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Thread: The Genius and Shortcomings of Hitchcock

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    The Genius and Shortcomings of Hitchcock

    The Genius and Shortcomings of Hitchcock
    by Chris Knipp

    Alfred Hitchcock was a funny man. I don't know if he was a nice one. But he said funny things and his observations were often acute. On why people were fond of his thrillers he said simply, "they like to put their toe in the cold water of fear." He reassured Anthony Perkins, "Don't worry, Tony, it's only a movie." He also said, "To me Psycho was a big comedy. Had to be." Despite the restraints of his times, his movies could be terrifying and even nasty, but there's always that element of play, either through jokes or through a sheer pleasure in the manipulation of the audience. His cameo appearances were a kind of game, as well as a gesture of "authorial intrusion" subtly calculated to make us aware that he was self conscious and separate from his work.

    What he dubbed the "McGuffin" is another sign of Hitchcock's detachment: it's a motivating element for the characters, but a thing of no real importance to him: a conscious contrivance often used to fool the audience. "Psycho," though not a favorite of mine, admittedly has a brilliant "McGuffin:" the audience is completely distracted from what the movie is going to be about by the $40,000 theft at the outset. The fact is, you don't have to like a Hitchcock movie to recognize its cunning and clearheaded craftsmanship.

    Hitchcock is a popular artist, but he is also a cold-blooded technician. His humor signals his detachment as a director -- a detachment also evident in his attitude toward actors, the famous, "I didn't say actors are cattle. What I said was, actors should be treated like cattle." These words would be sound very callous in the mouth of a stage director, but they realistically reflect the aggressive control a director can exercise in the more malleable medium of film, in which, as Hitch said, "The best way to do it is with scissors." A bad piece of acting can literally be cut out of the film. The shape of things on the screen is the final cut, and actors become to a greater extent only one of the tools in the game.

    If I had to distinguish Hitchcock from most directors, especially modern ones, I'd say that they, in his terms, get too involved in their subjects. Hitchcock had fun with his, without taking them or himself too seriously. His job was to entertain and the essence of that entertainment was to get that toe into "the cold water of fear" and hold it there till he was ready to let it go. When we're talking about his technique we're not talking about a certain kind of shot or a style so much as in the way his movies are structured in time, paced to control the reactions of the audience.

    Above all, famously, he was the master of suspense. This is nothing more than turning up the volume on that fear by manipulating time. Suspense is delay. The viewer knows what is coming, or thinks he does, but doesn't know when. Control is in the director's hands and he lets us know it. He knows when. We don't. He's not telling. "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." This is Hitchcock's fundamental principle. Through manipulating time, he manipulates our reactions.

    Essentially this is done through montage, or editing --especially cross-cutting back and forth between two locations. The cops in one place are bearing down on the crook in another. The killer in one place is approaching his victim in another. There are two separate actions or scenes that are coming closer together, and Hitchcock can speed up that approach or slow it down however he wants. Editing/montage/cross cutting is the most fundamental cinematic element. In the Russian silents it's seen in the reaction shoot. Hitchcock got much more complicated, though his aims were always the simplest and that's why he succeeds so well -- though his methods may seem almost brutal at times.

    When I was a kid, long before the term "auteur" was introduced, Hitchcock was the famous director whose name Americans knew and whose style they professed to admire. As movie lovers, my father and I wanted to see the latest Hitchcock film. To some extent we were often disappointed, especially because Hitch turned out some losers when I was growing up, but also because I had seen what we now know as "film noir" and films like the Carol Reed/Graham Greene" The Third Man" (1949) and René
    Clément's "Forbidden Games" (1952), which are more idea-driven, more subtle, and richer in atmosphere than Hitchcock even though they may owe him a debt. "No one admitted during the last half hour" and "Don't reveal the ending" seemed to me corny marketing tricks to drum up interest for "Psycho." The Hermann sound track made the shower scene seem utterly manipulative. Anthony Perkins was so over-the-top that as
    the movie wore on you couldn't find him believable for a minute; he is far more chilling elsewhere.

    Nonetheless, you felt scared in spite of yourself: that is the essence of Hitchcock. I may have thought I had developed a more sophisticated taste in movies for directors with a less manipulative but more committed relationship to their audience and subject matter, but Hitchcock's masterful construction was still evident whenever he was in top form.

    My favorites of that time are "Dial M for Murder" (basically just a play, but an elegant, fast-paced one), "Strangers on a Train" (my favorite of the period; later I became a Patricia Highsmith addict)," Rear Window" (though it's a bit tame, I loved James Stewart and the elegant milieu), "North by Northwest" (again elegant, as well as sexy and fast paced), "To Catch a Thief" (tame as a thriller, but Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and the French Riviera make it glamorous and charming to watch), and finally "Frenzy" (a stylistic shift toward naturalism and yet a return to Hitchcock's native England and to an old theme, the serial killer).

    Hitchcock movies that didn't work for me from the same period are, despite the fame of some of them, "Vertigo" (I didn't get it), "The Birds" (preposterous, and with uninteresting actors), "Psycho" (high camp, nothing more), "Marnie" (a non-entity), "Torn Curtain" (creaky), "Topaz" (forgettable), and "Family Plot" (not my Hitchcock, though it may be some people's).

    My Favorite early Hitchcock works are three famous ones, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The 39 Steps," (whose spy theme anticipates "North by Northwest"), and the charming and very English "The Lady Vanishes."

    In time Hitchcock came to satisfy me less and less. I can see why the French New Wave directors and "Cahiers du Cinema" writers loved him: they saw him (and Truffaut famously interviewed him) with the rose colored glasses of the French cinema buff which make Jerry Lewis a genius auteur. Alas, we do not love our own cinema as much as the French do (the best book on Buster Keaton is by a Frenchman). But for me Hitchcock came to seem too detached from what he was doing and from significant themes. Next to the humanistic concerns of Renoir and Kurosawa, Hitchcock's "pure cinema," as Truffaut called it, makes him appear too much the mere entertainer. If you want to understand how movies are made, though, and their nearly atavistic relationship to the audience, you have to go back to him and he is one of the wisest and clearest teachers.

    On his tombstone Hitchcock intended to have, "This is what we do to bad little boys." It finally read, "I'm in on a plot."
    Last edited by Review; 06-13-2003 at 02:17 PM.

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    REBUTTAL

    Chris has been led astray by Hitchcock's own public persona. At the very least, some analysis of his characters/premises/resolutions is required prior dismissing Hitch as a "cold blooded technician". Admittedly, the misconception was encouraged by the director himself; Hitchcock apparently preferred to be misunderstood than expose his private self. Thus, the obligatory macabre quips to the press and the deliberate tastelessness of his publicity were a form of self-protection. The discrepancy between his promotional stunts and the films themselves is usually so sharp that no one should be fooled into mistaking the showman for the creator.
    Thre are several themes and concerns that reappear in a variety of guises in Hitchcock's films. Primarily, his is a cinema of anguish. His characters express a dread of annihilation through loss of freedom and identity, impotence, or violent death. Themes of guilt/innocence often are presented so that the audience is implicated, in the same manner that we are invited to participate in the voyeuristic activities of Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo and Rear Window. Hitchcock is conscious of the arbitrariness of justice and unmasks our vulnerability; most apparent in the brilliant, Bresson-like The Wrong Man.
    Alfred Hitchcock was a man with a deep understanding of the effects of trauma, the roots of mental illness and emotional dysfunction, and the formation of identity. His best films provide us with psychologically-detailed fractured personalities to explore, and often with resolutions that provide the protagonist an opportunity for re-integration or redemption.

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    I meant my remarks just to be a jumping off point and not any sort of last word, but I'm sorry if my description of Hitch sounds dismissive. I didn't mean it that way. I meant rather to express a lifelong admiration, but a lingering doubt that his movies have the kind of humanistic content you find in Kurosawa, Bergman, Renoir, Kieslowski or others of that sort. I said that we have to study him, because he is a great director. If he is a cold blooded technician, he is nonetheless a master. Certainly I agree that he was hiding something more complex behind his simplified, mildly comic, public persona, manifested more and more in his late days in the little intros to "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." The humor relieves the tension which otherwise would be unbearable. I said: "his movies could be terrifying and even nasty, but there's always that element of play." For heaven's sake, look at what he had inscribed on his tombstone.

    My simplification of the issues is not meant to be reductive. It is only done in the interest of clarification, encouraging a common understanding, and keeping it entertaining, in the spirit of Hitch himself.

    Otherwise, I don't think your summary of what you think are Hitchcock's main "themes" --which is interesting, and perfectly acceptable, even if you haven't yet traced it here though many of H's movies-- is a "rebuttal" of my piece. I don't enter into any discussion of his themes in the piece at all. He can perfectly well be a cold technician and still have themes. You can see whatever you want to see there. But how important were such themes to the director? Or does that not matter?

    To say his theme is "anguish" is just a fancy way of saying he sets out to scare you, which could reach Kafka-esque levels of anguish indeed in the "Wrong Man Theme." But Hitchcock is an entertainer. Kafka provides you with real anguish that is not relieved. You say Hitch's movies contain "resolutions that provide the protagonist an opportunity for re-integration or redemption." I'm not sure I can see that (Psycho?), but if it's there, it certainly softens the anguish, which is much more pure in Kafka.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-14-2003 at 12:36 PM.

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    VERTIGO

    Originally posted by Review
    "Vertigo" (I didn't get it)
    What he loved in her_had it been so all along_ was...it was difficult to explain...was that she wasn't real.
    _from D'Entre les Morts, by Boileau and Narcejac

    It's a challenge to convey in a few lines the profound richness of VERTIGO, adapted from a French novel which translates to "in between deaths". I'll attempt to do so without spoilers. I'll present the elaborate premise for those who haven't seen it.

    The movie opens with cops chasing a culprit across a San Francisco roof. Det. "Scottie" Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) slips and dangles from a drain pipe high above the street. A cop falls to his death trying to save Scottie. He develops intense guilt and acrophobia, a fear of heights, experiencing vertigo when he looks down. The traumatized Scottie retires. We meet Midge, a warm, independent woman trying to help him back to normalcy. Marge still loves Scottie, to whom she was once engaged.
    A college chum asks Scottie to shadow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak). She is delusional, says her husband, obsessed with Carlotta, an ancestor who commited suicide by jumping off a belltower. As Scottie follows her around historical sights, he falls in love with the mysterious, alluring blonde. Madeleine attempts to drown herself in the bay, he rescues her. They spend time together but she remains an enigma. She suggests they visit the Mission at San Juan Bautista. Suddenly, Madeleine climbs the belltower. The disabled Scottie cannot follow her all the way to the top. He sees her form flying past the window. A still body lies dead on the roof below. Scottie goes insane with feelings of impotence, guilt and longing. Midge is forced to walk out of his life. One day Scottie spots a shopgirl named Judy (Ms. Novak). She has red hair and dresses differently than Madeleine, but the resemblance is uncanny. Scottie courts her and wins her love while gradually transforming her into Madeleine.
    Then, about 2/3 into VERTIGO, Hitchcock solves the mystery with a single flashback I won't discuss. We are left with the drama of a splintered man, burdened by phobias and philias, and a woman who has to surrender her identity and become another to keep his love. (A milder identity crisis than Norman Bates, the Psycho protagonist, who had fully internalized his dead mother's personality to the point of no return).
    Scottie is played by "Mr. Everyman" but Scottie is anything but "everyman". Our fascination with him increases along with our inability to identify with him. Mr. Stewart, like in Rear Window, is again presented as a voyeur (Scottie does little else but follow Madeleine until she jumps in the bay). But VERTIGO is the film that most forcefully links voyeurism to impotence and fetishism. The film displays an insight into behavior and the workings of the human mind rare in popular entertainment.
    The character of Midge does not figure in the narrative about a retired detective asked by an old buddy to investigate his wife. Midge is introduced in the second scene as a key in the larger, psychic puzzle that is Scottie. It is hinted that Scottie's lack of passion is the reason they broke off their engagement. This "rejection" of the attractive, independent, (carnal?) Midge suggests character flaws that predate Scottie's traumatic roof incident. Hitchcock builds steadily to a powerful climax which will provide an opportunity for Scottie to exorcise his demons(some); perhaps even a chance for the Scottie and Judy to accomodate to each other's baggage and find happiness.

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    Well, Oscar, Your affection for this much loved Hitchcockian work is evident in your summary here. But it's a little hard to see from what you say that this is a movie, and it's the cinematic elements surely that recommend Vertigo to its many admirers, particularly the dramatic sequence of the bell tower and the fall, which is a climax and a crux, posing a riddle. Without the essential element of the explanation that sequence calls for, which (out of consideration for people who haven't seen Vertigo and therefore won't make much sense of this discussion anyway), you have chosen to omit, I fear your discussion may not do justice to the film. I want to be convinced; I honestly do. I want to know what makes you think this is a great movie. But I don't get that here.

    Pauline Kael wrote once that the explanation scene of Psycho was one of Hitchcock's worst moments, and deplored the fact that De Palma had chosen to imitate it. Vertigo, you say, is a riddle with a solution, an explanation, with psychological even psychopathological overtones. It's that need for the final explanation relying on psychopathology that probably most makes the film seem to me not, after all, Hitchcock's best work (though most disagree with me nowadays). Not that Hitchcock doesn't sometimes deal with psychopathology successfully when there is also crime and detection and suspense, as in my favorite Strangers on a Train, Frenzy, and various others, but Vertigo seems to me in some ways dated for its time, more like a Freudian excess of the Forties, and even a bit more dated now. It seems odd, for instance, on your part, to speak of the psychological practicality of "accommodating to each other's baggage" when such a far-fetched plot line explanation is involved. But again, without the so called "spoiler" that you omit, you can't explain how this movie makes sense. And I find you've failed to convey a full sense of the cinematic or of the Hitchcockian style in what you say here.

    I am a fan of Hitch when he is funny and witty and when he is simultaneously terrifying and suspenseful, but not when he is engaging in psychodrama. It is Vertigo's ponderousness and its reliance on psychology over plot that hamper my appreciation of Vertigo.

    I also tend to feel that James Stewart may have been a less than ideal choice for such a complex, tormented character, and an odd match for the haunted, remote Kim Novak. (I understand Vera Miles was the original selection.) Grace Kelly in Rear Window was a much better partner for the mild, clubbable Stewart. But that pairing, of course, makes for a different movie.

    P.s. I have been helped to gain an understanding of the film, which obviously has qualities I have been missing, from Ebert's discussion here: http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/greatmovies/vertigo.html


    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-17-2003 at 02:51 AM.

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    MORE ABOUT EVALUATING HITCHCOCK

    David Thomson on Hitchcock: Inspired bitchiness?

    I've been a bit amazed at some recent comments on Hitchcock, which seem to cast a blind eye on the man's faults as well as to ignore his sense of humor.

    As anyone who's consulted his Biographical Dictionary of Film well knows, David Thomson is a highly opinionated writer, but his views carry the weight of a profound knowledge of the world of the movies and a heck of a lot of honest thought about every film and actor and filmmaker he writes about. Thomson's description of the films of Alfred Hitchcock is a rigorous attempt to show the man's extraordinary achievements as a director without flinching in looking at his equally stunning limitations. I urge participants in Hitchcock forums to consult this assessment by Thomson. A few highlights:

    The Dictionary doesn't, I think, at all understate the importance of the director's work. Of Hitchcock's best films, Thomson writes, "Their greatness has to be underlined to explain the nature of cinema. Thus Hitchcock became a way of defining cinema, a man exclusively intent on the moving image and the compulsive emotions of the spectator." But "To see Hitchcock's films, in my opinion, is not to confront an author of supreme technical and narrative confidence, or a moral philosopher of great wisdom."

    There are certain lifelong obsessions that grow out of the director's quirks of personality. "Ignorance and fear are the abiding impressions left by his films…I do not see how a man so fearful, and so chronically adept at conveying fear, can be judged as a profound artist. Suffering in his films invariably depends upon the victim being unbalanced or demented. The pain of Perkins in Psycho or Stewart in Vertigo is savage, but is more limited than that in Renoir, Mizoguchi or Welles because of Hitchcock's resort to mania and melodrama to set it off."

    It is, I think myself, Hitchcock's relatively narrow range of human focus (despite the psychological penetration), as well as a certain crudeness in the treatment of his themes, that keeps the director out of the rank of the most profound humanistic film artists. Mind you, he's still a major director.

    In Thomson's view, the director was, despite his genius, in a sense his own worst enemy: he was a man not able to take account of his own depths of feeling, and thus forced to limit himself, sometimes in the films themselves, sometimes in his simplistic comments on them. "Hitchcock's most profound subject and achievement is the juxtaposition of sanity and insanity, of bourgeois ordinariness and criminal outrage. The criss-cross motif, derived from thriller fiction, is itself a map of the way audiences willingly cross over from their seats to involve themselves in film. James Stewart being drawn into Kim Novak in Vertigo is a model of the way we are sucked into films…. his moral seriousness consists of showing us the violent, psychotic fruits of some of those impulses and shyly asking us to claim them as our own. I say 'shyly' because Hitchcock does not properly own up to his seriousness…the truth seems to me that he does not fully grasp his own films. Truffaut's book amply reveals a man of very mundane, shallow moral and social attitudes, flip rather than witty, genuinely more interested in technique than meaning. And, it must be said, there is a degree of spiritual coarseness and callousness in Hitchcock's work, that chimes with the career-long taste for brutalizing our nerves."

    I think Thomson would agree with me that to describe Hitchcock's movies without taking account of the director's simplistic remarks about them is to avoid the man's limitations, which feed into his art.

    "Spiritual coarseness and callousness" aren't very appealing traits. Nonetheless in this relatively long entry Thomson credits Hitchcock's "astonishing achievements," and reviews "ten films that are masterly and which repay endless viewing," pointing out the merits and the thematic significance of Rebecca, Notorious, Under Capricorn, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo, The Wrong Man, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. Importantly for me, he acknowledges Strangers on a Train to be "one of Hitchcock's most fascinating films."

    There are stunning works in the Hitchcock filmography, and Thomson fully acknowledges that, noting also, however, the director's "alarming variability," his miscalculations, and his "several flops."

    Thomson argues that Hitch never left the "dream-dotty England of the 1930's" and "never really noticed anything in America beyond the equipment resources of the big studios and the tourist sites." This leads directly into a consideration of the limitations of Hitchcock's moviemaking style, his "brilliant" but "private and restrictive" working methods. "To plan so much that the shooting becomes a chore is an abuse not just of actors and crew, but of cinema's predilection for the momentary."

    This is only a quick summary of some of the more salient points. I would urge anyone who is interested in forming an honest and critical assessment of Hitchcock's contribution to the history of cinema to read the whole entry in Thomson's Biographical Dictionary.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-20-2003 at 03:37 AM.

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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    Vertigo seems to me in some ways dated for its time, more like a Freudian excess of the Forties
    It is remarkable how much of what we know about the workings of the mind and what motivates human behavior derives from Freud. A few of his formulations, such as the concept of penis envy, have dated. But overall, his understanding of repression, childhood trauma as the origin of emotional dysfunction, the ecology of the psyche, etc. are valid today.

    I find you've failed to convey a full sense of the cinematic or of the Hitchcockian style
    You've done well conveying his style. My aim is to illustrate that his best films have substance, that they have value beyond stylish entertainment.

    I am a fan of Hitch, but not when he is engaging in psychodrama.
    Fair.

    I have been helped to gain an understanding of the film, which obviously has qualities I have been missing, from Ebert's discussion
    Very good piece. One acute observation Ebert makes is that VERTIGO is as much about Judy as about Scottie (once the mystery is revealed) and that Hitch views Judy with a sympathy he rarely bestowed on his female victims.
    What I found most interesting is Ebert ascribing a self-reflective quality to the film: "Vertigo is about how Hitchcock used, feared and tried to control women". If Hitch was conscious of this, he'd never admit it.

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    Re: MORE ABOUT EVALUATING HITCHCOCK

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    [B]David Thomson on Hitchcock
    Suffering in his films invariably depends upon the victim being unbalanced or demented.

    A crude generalization. For starters, there is nothing unbalanced and demented about the character played by Henry Fonda in Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, a neglected, sober masterpiece. Besides, we all can learn from explorations of "unbalanced or demented" characters.

    Thomson credits Hitchcock's "astonishing achievements," and reviews "ten films that are masterly and which repay endless viewing"
    My point is that 3 (Vertigo, The Wrong Man, Rear Window) perhaps 4 (Notorious) of the 10 he lists, belong in the company of the best Renoir's, Mizoguchi's or Welles'. Hitchcock released over 50 features, several were less ambitious and/or successful than others. He said of Dial M: "I didn't need to go into the studio. I could have phoned that one in".

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    He said of Dial M: "I didn't need to go into the studio. I could have phoned that one in".
    Yes; but that is one of Hitch's quips and word plays, of course, and yet another of the endless examples of his own self-deprecation.

    3 (Vertigo, The Wrong Man, Rear Window) perhaps 4 (Notorious) of the 10 he lists, belong in the company of the best Renoir's, Mizoguchi's or Welles'.
    Hitchcock is a great filmmaker. But the question remains whether relating him to those directors is appropriate, whether he isn't more a brillilant (if highly uneven) entertainer rather than a profound artist.

    Thomson is provocative and interesting. I'd never read him before. I like what he says about Hitchcock, which confirms my own impressions. I find him far too dismissive of others I regard highly, Kurosawa, for example. But it's unusual and good I think to have a "dictionary" that takes strong critical stands and revises received opinions -- isn't just blandly approving of everything.

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    boys...boys, let's not fight. You both obviously like the work of Hitch. However, Chris, your views about Vertigo are rather naive. Don't just read an online review by that pompous old wind bag from the windy city.

    Here is an exerpt from Donald Spoto's book, "The Art of Hitchcock", regarding the film "Vertigo".

    "Vertigo not only reflects accurately the experiences of many people; it also comments on the metaphysic of film, and on its power to affect the psyche. The love which it examines is the fruit of illusion and human artifice, just as a woman's appeareance in a film is the fruit of illusion and human artifice - 'everything is fake'... Vertigo seems to me a work of absolute purity and formal perfection, and simultaneously presents a series of such startlingly beautiful images that the film draws the viewer into a realm of hypersentivie experience, a world where people grope painfully for some stability... a film of uncanny maturity and insight, and if its characters are flawed, that is, after all, only a measure of their patent humanity , and of the film's unsentimental yet profound compassion."

    Vertigo requires a second or third look on your part Chris. Don't feed into the current trend of dismissiveness.

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    Whose current trend of dismissiveness do you mean? I don't think Ebert was at all dismissive.


    I'm only the straw man in all this. But somebody needs to break the unbroken mood of adulation, worship, and solemnity that seems to be pervasive when Hitchcock is discussed by his younger fans. He's not being dismissed, he's being taken way too seriously. But he is nonetheless a hugely important and influential filmmaker and his technique is classic.

    Oscar and I aren't fighting. We're politely disagreeing.

    .

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    DEBATE/VERTIGO/Ebert, Spoto and Thomson.

    Originally posted by cinemabon
    boys...boys, let's not fight. You both obviously like the work of Hitch.However, Chris, your views about Vertigo are rather naive.
    I have a great deal of respect for Chris Knipp and often share his opinions. But focusing on disagreements can be an excellent conduit to growth, and learning from each other. I agree with you though, in that Chris seems to have watched some of Hitchcock's best films without giving them much thought.

    Don't just read an online review by that pompous old wind bag from the windy city.
    Ebert's review of VERTIGO is from his "The Great Movies" book. Like Chris wrote:" not at all dismissive". On the other hand, this Thomson fellow Chris quotes seems to wish for infamy by dissin' Kurosawa(!?!) and saying ridiculous things like:"Hitchcock never left the dream-dotty England of the 1930s".

    Here is an exerpt from Donald Spoto's book, "The Art of Hitchcock".
    "Vertigo also comments on the metaphysic of film, and on its power to affect the psyche. The love which it examines is the fruit of illusion and human artifice, just as a woman's appeareance in a film is the fruit of illusion and human artifice - 'everything is fake'...

    Indeed. VERTIGO can definitely be read as allegory.

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    Oscar Jubis writes:

    Here is an exerpt from Donald Spoto's book, "The Art of Hitchcock".
    "Vertigo also comments on the metaphysic of film, and on its power to affect the psyche. The love which it examines is the fruit of illusion and human artifice, just as a woman's appeareance in a film is the fruit of illusion and human artifice - 'everything is fake'...


    Indeed. VERTIGO can definitely be read as allegory.
    David Thomson says something like this too. He speaks of: "Rear Window and Vertigo, superb commentaries on watching films."

    It seems that when he became aware of Ozu, Thomson decided that Kurosawa had been overrated. I don't know how he got that idea. You won't find me dissin' Kurosawa.

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    sexually frustrated

    Hitch was obviously sick of being with Irma in his later work and was so distressed by his inner turmoil that it came through in his craft. God, if I looked and behaved like hitch did i'd want to be a strapping, chisel jawed six footer who could have his way with any BLONDE, being the operative word here, he could get his hands on. Everything else in analytical foreplay is mere heresay.....

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    Kurosawa vs. Ozu vs. Mizoguchi

    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    It seems that when he became aware of Ozu, Thomson decided that Kurosawa had been overrated. I don't know how he got that idea. You won't find me dissin' Kurosawa.

    Me neither. Actually, we do need cinema pundits who spread the word about Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. Along with Kurosawa, the three "pantheon" directors of Japanese origin, though several others come close given Japan's rich film history.

    The discrepancy is that Kurosawa's films have been widely distributed and viewed whereas Ozu and Mizoguchi are being neglected, at least in the English-speaking West. I researched Imdb, our biggest sample of film buffs:

    Kurosawa released 32 films, 20 available on dvd, most feature restored image and sound (others are available as reasonably priced imports). 13 of his films got over 1000 votes each, with The Seven Samurai the most popular at over 17k.

    Ozu directed 54 films, only Good Morning and I was born but... are available on dvd. NONE of his films get 1000 votes, but the ratings of those who've seen them are just as high as Kurosawa's.

    Mizoguchi directed 86 films, only The 47 Ronin on dvd. Ugetsu is the most popular at only 702 votes. Again, Mizoguchi's films get ratings as high as Kurosawa's films, from those who've seen them.

    Several Ozu and Mizoguchi films were released on vhs but few remain in good shape at rental stores, and some featured prints of bad quality, in need of restoration. I was lucky to attend a Mizoguchi retrospective almost 20 yrs. ago. If forced to make a decision, I'd probably call Mizoguchi my favorite, based mostly on my exalted memories of those screenings. Actually, I could only place two directors above Kenji: Jean Renoir and Luis Bunuel. But my opinion is only informed by viewings of a minority of the films directed by Mizoguchi and Ozu. More than enough to tell you with force and conviction to take advantage of any opportunity to watch their films.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 06-26-2003 at 01:11 AM.

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