was published nearly 50 years ago, but the movie doesn't have anything new to say about either the book or its subject. In trying to be too many things - a history, an analysis, a tribute - Jones's movie wanders aimlessly. 80 minutes spent with Hitchcock is never time wasted, but ultimately I wonder: why make this movie?

Grade: B

Oscar Chances: Low, though the Academy does like insider baseball.


Beauty vs Beast: Happy 65, Bill Murray

Jason from MNPP here nursing a slight Emmys hangover - my headache might be real but for once it's not from the terrible choices the Television Academy made; I for one was happy (or at least passably fine) with a lot of their picks! I mean yes Lisa Kudrow gave the best performance on television last year bar none so watching her go home empty-handed stung, but I can't really feel all that bad seeing one of the other best comediennes of all time get a little over-rewarded either.

But the brightest spot was all the love for my second-favorite 2014 Television Event (after The Comeback), the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, which snatched up six worthy trophies... including one for birthday boy Bill Murray (typically a no-show at the ceremony), who's turning 65 today!

And this was totally the long way around but that brings me to this week's "Beauty vs Beast" which I'm devoting to his best performance (says me) in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, even though it doesn't entirely make sense for this series -- him & Scarlett are more of a duo that you're rooting for the whole time than much in the way of antagonists. But I'm gonna make you choose anyway because I love this movie more than silly logic.

PREVIOUSLY We headed to Bodega Bay last week where two gals pined for one hunky Momma's Boy amid a rain of seagulls from the sky - but unlike Mitch we tossed the Hitchcock Blonde right into that bay and went with doomed schoolteacher Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) instead. Said brookesboy:

"Pleshette plays my favorite character in this film. With everyone else teetering on the edge of hysteria, she conveys a calm, measured presence that is a consequence of a crushing sadness. Almost as if not even a force of nature--a flurry of birds--can lift away."


Beauty vs Beast: Worth Two In The Bush

Jason from MNPP here swooping down from the sky with this week's "Beauty vs Beast" -- I am aware that this series has been heavy on the Hitchcock so far (we've previously covered Psycho and Marnie and Vertigo and Rebecca, oh my) but when I heard TFE was celebrating 1963 all month I could hardly let the chance go by to celebrate one of my fave Hitch flicks, The Birds, which has up til now slipped thru the cracks. (Flown the coop?)

The Birds also features one of the hardest choices we've asked of you so far, if you ask me - I can't be the only one who was rooting for Suzanne Pleshette's sad seaside school-teacher Annie, right? In fact I think it's why she had to [spoiler] go [end spoiler], before the "happy couple" of Melanie & Mitch could head off into the sunset. (A sunset covered with murderous birds, natch.) Although, truer truth be told -- we were all just rooting for Melanie & Annie to ditch Mitch and take off together. Admit it! Well unfortunately that's not your choice today...

PREVIOUSLY Last week marked the 30th anniversary of Smooth Talk, with Laura Dern and Treat Williams playing out Joyce Carol Oates' sexual psychodrama, and y'all came down on the side of Dern, Dern, determinedly Dern, with a full 65% of your vote. We'll give today's quote to Nathaniel cuz why not:

"I saw it years and years ago in my first flush of Laura Dern obsession (so it must have been around Wild at Heart time frame. She's soooo good in it."


Curio: Getting Intimate With Ingrid

Alexa here with a curio in honor of Ingrid Bergman's centennial.  A few years ago, during a stop at Brooklyn thrift shop The Thing for some record shopping, I spied a paperback lying with a small pile of vintage books. There's nothing I love more than a pulpy celebrity biography, so I left the store without any LPs and with Ingrid Bergman: An Intimate Portrait in my bag instead.

It turned out to be perfect summer reading...

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Is "Notorious" Hitchcock's Only Feminist Film? 

Welcome back to our Ingrid Bergman Centennial... we accidentally took a week off. Here's Deborah on Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) - Editor

Notorious is Hitchcock’s only feminist film, and Alicia Huberman, as played by Ingrid Bergman, is the only Hitchcock heroine rewarded, rather than destroyed, for her sexual agency. Notorious pairs a tramp, which is what Alicia calls herself, with a misogynist, as Cary Grant’s Devlin says he’s always been afraid of women. Alicia, then, is not fighting Nazis, she’s fighting the patriarchy and its misogynist attraction/repulsion for female sexuality. 

Everyone knows that Hitchcock coined “McGuffin” to mean the thing that everyone in the film cares about, but no one in the audience cares about. The example generally used is the radioactive sand from Notorious. But I’d argue that the entire Nazi plot, in fact World War II as a whole, is the McGuffin. This is a love story, a sex story, an awakening story, and, yes, a feminist story. [More...]

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Beauty vs Beast: Motel Hell

JA from MNPP here, wishing you all a happy Monday and wishing what would have been a happy 88th birthday to the great, sadly passed Janet Leigh. She's been gone for over a decade but Janet's legacy still looms tall with several classics -- Touch of Evil and The Manchurian Candidate both come to mind -- but as it has been said we all go a little mad sometimes and color me mad when I realized that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has somehow never found itself "Beauty vs Beast"-itized. It's a prime pick whose time has come! Slap on your favorite wig and let's play!

PREVIOUSLY This weekend Terminator: Genisys flopped box-office-wise and according to your votes maybe they should've thought about bringing Linda Hamilton along for the ride since her Sarah Connor trounced Full Metal Arnold in our face-off taking just under 80% of the vote. Said SusanP:

"As far as I'm concerned no contest -- Sarah Connor in a walk. Plus, when you list her pros you are neglecting her most important/awesome assets: The Arms "


Revisiting Rebecca (Pt 5): Burn It Down, Mrs Danvers

Previously on "Revisiting Rebecca"
Pt 1 - a whirlwind de Winter courtship
Pt 2 - return to Manderley, meet Mrs Danvers
Pt 3 - feel up Rebecca's lingerie
Pt 4 - attend a costume ball but don't jump out the window, young lady!

...And here is Jason, with our final installment.

1:44:50 We fade up from a kiss to a sign reading "Kerrith Board School 1872." It seems so exact it made me wonder if this is a real place, but a quick google comes up with nothing. I assume this, like most everything save the more obvious natural exteriors (the beaches filmed on the California coast, for example), was a set. It seems an odd detail to so prominently focus upon though. My guess is Hitch liked the connection to The Past, with it hanging over everyone – he was never exactly the most subtle with his themes.

In the Hitchcock/Truffaut book the two filmmakers discuss how "the location of [Manderley] is never specified in a geographical sense; it's completely isolated." Hitch actually talks at length about how he sees this possibility of isolation as an "American" thing -- that if Rebecca had been filmed in Great Britain he'd have shown the countryside surrounding the house but filming it in America gave him the possibility of this "abstraction." It certainly helps that whenever we’re seeing the mansion itself it’s always a miniature, and not an actual location. Anyway, here we are... Where ever here is!

Continue on to the final installment

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