Finally Sunday! / Vivement Dimanche! (1983)

April 21, 2009

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“so sweet and touching a love letter to Hitchcock

I’ve got such a list of films that I haven’t made notes on that I’m having to rattle through them at great speed.  I’m not even going to mention Jules et Jim, which I saw recently and again at the weekend.  I think I’ve got the balance right but I do find my notes useful, so it’s a shame.  I saw Jules et Jim because speciality French movie channel CineMoi had advertised a showing of Vivement Dimanche! but decided to show the 1962 classic instead.  I started watching and couldn’t stop but I couldn’t help being miffed as I’d missed the chance to see the one Truffaut that I haven’t seen and don’t own and then a little digging revealed that I do own it!  It was released in Australia as Confidentially Yours, though having seen the film I can’t see why, and was part of a box set I picked up some years back.  So, I got to see a Truffaut double-bill.  “Who’s the Daddy now?

This is smashing.  It is Truffaut working through his Alfred Hitchcock fixation (the Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews make fantastic reading) by making a perfectly-executed homage.  This being a (pseudo) Hitchcock it revolves around a man who is accused of a crime that he may or may not have committed and his attempts to elude the authorities for long enough to clear his name.  It’s suspension-of-disbelief time of course, this is a film where the police have set up road-blocks and search the city for a man who is sat comfortably in his office which they’ve neglected to check.  But it doesn’t matter, the film is so sweet and touching a love letter to Hitchcock that you can let anything go.

Jean-Louis Trintignant plays the innocent victim of circumstances- by turns confused, afraid and indignant- with the glorious Fanny Ardant as the secretary who is secretly in love with him and does his investigating for him whilst he is ensconced in the office (a nice nod to Rear Window).  Both are excellent and their chemistry is lovely to watch.

But it’s the Hitchcock motifs that matter the most.  The film is immediately suspenseful from the shooting of Massoulier which opens and is undercut throughout with a tense string soundtrack which is tremendously reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s best.  There are images of telephones ringing in empty rooms, scenes shot from outside through windows, the first person the couple suspect is dramatically revealed to be a Priest, Fanny Ardant’s Barbara zips from city to city looking or clues, she witnesses a murder but can only see the murderer’s legs, the audience is manipulated to believe then disbelieve then rebelieve in Trintignant’s character…

I don’t believe that this focusing upon the Hitchcock angle is doing the film down at all, it is certainly a tense but enjoyable thriller in its own right and the reverence it shows for the Godfather of all modern thrillers is a strength.  There is also a brief reference to Kubrick’s Paths Of Glory– a film which was once banned in France- and, as this was to be Truffaut’s last film it is almost as if he is saying goodbye and expressing his thanks to great filmmakers from before.  Like when Bob Dylan played ‘Song For Woody’ at his 40th Anniversary tribute concert.

It’s far from flawless but I loved it.  Can’t wait to see it again. 7/10

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Spellbound (1945)

March 28, 2009

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Hitchcock was such an ‘of-the-moment’ film-maker that there aren’t many who compare with him today in terms of using or risking their status to try and push the audience into new and uncomfortable territory.  Some of his work ends up being timeless as a result (Vertigo is a great example, North By NorthWest being another) and some is pretty badly dated.  Spellbound with its then novel and now well-worn themes of psychoanalysis and Freudian guilt falls into the latter category sadly.  I’m not sure that it’s really fair to judge a film on the basis of how well the basic premise has stood the passing of over six decades, how was Hitch to know that daytime TV would be filled wall-to-wall with cod-psychology and blithe misreadings of Freud and Jung reducing everyone to the role of pseudo-shrink?  That said, I am really only interested in how the film entertains or informs or affects me and so, fair or not, I’ll judge it on its merits in my opinion.  There’s probably a deep psychological meaning behind that too.

And Spellbound is very good, especially when it gets going.  The opening has been a little too successfully aped by Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety for me to be really swayed by it, sadly (High Anxiety by the way, is the opposite of Spellbound as it falters after a promising start).  Opening with Ingrid Bergman analysing the neurotic, misanthropic Mary Carmichael (played with relish as a latter day Countess Dracula by Rhonda Fleming) we learn about Bergman’s emotionless professionalism and you just know that her icy exterior is long overdue for being thawed by the right man.  At this point Gregory Peck enters the fray- it is a wonderful set-up, the only disappointment being that the on-screen chemistry between them doesn’t match that between her and Bogey or her and Cary Grant.  Now, you can be churlish and criticise the idea of them falling in love in less time than it takes me to choose what socks to wear on a given day, but what’s the point?  I just consider that you accept it and see where the movie takes you and- if it is a flop- use it as a stick to beat with later.  And so the scene where Peck and Bergman first meet sees them both in close-up; her in soft-focus him depicted with the hard lines of a real man, Miklós Rózsa strikes up the string section and the whole thing is sorted in the minds of the audience.  I would usually hate this but what I find forgivable about it- praiseworthy even- is that Hitchcock is simply getting the romantic interlude out of the way as efficiently as possible in order to get on with the thriller.  The scene proceeds to do just that as a neurotic and agitated Peck- who has already been depicted as “much younger than I imagined” and being very vague on the subject of his most recently published book- overreacts furiously to Bergman drawing a picture by tracing her fork upon the table linen.  There you go in one scene Bergman and Peck have fallen in love and Hitchcock has flattered the audience that they’re so smart knowing that he isn’t who he says he is.  Brilliant.

The plot proceeds apace, frosty analyst turned giddy schoolgirl Bergman is enraptured by Peck (has anyone in celluloid history attempted to say the word ‘liverwurst’ seductively before?) and they kiss in his room.  Now, I’m a little uncomfortable with one of Hitchcock’s conceits here- close-ups of his eyes and then her eyes are followed by a graphic of doors opening.  It’s all just a little too literal, or is because of the intervening years?  Have I been conditioned to demand more subtlety when that kind of pellucidity was precisely what contemporary audiences needed?  I’ll let it slide.

Right, so it becomes clear that not only is Gregory Peck not Dr Edwardes (odd spelling that) but that he may even have murdered Dr Edwardes and taken his place.  Peck disappears but leaves a note under Bergman’s door leading to a brilliant scene where several policemen and psychiatrists are standing just inside her doorway on the note which she can see but they haven’t yet noticed.  The tension is maintained superbly for what seems like an age before Bergman is able to retrieve the note- unbearably it is handed to her by Dr Murchison (Leo G. Carroll)- and follow Peck to a hotel in New York.  From there, in typical Hitchcock fashion, the chase is on.  Peck and Bergman are always- by design or by good fortune- half a step ahead of the police as she tries to break through his psychological blockages and prove his undoubted innocence (“I couldn’t love a man who is capable of such crimes” she says, well that’s all there is to it then).  At the same time Peck has no real belief in his innocence and while the audience can’t really believe he did it- he’s the hero for crying out loud- it is the most obvious and likely explanation for it all.  And to amplify that doubt Hitchcock shows us flashes of Peck’s temper, frames him with a cut-throat razor and a zombie-like stare and casts doubt upon his story left, right and centre.

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Bergman takes Peck to the home of her psychoanalytical mentor Dr Brulov (Michael Checkov, the best performer on show by a country mile) and while they wait for him to return with two strangers it becomes apparent that the men are policemen investigating the death of Edwardes.  Trapped, unable to even communicate both are struck dumb with terror as the policemen chat affably throwing their unease into even sharper contrast- it is the best sequence of the film- and the tension continues until Dr Brulov returns.  The policemen, it transpires, are unaware of Peck and Bergman’s supposed implication in the murder and are merely there to investigate the professional tension between Brulov and Edwardes which had almost escalated ino violence recently.  Now this is really clever, if this was a whodunnit the smart money would be straight on Brulov- especially when it becomes clear that he knows far more about Peck and Bergman’s arrival than he had initially indicated.  Seeing Peck with the razor Dr Brulov talks to him calmly and offers him a glass of milk.  He’s drugged him- with milk!  As if he was B.A. Baracus or something.  Brilliant.  “I ain’t getting on no psychoanalyst’s couch fool!”.

When Peck awakes, he recounts his dreams for the two Doctors to analyse and here we enter the most famous (and most unaccountably derided) sequence of the film- the Hitchcock/Dali dream sequence.  Okay, so a four year old could analyse the ‘hidden’ meanings (whoever could the mysterious ‘Proprieter’ be?) it doesn’t matter- what is important is the beauty of the sequence and, most importantly of all, the sheer chutzpah of its inclusion.  I’d defend this until my dying breath- if only more filmmakers had Hitchcock’s balls!

The climactic sequence of the film is filmed dramatically as Bergman desperately tries to undo her act of inadvertently convincing Peck and the policemen of his guilt- she is shown in stark monochrome uplit against dark backgrounds frenzied and hopeless.  And then, when all hope is lost, the truth falls into her lap by chance.  Agatha Christie once said “if you want to know who the murderer is in any crime novel, pick the most unlikely character.  He did it” and that holds true here.  Admittedly it isn’t the most unlikely person on screen, the fat cockney feller getting out of a lift in a brief cameo has absolutely no chance of reappearing, it is a convincing and plausible ending which gives Hitchcock an excuse for one last piece of bravura film-making, the big hand.

Oh it isn’t a perfect film, the ski-ing sequence (for example) is dreadfully executed and a lot of the great things here- especially the framing of Gregory Peck as a did-he didn’t-he murderer would be far better realised in Psycho but for the tension, for Rózsa’s great score (love that theremin work), for the brief-but-brilliant childhood memory sequence and for the breathless and intriguing narrative I loved it.  8/10

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Rope (1948)

March 22, 2009

Having watched a good but disappointing Hitchcock, I followed it with an underrated one.  To reaffirm my faith in the bloke.  Or just to watch a great film, I suppose. Reputedly Rope is a film without cuts; a stage play filmed by a moving camera in real-time and that’s almost true.  But not quite.  There are eight ten minute takes neatly edited to look seamless.  I only spotted a couple of cuts – though I wasn’t especially watching for them- most notably on 33 minutes when a shot of John Dall cuts directly to James Stewart, which is the only one there’s no attempt to disguise.  But that’s most likely to do with the impossibility of filming the whole thing on one reel as opposed to any ‘cheating’.  The film does run in real-time and is, as near as makes any difference, a one camera one take film.  It’s a tremendous technical achievement in my eyes even with the odd trick.

And it’s simply so dramatic- from murder to conclusion in about eighty minutes of intense dialogue and psychological cat-and-mouse.  The impossibility of an unhappy ending in I Confess isn’t replicated here, there’s every chance that the protagonists of “the perfect crime” here may evade detection.  The tension, present from the opening death-scream, never relents.  Hitchcock marshalls the audience superbly in this film, ratcheting up the tension discretely- a pointed comment, a panicked look, the foregrounding of the cabinet and so on.  Truly this one goes right up to eleven.

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The protagonists whose attempt to commit that “perfect crime” are documented here are Farley Granger’s Philip Morgan who is completely under the spell of John Dall’s Brandon Shaw.  Shaw is himself besotted with James Stewart’s Rupert Cadell- the murder is done simply to impress him- and the whole thing is charged with an electric homo-eroticism.  Each of them clearly has something going with the other- whether a history or an infatuation- and their range of mannerisms (affectations would be a better word) are clearly intended to suggest homosexuality: Granger- five years on from his similarly homo-erotic relationship in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt– is sissyish, John Dall is preening and Stewart bitchy.  The play was, I understand, based on a real-life case involving homosexual partners and the original cast was to include Montgomery Clift (gay) and Cary Grant (reputedly bisexual) which would have made the matter even more blatantly obvious than the coded, allusive nature of it’s suggestion here- the dialogue about Dall and Stewart having both seen Granger ‘strangling a chicken’ would have been as risque as it was possible to get past the 1948 censors.

Aside from the nerve-jangling tension and the technical excellence (see the night sky become dusk before your eyes) and the intriguing undercurrents and the audacity of the whole project then, what has Rope got to offer?  Well, there is a fantastic Jimmy Stewart performance.  The keenness of Cadell’s intellect is obvious in every measured comment, every searching look, every pause in the dialogue and yet to see the certainty and arrogance he has displayed throughout crumble almost instantaneously during the climactic sequence is astonishing.  In a second you see the man’s world turned on its head.  Superb stuff.  John Dall (who couldn’t look more like Ben Affleck even with the help of CGI) and Farley Granger are also really good, but not in Stewart’s league.  The dialogue is fantastic, full of pointed lines (Kentley to the strangler Morgan: “these hands will bring you great fame” as he plays the piano, for example).  Also, while not being as densely layered as his absolute finest films like Rear Window, Vertigo or Psycho this still raises questions about the capacity for murder- the distinction between the mens rea and the actus reus if you like.

Really, it is a very interesting piece and deserves a much better reputation than just being an experiment in film-making, it is simply a fine film. 9/10

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I Confess (1953)

March 20, 2009

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There is nothing Hitchcock loves more than a man who is under suspicion for a crime he didn’t commit.  He probably loves it even more than he loves melodramatic film titles, which is- as the Velvettes would tell you- really saying something.  The wrongly accused man is his key theme (three years later another of his many films on the theme would be called simply The Wrong Man) and the way it is used in this film could have made it the best of all of his takes on the concept.

Montgomery Clift plays Father Logan who is not only under suspicion and entirely innocent but he heard the guilty man’s confession and he knows who the real murderer is but is bound by his vows and cannot say- even in the face of the gallows!  It’s a great concept, truly it is and Monty Clift gives an extraordinarily tortured and yet restrained performance as Logan.  I don’t know too much about Clift, other than he died prematurely in sad circumstances and that his homosexuality had led him into alcohol and drug dependency, but I do know that when he was young he had it all- he was beautiful (not sexy or handsome but actually beautiful) and talented with a wonderful voice.  I bet he could even play darts if he’d put his mind to it.  In I Confess we are seeing the young, pre-accident Clift and his ability to express a thousand thoughts with fleeting expressions or a shift of his eyes is striking.  The scene where he hears O. E. Hasse’s confession is dazzling.  Hitchock knew he had something special here and he made the most of it.  It’s a wonderfully memorable scene.  What follows from there succeeds where it does because the audience is totally with Clift and that’s the hook.

The downside of this concept, however, is that the underlying uncertainty in Hitchcock’s other great innocent suspect films cannot happen here.  We never truly know until the climax whether Rear Window‘s Lars Thorwald really killed his wife or not, but we know that Clift is innocent without any lingering doubts about whether a further twist awaits us.  We also know- as seasoned movie-goers- that there is not a chance in a million that an innocent priest would be sent to the gallows in a 1953 Hollywood film.  If that was the ending, the film simply wouldn’t have been made.  And that kind of kills the suspense.  My wife’s uncle says that he’ll never watch a James Bond film “there’s no point” he claims “if you know that he isn’t going to die”.  And that’s a little of what happens here.  That element of doubt is missing and so as great a performance as Clift might give, it still isn’t quite enough.  I also didn’t think that Dimitri Tiomkin’s score aided the process as it should.  The best advert for the talents of Bernard Herrmann are the Hitchcock films which he didn’t score, that’s always been my opinion.  Tiomkin’s music is competent without adding colour to what is on screen, it lacks magic.

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One of the interesting things about this film, though, is the way that Hitchcock presents it visually.  This is almost a film noir with it’s exaggerated shadows and many dramatic low-level outdoor shots of Quebec buildings.  The noir motif of light streaking in through venetian blinds was brilliantly played upon in the confession box scene too- Hitchcock had great fun there.  There is even an extended flashback sequence, another noir staple.  And yet one of the things a noir needs- at least according to my understanding and opinions vary- is a degree of tension and conflict that is the staple of the vast majority of the great man’s work and yet is sorely missing here.  Clift’s stoical determination to uphold the sanctity of the confession box is so great that he doesn’t even appear to try and push Keller (the real murderer) into confessing.  And this lack of tension makes the film sag, especially around the extended flashback scene.  I remember thinking ‘this goes on a bit’ only halfway through that, by contrast the courtroom scenes flashed by in an eye-blink.  The change in Keller’s demeanour through the course of the film from distraught to relieved to cocksure should have ramped up the tension just as Clift’s turmoil and fear should have.  But it didn’t.  While Clift is angst-ridden and Keller’s manipulative remorselessness should make for spectacular exchanges, their scenes together are flat.

And none of the sub-plots really add to the drama, though at the same time they don’t offer relief either, they merely exist alongside the main story.  Ruth and Pierre Grandfort’s marriage may be going through the wringer and Alma Keller may be struggling to hold it together, or even to want to hold it together, for her husband but the viewer isn’t grabbed by these.  As extensions on the false accusation/trust and honesty theme they are simply mentioned, they aren’t explored or even properly introduced.  This is Hitchcockian thriller without the trademark Hitchcockian thrills.

We get some wonderful little sequences like the party scene opening on a glass and then opening out to reveal that it is being balanced on a man’s head as part of a party game, but they aren’t sufficient to do more than remind you that this is Hitchcock, but not vintage Hitchcock.  It’s a shame because Hasse, the ever-reliable Karl Malden, Dolly Haas as Alma Keller and Montgomery Clift all deserved a better film for their efforts.  Good, not great.  5/10

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Ooooh, something occured to me in the night that I’d probably need to check up on but given the politics of the time with McCarthyism and all, how significant was it that Hitchcock’s hero refused to speak up?  I know that Hitch was no lefty, but is this an alternative perspective to Kazan’s On The Waterfront?


The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

February 19, 2009

The absolute tragedy of The Man Who Knew Too Much is that the opening half an hour of scene-setting and character establishment isn’t anywhere near strong enough to match up to the genuinely gripping meat of the film.  It is not that the film is boring, it’s certainly not like The Deer Hunter where the viewer’s resolve is tested and only the mentally strong can stomach the fourteen hour Wedding in order to get to the great stuff hiding away afterwards.  It is simply that the opening half-hour establishes James Stewart and Doris Day as an irritating and slightly foolish couple who think rather more highly of themselves, though maybe not of one another, than they might.  And when the film turns gripping suddenly it’s not so much that I get discombobulated by the shift, it’s simply that there’s a period where I know that I’m not engaged in the way that I should be and need to be for the film to work.  It happens of course, despite Doris Day and all the ‘oh-so-wholesome, apple pie, Que Sera Sera, too good to be true and dull as a pair of old pants’ baggage she brings I do begin to care.  I do get edgy.  I do want her to find a way to stop the shot.  That’s the skill of Hitchcock.  But he has to use so much of it redeeming the first half hour and- let’s be frank I hope this was forced upon him- the presence of Doris fucking Day and her fucking song, that the film is nowhere near the levels of dramatic excellence it could have reached.  For him to have blown his second shot at this story, and I haven’t seen the first in some years so I can only assume that he was unhappy with that too, is a real tragedy.  And it is blown- a real wasted opportunity.  Of course, as ever, I’m being hypercritical of someone I greatly admire.  If this was, say, a Barry Levinson film I’d be raving about it and moaning that he hardly ever shows any signs of this kind of skill in his other films.  But however good a job Hitch does of making up for it, there’s still no getting away from the fact that he lets her sing that fucking song in his film.  Twice!  Oscar my arse (as an Aston Villa manager may have said back in the sixties).

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So I’m not going to mention her again- other than to say in some scenes she’s really pretty convincing, its just that in others she’s useless which means that she may as well have been useless all along.  Right, that’s it!  No more mentions of that woman again.  And no I’m not on about that woman, Ms Lewinsky, I’m referring- or rather no longer referring- to the blonde bombsite up there .

The film then takes a wonderful turn just over half an hour in.  There has been intrigue before this with the urbane but mysterious Louis Bernard’s behaviour perplexing the normal, upright McKennas.  There’s even been a murder- Bernard in largely unexplained face-paint is butchered in a busy Marrakesh market right in front of the McKennas.  But 37 minutes in Jimmy Stewart receives a chilling call, Bernard Herrmann strikes up the band and Hitch focuses the camera on Jimmy’s hand anxiously gripping a telephone directory and the film takes flight.  Up to this point Stewart had played his character as grouchy and a little aloof, but this is stripped away instantly and he seems fallible and human and all of his ornery qualities become strengths.  It’s a clever performance by Stewart, playing an everyman character thrown into a volatile situation beyond normal comprehension could easily see the opening stages of the film played out by a sweet, happy, pleasant man- a male Doris Day if you like- rather than an uptight, opinionated, sometimes bolshie and sometimes funny guy.  And because he is a real person with a genuine and convincing angst over the safety of his son I find myself hooked.  The score helps, the direction helps but the real strength of the scene is in James Stewart’s brow.

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From that turning point we’re off on a Hitchcockian rollercoaster.  If you’ve seen The 39 Steps or North By Northwest, you’ll have seen this done better but it’s still exciting.  The action sees Day and Stewart frequently separate and not always acting with the other in mind, their frantic and often instinctual actions are beautifully shot with each finding themselves in odd positions as a result of their impetuosity- the scene with Stewart barging through a taxidermists as the staff try variously to restrain him and to protect their stuffed animals is priceless, James Stewart being bitten by a stuffed tiger in a Camden backstreet is not a sight you see every day!  There are false turns, red herrings,  suspicious officials and plausible bad-guys but at no point does this get confusing, it’s all deftly balanced and explained with great visual flourishes (though the earlier technicolour does look barely better than some colourised films I’ve seen) – and builds to the great Royal Albert Hall sequence.

The scene in the Royal Albert Hall is probably as dramatic as could be without tipping over into campy melodrama.  The set-up is fantastic, though it does require a little suspension of disbelief, and allows Hitch to stretch the scene out.  The viewer is already aware of the piece of music that will coincide in the shot being fired- a climactic cymbal crash- and the piece builds to it, then fades out several times heightening the tension through Doris Day’s character.  It is a beautiful example of how to control an audience.

After this, the film falls a little flat again.  The drama of what has just gone on needs to be released in some way but the plot requires that the final loose end is tied up.  This section of the film- lamentably shoehorning in another rendition of ‘Que Sera Sera’- cannot help but be anti-climactic and the film loses some impact here too.  It is a little too contrived, a little too neatly arranged and the final scene where the couple return to their waiting guests- who would have had time to grow a beard during their absence- is as cheesy as Hitchcock ever got.

And so I find The Man Who Knew Too Much disappointing.  Plenty within it is of the highest calibre and much of the rest is really unworthy of such a great filmmaker. 5/10


Vertigo (1958)

January 29, 2009

There is something about this film, something in the atmosphere of it, which is quite unique.  It isn’t quite dreamy and it certainly isn’t surreal, I’m guessing the best word is hypnotic.  The film lasts about two hours but feels longer because it immerses the viewer within- it doesn’t interest or intrigue or engage me, it enraptures me.  Everything contributes- the storyline with its twists and juxtapositions, the cinematography which somehow makes contemporary San Francisco look ethereal (and this isn’t the lustre added by the intervening years, I am sure), the performance of James Stewart with conflicting emotions of guilt and confusion and love and hope writ large across his brow, the direction which is confident, controlled and unhurried and finally- perhaps most importantly- Bernard Herrmann’s haunting score.

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There is such a great deal of depth to ‘Vertigo’ that you really can find new things to consider with each watch.  Here’s what I mean: watching this yesterday I was, for the first time, pondering the control that the male characters exercise over the female characters in their lives- Gavin Elster over Judy, ‘Scottie’ over Judy, ‘Scottie’ over ‘Midge’ and the unknown man from the bookseller’s story over Carlotta (his comment “they could do that back then” being ironic in that context).  Juxtaposed with this are the supposed obsession with Carlotta which Madelaine portrays and the obsession with Madelaine which leads ‘Scottie’ to possess Judy.  The film examines these relationships without drawing conclusions- these are left to the viewer- in each instance the man is rich and substantially older, the girl becomes a plaything or a means of passing the time, to be moulded and shaped in whatever image suits the man’s mood.  What this says about patriarchal relationships for Hitchcock is unimportant, he posits the question for the viewer to consider without guiding those thoughts.

There are culture snobs who claim that cinema isn’t art.  If Goya or Rembrandt created anything that betters Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ then I’ll eat my hat- 10/10.


The 39 Steps (1935)

January 17, 2009

This is what used to be called- and probably still is- an adventure yarn.  I think it’s fair to say they don’t make them like this any more. Hitchcock’s gift for suspense allied to his much underrated comic direction are both utilised to the full in this film.

Robert Donat plays a holidaying Canadian in London who stumbles across a spy plot and is engaged in a race against time to save the entire Western world.  I’ll be honest, it requires a pretty healthy suspension of disbelief.  The whole thing moves at great pace, the dialogue is snappy and memorable, the performances are- and I don’t think it’s a criticism necessarily- very typical of the period (especially Lucie Mannheim’s death), and the drama is intensified skilfully with occasional and timely comic relief by Hitch.

The whole thing exemplifies pre-Hollywood Hitchcock at his most confident- the maid’s squeal which is replaced by a screaming steam train, the suspicious and oppressive crofter who is by turns comical and villainous, the conversation in which Donat persuades the milkman to aid his escape and lurches from sinister to comedic to dramatic in mere seconds, the dramatic chase across the Scottish moors and finally the mise-en-scene which switches from the death of Mr Memory to the chorus girls to the happy coming together of the film’s stars.  Marvellous utilisation of the raw ingredients.

Most importantly of all, the film’s female lead Madeleine Carroll was born in my home town West Bromwich.  If this was awful I’d still give it a decent mark on the basis of that alone.  But it isn’t, it’s delicious and dramatic and funny and exciting and a worthy 9/10.