Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho turns 50 this week and so we’re casting an in-depth glance at the entire career of the Master of Suspense over the next 11 days. There will never be another filmmaker quite like Alfred Hitchcock. His genius was singular and indelible.
There will never be another filmmaker quite like Alfred Hitchcock. Just imagine: this is a man whose career spanned almost 60 years, who survived the complex shifts from silent to talkie and black and white to colour, who worked as an auteur and a studio hack (sometimes simultaneously), who experimented with an array of original techniques (a real time feature, a one-set film), and who managed to develop some of the most complex characters and arresting images ever committed to celluloid. At his peak, Hitchcock was averaging almost a film a year—in the most extraordinary example of his industriousness, he made seven movies (including at least three stone classics) between 1953 and 1956!
Unable, or unwilling, to compromise, he was famously stubborn and pigheaded. He was also frustratingly sexist, blind to racial politics, and prone to armchair psychology. He had a black sense of humour and a soft spot (or was it an obsession?) with blondes. He wondered if anyone could ever truly be called “innocent”; he mistrusted bureaucracy and the very rich; he had a thing for gay subtexts. He hated death, but was drawn to it, as are we all. He helped to create the modern horror genre, the modern thriller, and the modern black comedy. He changed film, even as he was inventing new ways to approach it. There will never be another filmmaker quite like Alfred Hitchcock. His genius was singular and indelible.
Friday, June 25 2010
The path through destruction that they have walked, guided along by Hitchcock much like Virgil guided Dante in the circles of Hell, is what people remember most after watching Rear Window, Psycho, and Vertigo.
In his final three films, Hitchcock may have showed his age, but there are undeniable treasures to be found even in these lesser works.
Thursday, June 24 2010
More than any other studio system director, Alfred Hitchcock has influenced an amazing international collection of postmodern movie makers.
Today we’ll examine the last Hitchcock masterpiece, and begin our discussion of his slow denouement.
Wednesday, June 23 2010
“The film knows that it is being watched, and yet does not know,” says Christian Metz. “The one who knows is the cinema, the institution..."
Typical of Hitchcock, he does not provide answers in Vertigo and The Birds, rather, he demonstrates the inherent dangers of living with -- yet denying -- the dark psychic forces that control our lives from deep withing our subconscious minds.
About 50 years ago Hitchcock followed his artistic masterpiece with two of the most important movies ever to emerge from Hollywood. Two very different pictures, each was to chart a course for an entire genre.
Tuesday, June 22 2010
Now entering his creative peak, Hitchcock revisited some older material, reinvigorating it with a global politics and a big budget grandeur.
To what degree should a teacher help a student develop taste? Hitchcock stands as one of hundreds of artists whose work educators might use to explore questions of art and the classroom itself with their students.
Monday, June 21 2010
Just as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley famous novel creates what turns out to be a monstrosity, so also does Scottie in Vertigo and Norman Bates in Psycho.
Many film fans consider Hitchcock’s career to have really begun in about 1951 (with Strangers on a Train) and to have ended in 1963 (with The Birds).
Friday, June 18 2010
More than almost any other of the great directors, Hitchcock filled his films with characters that are either explicitly or implicitly coded as gay. And almost always as villainous.
In this sixth installment of our overview of Hitchcock’s oeuvre, we take a look at his most divisive period -- a string of wildly inconsistent material ranging from masterpieces to films we didn’t even bother reviewing.
Thursday, June 17 2010
No one likes being toyed with, but Hitchcock makes it clear that he is in control; he is directing us, influencing how we think and react to the situation at hand -- and we love him for it.
Three films of the mid-1940s found Hitchcock in an experimental mode. One takes place entirely in a small boat, another explores the idea of the psychedelic, and the third stretches out into the territory of film noir, while animating the post-war sense of global interconnectedness that presaged the Cold War.
Wednesday, June 16 2010
Although Hitchcock made several films expressing his opposition to the Nazis, viewing these films leads to the question: Where was any mention of the Jews who were so profoundly affected by the Nazis and WWII?
As the war in Europe raged, Hitchcock remained in the relative safety of his adopted home far from the bombs that rocked his home country, but Hitch put together a series of fascinating movies dealing with themes of betrayal, paranoia, deceit, and the creeping horror of doubt.
Tuesday, June 15 2010
Although Hitchcock left Great Britain for the United States in 1939, his first two films -- Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941) -- nonetheless remained set firmly in English. His depiction of English life helped craft perceptions of English life for decades to come.
New to Hollywood, it didn’t take long for Hitchcock to master his surroundings, winning the Best Picture Oscar with his first American film. Then, it was on to a series of iffy studio experiments, including perhaps the most bizarre entry in his oeuvre, a screwball comedy starring Carole Lombard!
Monday, June 14 2010
While Hitchcock is famous for the humor that he injects into his thrillers, there are striking differences in the humor between his British and American periods.
In Day Two of our Director Spotlight series on the Master of Suspense, we revisit the four strongest films of Hitchcock’s British period.
Originally conceived as a silent film, Blackmail was quickly converted to sound, making it the first British talkie. To accommodate theaters that were not equipped for sound, it was reissued as a silent film. The differences in the two versions are here compared.
Friday, June 11 2010
In today's installment of our retrospective survey of Hitchcock's singular career we revisit his first major statements. Thrillingly, all of Hitchcock's trademark themes and signature moves are visible in these early masterpieces -- an uncanny talent, Hitch arrived, it would seem, fully formed.
In Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock subverts the narrative expectations laid out in the early parts of the film, producing something very different from the suspense film that we anticipate.
Psycho stands out not only for being one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, it is also one of his most influential, providing both a template and source material for an almost endless succession of later horror films, making it appropriate to identify it as the mother of all horror films.