Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Random Notes On Hitchcock

I used to think Hitchcock was heartless, but I've been watching a lot of his movies recently and now I think different.

When Babs is murdered in Frenzy it happens behind closed doors with the camera gliding back down the stairs and out into the street. Pure cinema. Very restrained. Very moving.

Actors loved him. And he loved them. But he expected them to know their job. So long as they hit their marks and stayed in frame he'd let them improvise business and change their lines. Anna Massey says, "he hired actors like he hired carpenters."

He gets compared to Dickens, but he's utterly without Dickens's sentimentality.

His heroes are frequently unpleasant. Thornhill in North By North West is a shallow, arrogant advertising exec. Scotty in Vertigo is a bullying obsessive. The unpleasantness is disguised because they're being played by the supernaturally charming Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

These films are about guilt. OK, the hero's innocent of murder/theft/treason but he is guilty of being a jerk. Hitchcock doesn't wear it on his sleeve, but he's essentially a Catholic artist.

Someone said his films should be experienced as if they were dreams. I find this helpful.

All the films are one film.

It's received dogma that he lost the plot in old age. Not at all. Frenzy is easily as good as Strangers On A Train and Family Plot is a lovely, low-key, little movie with great suspense and winning performances.

I even like Topaz. Actually I like it a lot. Apart from a weak ending (there are three weak endings- pick the one you dislike least) it's a work of sustained brilliance- an elegant dance of death- and a whole lot better than any of the Bond movies with which it gets compared.

Things to look out for: trains, stairs, gays.

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