Tag Archives | Hitchcock

Archives: Alfred Hitchcock

Today, I’ve added to the site archives my first review of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It’s an analysis which posted earlier this year for the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival, where I had the pleasure to see the master’s 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much on nitrate at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Read my review of this interesting movie and thoughts on its screening, which was introduced by Martin Scorsese (Hugo, The Departed, New York, New York) here. I plan to add more classic film reviews this year.

Though I review movies only informally and occasionally for the blog, I plan to continue. I’m focussing on classic movie analysis, however, based on pictures I’ve seen on the big screen, such as The Man Who Knew Too Much. I enjoyed seeing an Alfred Hitchcock movie on the silver screen, of course, and I’d like to see more of his work and write more, new reviews and analyses, so let me know if you have one or two in mind you’d like me to review. As of now, my favorite Hithcock movie is 1954’s Rear Window, so I may write about this movie next. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in Hitchcock, who is with Howard Hawks and Lasse Hallstrom among my top favorite film directors, I did see and review a 2012 biographical movie about the master of suspense, which is simply titled Hitchcock, co-starring Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins. Read the review here. I’ve seen most of Hitchcock’s movies and many of the TV episodes. I’m also reading Hitchcock/Truffaut (I’ve seen the recent documentary, too).

I first started to take Hitchcock’s work seriously as a student of film during the 1990s while attending Professor Shoshana Milgram’s lectures and classes in Southern California and at several summer OCONs. Her work in film and literature is always deep, serious and thought-provoking. Dr. Milgram really encourages students to see his movies and think about them and she stirred me to appreciate why seeing a movie more than once can be a rich reward for the rational mind. I’ve written my reviews to be read both before and after the reader has seen the movie ever since. Today is Hitchcock’s birthday, so it strikes me as the best day to post my first review of a Hitchcock film to the backlog. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Movie Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Movie Review: Hitchcock

Anthony Hopkins was the draw for seeing Hitchcock, which is too tame to live up to its name. When I posted about the picture here in April, I was positively excited. With Mr. Hopkins, possibly the last great actor in proximity to Hollywood’s Golden Age, and an outstanding cast in a story based on an enticing subject, I couldn’t resist. My only reservations were one of the actresses and the company’s and crew’s track record.

It turns out that my concerns were well founded. The cast is fine, though Mr. Hopkins, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins and Toni Collette as Hitch’s secretary stand out, and Hitchcock is, too, on a certain level. Were it a made-for-television movie, it might even be quite good. But it isn’t, so it’s not, and I recommend it only on the slimmest of expectations and for diehard film and Hitch fans at that (and you should wait for the DVD). There’s not much to work with.

The story tracks twin plot lines, one about the ingenious film director’s marriage to Alma (Helen Mirren) and one about his movie, Psycho. Inserted into the plot are two devices that do not fit, one that frames the movie using Hitchcock’s television program introductions and one that involves a hallucinatory angle that takes liberty with his psychology and raises more questions than it answers. It adds up to a movie that’s cute, contrived and artificial. Hitchcock has interesting scenes, such as almost anything pertaining to Psycho‘s development and the marriage is also engaging insofar as it explores what makes living with a legend – or any intellectual – an enormous challenge.

The intersection of movie and marriage is, in director Sacha Gervasi’s hands, not nearly as interesting. Sure, there’s a sweetness to this tale of an older married couple climaxing in life and in art amid their pent-up troubles, demands and desires as the legendary director makes the change from his Rear Window era to his last, and, curiously, most remembered pictures, such as The Birds, which foretold a cultural era dominated by chronic fear and death worship. Knowingly or not, Alma flirts with having an affair while Hitch leers at his Psycho leading lady Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johannson) who gets an earful from her co-star Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) and fends off studio and industry types. But none of one’s memory of that iconic 1960 movie is exactly rewarded with recreations or insights and instead the jumbled intrusions of Alma’s trips to the beach to write her own material and Hitch’s hallucinations break up the material and downsize the whole thing.

Alfred Hitchcock, one of the motion picture industry’s most talented filmmakers, a true, great artist, comes off smallest of all, despite Mr. Hopkins’s excellent performance. The film’s tag line, “Behind every Psycho is a great woman”, takes root, giving Ms. Mirren, but not Mr. Hopkins, a big showy scene, and we are left with the hero with feet of clay – or at the least the sexist inference that a man’s really nothing without a woman – which not only doesn’t do justice to the woman who was Mrs. Hitchcock; it emasculates the genius. No matter which Psycho scenes are cobbled together, you really get no sense of what makes his movies works of art. And, for a movie that bears his name, that feels like a monumental injustice. There are interesting scenes, interplays and moments, certainly, and this is a movie about a legend so it’s hard not to watch. Collette is always rich on screen. There are keen observations about Psycho as a logical extension of Hitchcock’s undervalued Rope, a terrific, taut picture about an intellectual getting exactly the ideas in practice that he preaches, what constitutes horror and the lessons of self-restraint. But Hitchcock ultimately takes Hitchcock down a notch.