Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

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Shrew
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#101 Post by Shrew » Sat Oct 29, 2016 3:55 pm

I've seen the "it's all a dream" interpretation thrown around before, but never too seriously. It doesn't change the significance of the last part either way, through it might make Elster's loony scheme more palatable to those who pick at plot holes like scabs.

However, I'm against that interpretation because it robs Judy of agency. I know some dislike it, but I feel Hitchcock's choice to have her explain the plot right away is perfect. It makes the film her tragedy as much as Scottie's, and complicates the last act. (Stewart is still monstrous even though we know he's right, and his actions aren't vindicated by the reveal.)

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#102 Post by bottled spider » Sat Oct 29, 2016 5:40 pm

What are some of the better Hitchcock commentaries? I remember listening to a good one for Saboteur, but don't remember the label, or the name of the commentator (British). I confess to having enjoyed the notorious Notorious commentary on the Criterion disc -- I considered it only slightly excessive, not utterly risible. I've switched off a few boring ones -- NbNW comes to mind (the commentary, not the movie).

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Shrew
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#103 Post by Shrew » Sat Oct 29, 2016 8:00 pm

Waltzes From Vienna--I don't get why this one is so often bad-mouthed. It's not top-tier and won't make my list, but it's certainly more enjoyable than Topaz or Torn Curtain or even most of the early sound films preceding it. It feels like Hitchcock aiming to be Lubitsch and missing the mark, but if you're shooting for the moon...

The film's failing is a lack of tonal mastery. There are dark themes here with father and son, and Strauss Jr.'s relationship with his fiancee at times looks about to veer off into George Bailey territory of dreams deferred; yet the whole thing is just froth. Some set pieces work (I like the opening fire rescue, which has several great Lubitschian sight gags), and there's at least one great Hitchcockian moment where Strauss pere forces Resi out of a rehearsal, with her rushing toward the camera and the doors suddenly closing behind her. The "composition" of the waltz is a good attempt to use the environment and sound design, but its long since become a cliche.

The character of Resi is herself an example of this tonal confusion. At times she's a fervent supporter of the young Strauss and advocating for him before his father, and at other times she's browbeating him for trying to pursue his dreams and not settling down. I believe the intent was to make her a more independent character than the typical romantic interest, but her drive to push Strauss into baking makes her feel more like the girl he's not supposed to end up with. Jessie Matthews has a charming screen presence, but she and Hitchcock never quite solve that issue.

Also, re: shorts. Can I nominate the trailers for Psycho and Frenzy? I've been making my way through Hitchcock Presents episodes, and while several are pretty good (Lamb to the Slaughter, Breakdown, and The Case of Mr. Pelham are standouts so far), nothing is as much fun as Hitchcock giving a tour of the Psycho set ("Bathroom.")

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Black Hat
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#104 Post by Black Hat » Mon Oct 31, 2016 4:14 pm

Every time I pop on Marnie I try to figure out why there's a faction of people who hate it, even consider it Hitchcock's worst (the always irritating Michiko Kakutani called it 'portentous fluff' just last week) and each time I come up empty. You can describe Marnie in a multitude of ways, but 'fluff' is not one of them. On the basis of intensity alone it's going to rank high on my list. Yes it's his darkest, most disturbing film, but I also find it to be his emotionally honest work. Marnie's wounds on display here are is Hitchcock himself exposed raw. It's also his only film, unless you want to count The Birds or Strangers on a Train where there's a viable second woman. For me Diane Baker makes the film's mise-en-scène by herself Speaking of Strangers I see a bit of a parallel between the triangle dynamic there with Marnie. Yes it gets criticized for Connery being some kind of over simplified dark knight comic book hero version of Freud, but I certainly never got the impression by the end that Marnie is cured. This person's suffering will always be a part of her, now that she's faced it the real work now begins.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#105 Post by Black Hat » Mon Oct 31, 2016 4:28 pm

I Confess: I go back forth on this as to whether this is one of my top favorites depending on Anne Baxter. Sometimes I think she ruins the film, the middle segment too long, overly sentimental and heavy handed. At other times I think she's great in it. As for the rest of it I very much enjoy the nod to Carol Reed and think this is Clift's best performance. I do often wonder what it was like on set between Hitch, Clift and Malden as the latter two seem to be antithetical in approach to him. In other words I doubt there was a lot kumbaya being sung.

If there's anything for me to critique about Hitchcock is that his endings often end just a bit too fast, wrapping up a little too neatly. I Confess however is not that way at all with a very long, dramatic ending where Clift's entire reason for being — a stand in for the church obviously — is tested. You have a sad, unexpected, painful death which only heightens doubt, but ultimately for all the flaws, inconsistencies and hypocrisy Hitchcock gives Catholicism honor even if it comes with great sacrifice.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#106 Post by bottled spider » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:36 pm

Spellbound has gone unremarked so far in this thread, and is barely mentioned in the Criterion Rebecca/Notorious/Spellbound thread. Is it unpopular?

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#107 Post by knives » Mon Oct 31, 2016 7:50 pm

A little. I don't think it is considered faulty in the way that say Paradine Case is, but outside of its most famous sequence I don't really feel it has much going on compared to other Hitchcock's. Or to phrase it another way if Joseph Lewis were the director it would be great, but it's only mediocre with Hitchcock's name attached.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#108 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 31, 2016 8:01 pm

Spellbound is as appealing as a liverwurst sandwich

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#109 Post by bottled spider » Mon Oct 31, 2016 8:23 pm

Oh dear. It caught my eye because it seems to have been given the deluxe treatment in terms of extras, so I went and rented it. (First world probs).

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#110 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 31, 2016 8:37 pm

I always remember it as the one where the Hitchcock scholar on the Criterion commentary opens by admitting no one really likes the film (though it was inexplicably nominated for Best Picture!)

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#111 Post by Shrew » Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:02 pm

Spellbound was the first film I watched for this project as it was the last "big" Hitchcock film I hadn't seen. It's aged as poorly as the psychoanalysis it relies so much on.Even the dream sequence loses much of its power by being too closely tied to plot points and easily explained. On top of that, Bergman may be the worst psychiatrist in film, breaking every guideline in doctor-patient relationships. Actually, she's so bad that the film resembles a distaff Vertigo, with a woman forcing a man to repeat a tragic memory over and over in order to get him to love her.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#112 Post by Feego » Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:20 am

I can't mount a major defense for Spellbound except to say that ... I like it a little more than most others do? It was actually one of the first Hitchcock films I saw when I was a teenager (having grown up with The Birds), and I used to have a major teen infatuation with it (I would love to hear what Dr. Constance has to say about that!). I watched it again a few months ago, and no, it does not quite live up to the affection I had for it years ago. I do think, however, that it is still rather fun when you dismiss the psychology and just embrace the rather perverse mother/lover attraction Bergman has for Peck. Miklos Rozsa's famous score is the best thing about it, and I read once that even Gregory Peck acknowledged that the music is what kept the film in people's memory.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#113 Post by bottled spider » Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:28 am

Yeah, it was pretty bad. Though as often happens, it benefited somewhat from low expectations. Frustratingly, all the way through it had the potential of being something better, if only Hitchcock hadn't been so revoltingly enamored of psychoanalysis. If nothing else, it certainly would have been brisker without the all the educative psychobabble.

It had its moments. As corny as it may be, I liked the recession of opening doors as they go in for their first kiss.

And the liverwurst.

[cross-posted with Feego]
[edited for typo]
Last edited by bottled spider on Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Drucker
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#114 Post by Drucker » Tue Nov 01, 2016 9:45 am

Feego wrote:I can't mount a major defense for Spellbound except to say that ... I like it a little more than most others do? It was actually one of the first Hitchcock films I saw when I was a teenager (having grown up with The Birds), and I used to have a major teen infatuation with it (I would love to hear what Dr. Constance has to say about that!). I watched it again a few months ago, and no, it does not quite live up to the affection I had for it years ago. I do think, however, that it is still rather fun when you dismiss the psychology and just embrace the rather perverse mother/lover attraction Bergman has for Peck. Miklos Rozsa's famous score is the best thing about it, and I read once that even Gregory Peck acknowledged that the music is what kept the film in people's memory.
Agreed here. Saw it in theaters last year, and with the exception of that wonderful special effect in the final closing shot, a pretty weak Hitchcock.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#115 Post by jindianajonz » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:13 am

Has The Birds ever been released in black and white? I recently watched it for the All-Time list project, and was surprised to see it was in color. The only other time I'd seen it was back in the 90's for an 8th grade class, likely a VHS copy, and I'm not sure if my memory is faulty or if it somehow got distributed as B&W. If the latter, I'd be interested in hearing why somebody chose to go that route with it.

I guess it may have been a black and white TV, but even in the public education system, I would have thought those would be long gone by that point in time.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#116 Post by knives » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:19 am

Not as far as I know. When I first watched around '99 the VHS was in color.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#117 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:31 am

Jindianajonz is cheating on Annabella Sciorra [-X

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#118 Post by TMDaines » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:43 am

jindianajonz wrote:Has The Birds ever been released in black and white? I recently watched it for the All-Time list project, and was surprised to see it was in color. The only other time I'd seen it was back in the 90's for an 8th grade class, likely a VHS copy, and I'm not sure if my memory is faulty or if it somehow got distributed as B&W. If the latter, I'd be interested in hearing why somebody chose to go that route with it.

I guess it may have been a black and white TV, but even in the public education system, I would have thought those would be long gone by that point in time.
The only other thing worth mentioning is that turning saturation down for B&W films can be benefit if they are badly encoded and colour has crept in. I've been halfway through watching a film before realising it's supposed to be in colour and I've not reset the saturation back.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#119 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:05 pm

I've just noticed that a couple of the short "Close Up" pieces that the BBC showed in a Hitchcock season back in 1997 are online. Here's Hal Hartley on Notorious and Mike Leigh on Rear Window.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#120 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:06 pm

Thirteen lists in and we are down to only one film appearing in every list. Reminder that lists are due Friday (really Saturday morning when I wake up)

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#121 Post by dustybooks » Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:07 pm

bottled spider wrote:Frustratingly, all the way through it had the potential of being something better, if only Hitchcock hadn't been so revoltingly enamored of psychoanalysis. If nothing else, it certainly would have been brisker without the all the educative psychobabble.
That was mostly Selznick's obsession rather than Hitchcock's, I believe. The chapter about this film in Leonard Leff's book is quite entertaining. And judging from the Truffaut interview Hitchcock agreed with most of the board about the final film. I enjoy it but readily admit it's pretty stupid.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#122 Post by bottled spider » Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:41 pm

Ah. I'm still relatively new to Hitchcock. I had the notion he'd gone through a Freudian phase in his movies (from, I guess, the notorious Notorious commentary, and Zizek's Pervert's Guide to Cinema).

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#123 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 01, 2016 5:06 pm

Zizek's arguments (which I love) are more that Hitchcock's films express those elements or are valuable to explain the psychoanalytic concepts, more than there being any intentionality to their presence

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#124 Post by zedz » Tue Nov 01, 2016 5:29 pm

Hitchcock did make a number of feints at fashionable psychology / psychoanalysis / psychopathology even without Selznick guiding his hand, but they never seemed especially convincing to me (the explanation at the end of Psycho being the most glaringly perfunctory example). I think there was a genuine fascination with that material on Hitchcock's part, but the concepts were generally expressed as plot gimmicks (on the level of a drummer's twitching eyes) rather than profound characterization or plausible motivation. Psychology was another McGuffin for Hitchcock to draw upon, and it often got treated in the same manner in the films.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#125 Post by Feego » Tue Nov 01, 2016 8:15 pm

I agree with zeds, and this is part of the reason why I still enjoy Spellbound, even if not as much as I used to. I simply don't take the film's psychoanalysis seriously and see it as more of an excuse for elaborate detective work. And I think it's been said that Hitchcock rejected much of the input from Selznick's own psychoanalyst who was brought on as a consultant on the film. He clearly was interested more in the mystique and plot convenience of psychoanalysis than the real deal.

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