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Author Topic: The Alfred Hitchcock Discussion Thread  (Read 82392 times)
Groggy
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« on: February 01, 2009, 03:24:20 PM »

I didn't see a thread pertaining to all of Hitch's oeuvre, and only a few on specific films, but given the frequency of discussion on his works I think he deserves his own thread.

My ratings of the 22 of his films that I've seen to date:

The 39 Steps - 7/10
Rebecca - 8/10
Shadow of a Doubt - 9/10
Notorious - 8/10
The Paradine Case - 5/10
Rope - 9/10
Strangers on a Train - 9/10 (might be a 10 if the acting was better)
Dial M For Murder - 6/10 (haven't seen it in forever though)
Rear Window - 8/10
To Catch a Thief - 6/10
The Trouble With Harry - 5/10
The Man Who Knew Too Much - 6/10
Vertigo - 7/10
North By Northwest - 8/10
Psycho - 8/10
The Birds - 8/10
Marnie - 8/10
Torn Curtain - 4/10
Topaz - 7/10
Frenzy - 9/10

My top five would be:
Strangers on a Train
Rope
Frenzy
Shadow of a Doubt
Psycho

« Last Edit: April 11, 2009, 02:31:27 PM by Groggy » Logged


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The Firecracker
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2009, 04:36:17 PM »

Top Five

North By NorthWest
The Birds
Vertigo
Rope
Rear Window


Psycho hasn't aged all that well.

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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2009, 04:44:54 PM »

Vertigo - 10/10
North By Northwest - 9/10 (would have been an easy 10 without these last and pointless 20 minutes)
Rear Window - 8/10
Psycho - 7/10 (but i would have said 10/10 when it was released)

The rest of his work has not aged so well either... Still one of the greatest and most inspiring directors of all times, needless to say.

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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2009, 07:05:09 PM »

This guy need his own board, not a measly thread. Well, here goes (in reverse chronological order)

Family Plot 7/10
Frenzy 8/10
Topaz 6/10
Torn Curtain 4/10
Marnie 9/10
The Birds 9/10
Psycho 5/10
NxNW 10/10
Vertigo 11/10
The Wrong Man 8/10
The Trouble With Harry 2/10
The Man Who Knew Too Much 7/10
To Catch a Thief 9/10
Rear Window 10/10
Dial M for Murder 8/10
I Confess 5/10
Strangers on a Train 9/10
Stage Fright 4/10
Under Capricorn 8/10
Rope 9/10
The Paradine Case 3/10
Notorious 7/10
Spellbound 6/10
Lifeboat 8/10
Shadow of a Doubt 3/10
Saboteur 6/10
Suspicion 8/10
Foreign Correspondent 7/10
Rebecca 9/10
Jamaica Inn ?
The Lady Vanishes 9/10
Young and Innocent 7/10
Secret Agent 6/10
Sabotage 5/10
The 39 Steps 10/10
The Man Who Knew Too Much 7/10

Further back than that I don't much care  . . .

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2009, 07:20:07 PM »

Psycho hasn't aged all that well.
The problem is with the script's construction. The first time through, when you don't know the solution to the mystery, the second half holds your interest, but only until the solution is revealed, and then never again (and no one is likely to ever forget the solution). With repeated viewings, the first half continues to be a beautifully developed bit of cinema that can be enjoyed for a number of reasons (including Bernard Herrmann's top-notch score), but after the central murder, the whole thing defaults to Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Motion Picture (in fact, Hitchcock shot Psycho with his TV crew, not his usual film crew). The central murder takes the only character we care about out of the film--and this is fatal in more ways than one.

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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2009, 07:35:41 PM »

The central murder takes the only character we care about out of the film--and this is fatal in more ways than one.

Strongly disagree!
Yves Lavandier in "Dramaturgie" makes a brilliant analyse about this. The point is the movie switches protagonist about two time (whereas regular movie only have ONE protagonist). At the begining we're with the girl (and yes, beautiful cinematography here, perfect score... very poetic sequences IMO). Then she's murdered. After that we have a ten minutes scene in which our sympathy/attention is transfered to Norman: the cleaning scene. Hitchcock is very careful to create plenty of very little conflicts (is he going to forget the clean this part? that part? what about the money? He forgot it! oh no he didn't). That's what make us care about Bates, according to Lavandier. And I agree. Where the movie aged, IMO, is when we switch again: the protagonist become two people (the sister and the boyfriend). 1) That part is very unoriginal 2) the transition is not carefully prepared, we have absolutly no reason to care about these people. Of course the master of suspens introduces great... suspens, which make it more than watchable on the first time. But after repeated viewings, this is the part that suffers most (whereas the first part grows).

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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2009, 09:17:28 PM »

The problem is with the script's construction. The first time through, when you don't know the solution to the mystery, the second half holds your interest, but only until the solution is revealed, and then never again (and no one is likely to ever forget the solution)

That and the fact that when I saw it I already knew all the surprises from countless spoilers.
Just goes to show spoilers should always remain secrets even after the film has been part of pop culture for nearly 60 years.


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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2009, 09:38:19 PM »

Yves Lavandier in "Dramaturgie" makes a brilliant analyse about this. The point is the movie switches protagonist about two time (whereas regular movie only have ONE protagonist). At the begining we're with the girl (and yes, beautiful cinematography here, perfect score... very poetic sequences IMO). Then she's murdered. After that we have a ten minutes scene in which our sympathy/attention is transfered to Norman: the cleaning scene. Hitchcock is very careful to create plenty of very little conflicts (is he going to forget the clean this part? that part? what about the money? He forgot it! oh no he didn't). That's what make us care about Bates, according to Lavandier.
(Actually, he doesn't know about the money. One of the ironies is he throws the money away without knowing what it is.)

No, this is just Hitchcock up to his usual tricks. In Strangers on a Train we have the very suspenseful sequence where Robert Walker loses the lighter in the drain and is trying to retrieve it. He needs to get it and plant it as evidence against Farley Granger before Granger can stop him. Meanwhile, Granger is in a tennis match that he is hurrying to finish so he can go after Walker. Through some great intercutting we go back and forth between the two men: tension builds, will Walker get the lighter in time? Perversely, we find ourselves rooting for him, even though he's the bad guy. The master has played us once again.

But our "sympathies", such as they are, are only provisionally tendered. After the sequence, when our reason is allowed to operate freely again, we are no more sympathetic to Walker than we've ever been. We still want Granger to exonerate himself and we still want to see Walker punished.

Hitchcock was very good at transferring our sympathies to unworthy characters, but he could only do it temporarily. The example of Bates cleaning up the motel room you cite is about as good as that kind of thing gets, but we never come anywhere near to lavishing on Norman the empathy we gave to Marion. In fact, after the scene, we realize that he is now an accessory to murder (at least), and so must be punished. Norman is too odd to have all our sympathy, anyway; that is established in the very good office scene between Bates and Marion with the stuffed birds overhead. That scene does two things (the best written scene in the movie): it establishes without qualification that there is an obvious nut-case in the room, and it solidifies our feelings for Marion (because she can sympathize with the obvious nut-case in the room). We share that sympathy, but it is a guarded sympathy. We can never give our sympathies entirely over to someone so psychologically damaged (unless we ourselves are so damaged). Norman is at no time a contender for the lead in the picture.

Hitchcock attempts to transfer our lead-character sympathies to Vera Miles, but it doesn't work. There is a big hole in the picture after Marion's departure, and it is not successfully filled by anyone.

Lavandier, whom I haven't read, appears to be overthinking the problem. The failure is one of simple dramaturgy. There is an unwritten rule that the protagonist must continue to the end of the play/film, one that Hitchcock disregarded so as to get one of the most effective shocks ever in cinema. But it turns out that the unwritten rule was in place for a very good reason: there's not much to propel the story forward if the protagonist is no longer around. The only solution would have been to introduce a new protagonist, which AH tried to do unsuccessfully. Perhaps he could have pulled it off if he'd spent more time building up the Vera Miles character. But then he'd have had pacing problems . . .  perhaps the problem can't be fixed.

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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2009, 09:44:29 PM »

That and the fact that when I saw it I already knew all the surprises from countless spoilers.
Just goes to show spoilers should always remain secrets even after the film has been apart of pop culture for nearly 60 years.
How, how, how can this ever be enforced?

Anyway, I disagree. The great films can survive spoilers, just as all the great works of literature can. Does anyone go to see Oedipus Rex to find out how it turns out? Or to Hamlet? Even back in the day, when you went to a play billed as a tragedy you knew in advance, more or less, how it would end.

The great works are spoiler-proof. Which leads to a simple litmus test: if spoilers truly spoil, then maybe the film wasn't all that great to begin with?

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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2009, 09:48:49 PM »

How, how, how can this ever be enforced?


I'm not saying it can be I'm just saying it should be.


Anyway, I disagree. The great films can survive spoilers, just as all the great works of literature can. Does anyone go to see Oedipus Rex to find out how it turns out? Or to Hamlet? Even back in the day, when you went to a play billed as a tragedy you knew in advance, more or less, how it would end.

The great works are spoiler-proof. Which leads to a simple litmus test: if spoilers truly spoil, then maybe the film wasn't all that great to begin with?

100% agree.

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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2009, 11:03:51 PM »

Hitchcock was very good at transferring our sympathies to unworthy characters, but he could only do it temporarily.

Still disagree. Or i should say: ok for the sympathies, but i only used this word to be clear. You don't have to offer your sympathies to a protagonist. He can be a great protagonist without that. The right word would be empathy. The fact that somebody experiences what Lavandier call a "conflict" is usually enough. Of course the guy is supposed to be the one with the biggest "conflict", and the movie has to be showed from his standpoint. I tend to agree with that (even if empathy is easier to give to a character that already has one's sympathies). This is why, once again, the movie perfectly works for me until the last transfer.

I don't think the problem is here "overthought", it convince me. Furthermore, I kind of remember that the Master of Suspens confirmed (without refering to Lavandier of course) that in the book "Hitchcock/Truffaut" (which happens to be the Best Cinema Book Ever)... I don't have that book with me right now so if nobody has it we'll have to wait until i go back home (where I have it) in a few months.

You should read Lavandier, by the way, his book is very interesting. I don't 100% agree on everything, and some of his references are... embarassing (Francis Veber   Cheesy ).

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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2009, 11:09:25 PM »

The great works are spoiler-proof. Which leads to a simple litmus test: if spoilers truly spoil, then maybe the film wasn't all that great to begin with?

Yes but:

1) Viewing a great movie in a bad context can ruin the movie forever. Usualy it only ruins it for that viewing, but sometimes, you know, you always link the movie and the context of the first time you saw it. So when a stupid guy tells you the ending at the moment when you're buying your ticket, then you have a bad context.

2) The fact that a movie is "spoilerproof" doesn't mean that it is a good idea to spoil everything before seeing it. I know no one has told that here, but still, I hear too often the reasoning "if this is a good movie then i can spoil it to you", which is completly crazy.

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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2009, 11:34:30 PM »

Still disagree. Or i should say: ok for the sympathies, but i only used this word to be clear. You don't have to offer your sympathies to a protagonist. He can be a great protagonist without that. The right word would be empathy. The fact that somebody experiences what Lavandier call a "conflict" is usually enough. Of course the guy is supposed to be the one with the biggest "conflict", and the movie has to be showed from his standpoint.
This overlooks the fact that Hitchcock is at pains to reassert conventional morality by the end of each of his films. Therefore he doesn't choose protagonists who are criminals. In a film we naturally lend our empathy to whomever the protagonist is (his conflict is 'biggest" merely because it seems so to him/us). What Lavandier says may have a general application, but it misses the specifics of Hitchcock. AH will manipulate audience sympathy/empathy/identification (the semanticshere interests me not at all) with the villain's only temporarily; at the end, we are squarely behind the conventional hero/heroine who has, perhaps after a sojourn in hell, returned to be reintegrated into society. Psycho departs from this pattern, but only slightly: the final image is not of Norman Bates (who continues to creep us out), but of Marion's car being pulled from the swamp. The car is a marker for the missing girl, and evokes in us the sense of her absence, which we suddenly feel keenly. We are reminded that there really was a character in this film to care about, but she's been gone for 50 minutes.

Throw the books away, N_L. Just respond to what's up there on the screen.

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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2009, 12:08:24 AM »

Throw the books away, N_L. Just respond to what's up there on the screen.

These books are usueful to make movies. I also use them to explain why I like/dislike something, but that doesn't change what I feel in front of the movie, don't worry...

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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2009, 06:07:57 AM »

Actually, I use books a lot too. I agree with you, the viewing experience is primary. That's why we need to watch important films like those of Hitchcock and Leone 2 or 3 dozen times before we make up our minds about them.

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