He may have been dead for over thirty years, but Alfred Hitchcock’s power to generate an audience still remains true for today. Despite often making cameo appearances at some point during his own films, it is this year that really sees the director is being brought out from behind the scenes and transformed into a character himself.
During Christmas we had the television film The Girl, a dramatization of his supposed fixation with leading lady Tippi Hedren, and this week, with the release of Hitchcock, it would seem the renewed interest in one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century shows no signs of waning. Although he was undoubtedly an eccentric, other aspects of his character are less certain, ranging from consummate professional to obsessive misogynist.Reports of Alfred Hitchcock still leave us questioning: "Who was the man behind the movies?"
Yet, up until a certain point, I am not interested. When the movies are so good, the need to understand the fascinating and, arguably, disturbed persona ‘hiding in the corner with a camera’ seems unnecessary. On screen, the many layers of his films unfold, sometimes to reveal an insight into his mind, whilst at the same time leaving him shrouded in mystery, simultaneously mesmerising, chilling and beautiful. In other words, a genius.
These are (just a few of) my favourites:
|Kim Novak in Vertigo|
1. Vertigo – Recently voted best film in Sight & Sound magazine’s annual poll. An almost absurdly complicated plot is transformed into a haunting tale of obsession and paranoia, with Bernard Herrmann’s score used to devastatingly beautiful effect in the neon green scene d’amour.
|GraceKelly and Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief|
2. To Catch a Thief – Although not one of his most famous or suspenseful movies, the plot is really secondary to the scenario: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, the French Riviera – need I say more?
|James Stewart in Rear Window|
3. Rear Window – A seemingly restrictive premise, revolving around the observations of a wheelchair- bound James Stewart from his back window, creates startling amounts of tension. However, some light relief is provided from the gradual suspense by Grace Kelly modelling an array of Edith Head’s most elegant costumes.
|Vivien Leigh and Judith Anderson in Rebecca|
4. Rebecca – The first film that Hitchcock made in America and, in my opinion, a pretty good start to his career that side of the pond. Naturally, it cannot surpass Daphne du Maurier’s novel, but the black and white eerie elegance of Mandalay makes the film worth seeing in its own right. For me, Judith Anderson’s portrayal of Mrs Danvers is indistinguishable from the description of her character in the novel.
5. North by Northwest --- in this fantasy thriller, Cary Grant is drawn into a world of espionage through mistaken identity, while the audience follows into one of intrigue and intense colour; this is one of Hitchcock's most entertaining and visually most striking movies.