Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

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Rayon Vert
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#51 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 09, 2016 2:09 pm

My revisits for this week:

The Ring. One of his better silents, with H early on showing his mastery of film technique: subjective POVs, superimpositions & other visual effects. Imperfect, but for the most part an engaging minor film and well-executed. For most of this sports film, the boxing takes a backseat to the unfolding marriage drama, which brings to mind how many of H’s films involve an imperiled couple and comment on the institution of marriage.

Rope. The black humor that up until then had always stayed at the edges now takes center stage, as the pseudo-Nietzcheanism spouted out by the uncle in Shadow of a Doubt is taken a step further. I love watching John Dall in this one. His expressive performances here and in Gun Crazy are enough to make him a favorite of mine. An early film that gets you rooting for the bad guys (who did something truly bad) to get away with it – or is that just me?

I’ve always wondered if that flashing red and green from the neon sign at the climactic moment is symbolic of anything, rather than merely a mood-enhancing stylistic effect?

This is one Hitchcock color film that’s badly in need of being restored, by the way.

Sabotage. A really accomplished little film, and very grim and emotionally tough. That near-climactic, controversial sequence is indeed very suspenseful, and it’s just one example here of Hitchcock demonstrating his command of film technique and art. This is also one of Hitch’s most enjoyable British films in its recreation of of London life. The film ends on a somewhat weak note, however, dragging on a bit unnecessarily after the major events have taken place.

Foreign Correspondent. I imagine that like a lot people, I tend to remember the umbrellas and the windmills mostly, but the rest of this, most of it set in London, is very solid, even though not containing as many stunning sequences as some other Hitchcock films or as thrilling as something like Saboteur. McCrea and Day are quite likeable as actors here, and there are some great sets. Especially enjoyable if you watch it with the historical context in mind of when this was filmed, at war’s early onset. Bit of propaganda at the end, but it’s dramatic and effective! That’s quite a few films H released between ’40 and ’46 that reference the war, and then you have all those mid-to-late 30s British films he made that also allude to the looming threat.

To Catch a Thief. I posted about this one earlier but I gave it another spin if my thoughts about it still hold (they do!). Not terrifically strong dramatically, but pretty much in every other way...

There's a phosphorescent, semi-otherworldly almost-neon emerald green lighting in several scenes here - which brings to mind the lighting at the end of Rope, and, in a very pronounced way, throughout key moments in Vertigo as well. Then think of Tippi wearing green in The Birds. Symbolism?

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#52 Post by knives » Sun Oct 09, 2016 3:49 pm

I take the light in Rope to be an early expression of the use of green neon lighting that is even more effectively executed in Vertigo.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#53 Post by Feego » Mon Oct 10, 2016 3:04 pm

I watched a few new-to-me films last week, and these will likely be the only ones I watch for this project:

Murder! (1930)
This one started out well, with some bold experimentation with both sound and visuals. Disembodied screams and knocking are heard on the soundtrack as the camera dollies across a row of windows, with various characters sticking their heads out to see what all the commotion is. We are introduced straight off to a pair of fun characters in a stage manager and his actress wife who confusedly try to make their way to the neighboring boarding house where a murder has been committed. There's a terrific moment where the wife and landlady walk back and forth from room to room as they fix a pot of tea, and the camera moves quickly from side to side to keep up with them, as if it's taking the point of view of the crowd watching Farley Granger play tennis in Strangers on a Train. This promises to be an amusing and eye-catching mystery. But alas, the film becomes a conventional slog when Herbert Marshall's dull juror is introduced to prove that the young woman accused of the murder is innocent. There are a few more moments of innovation scattered throughout, but this movie just doesn't hold up to either The Lodger and Blackmail before it or to Hitchcock's best films later in the decade.

Foreign Correspondent (1940)
This one is all about the set pieces. I'm in agreement with everyone else here. The windmill sequence is fantastic, and watching McCrea make his escape from the windmill, down the stairs and in and out of corners without being seen is among the most suspenseful things I have seen in a Hitchcock film. I loved the various sleight-of-hand tricks, like George Sanders jumping through a window and landing safely through an awning (an obvious mannequin matching seamlessly with the actor), and especially the famous plane crash. Sure, the story didn't always make the most sense, but this was a pretty breezy piece of entertainment.

Saboteur (1942)
I wasn't as fond of this one as I'd hoped I would be. As with Foreign Correspondent, there's quite a bit of propaganda throughout, but I don't think it was weaved quite as cleverly into the story this time around. The numerous speeches, by both good guys and bad, jarringly brought the film to several halts. Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane were likeable enough, but perhaps the absence of real star power make this one seem like a fairly low-key effort. Yes, the climax on the Statue of Liberty is excellent. The film is worth seeing just for that alone.

Marnie (1964)
This was an unexpectedly disturbing experience. I had seen much of this film in bits and pieces over the years, so I was familiar with the main plot of Tippi Hedren as a pathological liar and thief. But I'll be damned if Sean Connery's Mark Rutland isn't one of the most fucked up characters in all of Hitchcock's oeuvre. His creepy obsession with Marnie is far more troubling than her comparatively simple issues, tied as they are to a repressed childhood memory. Of course, we think that James Bond himself has all her best interest in mind when he becomes involved with her. But as he insinuates himself deeper into her life, forcing her into marriage, and finally...
SpoilerShow
raping her
this movie just becomes all kinds of queasy. That last development is frankly more shocking than "nice guy" Norman Bates turning out to be "Mother." With it's psychosexual bent, buried traumas, striking use of color, and one of the lushest of all of Bernard Hermann's scores, this feels like the prototype of Dario Argento's entire career. I think I liked this, but man did it shake me up.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#54 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Oct 10, 2016 6:00 pm

I kind of think Marnie is what would have happened if Scottie in Vertigo had his dreams come true. Sometimes it would be better for everyone if fantasies and ambitious plans involving others remained all in the mind.

(You could also throw the relatively abused into almost catatonic passivity Melanie Daniels in The Birds into this discussion as well. And perhaps this all stems from the structure of Psycho in which a focus on a confident 'modern' woman is switched up halfway through for a focus on the damaged man instead!)
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#55 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Wed Oct 12, 2016 2:02 pm

I remember watching the two part Hitchcock documentary on the BBC, maybe 1999 or so - narrated by Denis Lawson. They talked about how Evan Hunter left the film over that Marnie scene. It always strikes me as an incongruous moment in what's otherwise one of his best films.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#56 Post by Feego » Wed Oct 12, 2016 5:38 pm

After just one viewing, I'm not totally sure that I would call it incongruous. On the one hand, the film definitely addresses Marnie's reaction to the incident, but on the other, Mark is still treated as the handsome hero who will cure the damsel in distress. And yet, it would be in keeping with all of the major characters having some sort of psychological or personality deficiency, including Marnie's mother who has raised her daughter to fear all men, and to a lesser extent Diane Baker's character, who is coquettish and desperately pining for her dead sister's husband.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#57 Post by Shrew » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:56 pm

Agreed, the rape scene is shocking but not incongruous--if anything is incongruous it's the aftermath wherein Mark isn't treated much differently by the film. According to a supplement on the US DVD (it could be that BBC doc), Evan Hunter was kicked off the film because he pushed Hitchcock to abandon the rape scene, as he couldn't see how the audience could still like Mark after that. His replacement, Jay Presson Allen, later told Hunter that the rape scene was the whole reason Hitchcock wanted to do the movie.

Anyway, it's a powerful sequence, and notably not eroticized. There's no fact that the film sees Mark's actions as harmful to Marnie, but it underplays the impact of the moment on her throughout the rest of the relationship. The best apology I can come up for regarding that is that Marnie's response is a continuation of her defense mechanism during the rape: freezing, going into her head, and pretending nothing is happening.

For me, the real incongruous bit is the ending. I love the film up until that point, which undoes the ambiguity in the battle between Mark and Marnie. It's a far worse intrusion of psychoanalytic exposition than Psycho's ending; Psycho is just clarifying what we've seen while Marnie is forcing an interpretation on the rest of the film. In other words, it stops being a battle of will between sexes and becomes the curing of a "frigid" woman.

Also, I always want more of Diane Baker's Lil in the film. Each time, I watch it I think she'll be a stronger presence than she is in the film. She makes a strong entrance but then just disappears. Also, there feels like there's some queer subtext between her and Marnie (in the same way that Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge are transferring feelings onto Sterling Hayden) that sadly gets dropped as she bows out of the story.

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Stage Fright

#58 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Oct 13, 2016 5:52 am

Stage Fright is a rather inert film.
I think the main problem is that the main characters -- Jane Wyman's Eve and her father (Alistair Sims) are also the comic relief, which undercuts the suspense. For much of the film the light-hearted adventures don't really fit the context -- there's been a murder, they are hiding a fugitive -- yet they kind of play-act at solving the case.

Also, there's too little for Johnny to do and we don't get to know him much, so the final twist doesn't have as much impact. It's also rather melodramatic. Probably too much playful investigating and side-characters occur between the opening flashback and the final reveal which also diminish the impact. Or I just wasn't engaged enough to respond. Maybe it just needed to be a shorter zippier film. And perhaps the fact that Wyman's Eve has already moved on from Johnny (and her love for her was always kind of vague) lowers the stakes when Johnny's true character/role is revealed.

I did like the comic bit where Wyman dresses up to look just like the actual frumpy maid, can hardly see out of the thick glasses and fumbles with the cigarette, then rings the front doorbell to test out her disguise. And her mother recognizes her immediately and doesn't bat an eye. So Wyman goes off to become Dietrich's replacement maid sans disguise, and passes by Hitchcock on the street who, in one of his more blatant cameos, does a double-take look at her.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#59 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:29 pm

Shadow of a Doubt. As zeds said, this is a perfectly realized film. For some reason, I admire it more than I actually love it, but nevertheless it's an extremely fine mix of drama and suspense, with a hint of comedy, that works very well. Beautifully shot, and the rare (for the time) location shooting gives it extra realism and handsomeness. And the camera loves Teresa Wright.

Frenzy. Shocking the first time you see it because of the graphic violence, nudity and language (in a Hitchcock film). The best of the post-Marnie films, it doesn’t compare with the finest Hitchcocks, but the scale nevertheless tips more towards the vibrant than the stale. Well-crafted, dripping with black humor (disturbingly so at points), and the last of the dandified killers. I really like the British, mostly working class setting, the real Covent Garden location shoot that contrasts with some of the the out-of-date studio sets in the mid-60s works, some finely drawn and shot scenes (the potato truck, the camera slowly pulling out of the apartment building after Rusk gets a hold of Babs), and the amusing couple that is the chief inspector and his wife. This is sometimes labeled as horror, but it’s not. Apart from the one graphic
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(rape-and-)
murder scene, this isn’t Psycho; it’s a “perverted” yet outright, pure crime thriller.

Blackmail. Really strong and distinctive visually, with many instances of bravado Hitchcockian “pure cinema”, but dramatically so-so. The film is all about Alice’s character and I don’t know how much it’s recognized how a quite sizeable minority of Hitchcock’s films has a woman as the key protagonist.

Notorious. Flawless really, with one terrific scene after another. Following the comedic opening, this one gets serious and stays that way. A strong screenplay by Ben Hecht gets elegantly shot and directed by Hitchcock, with a sensual, moving romantic drama weaved into the potent suspense.

Jamaica Inn. Period films are a rare thing in Hitchcock – I think this is the only other one besides Under Capricorn. We can tell it’s a Daphne Du Maurier adaptation, because as in the film that follows it’s the story of an innocent girl – here Maureen O’Hara in her debut - falling into a Gothic trap, here a den of murdering thieves on the coast of Cornwall. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it‘s definitely underrated – an entertaining yarn with fun characters in finely shot, moody settings.

Rear Window. Another film I have a hard time ranking. I can’t disagree that this is top-notch H – starting with that incredible mise-en-scène -, but it’s never been a strong personal favorite and this time I was getting a little weary watching it. It’s clever, it contains some very suspenseful moments, but the parts I enjoy most have more to do with the Kelly-Stewart relationship and banter, and as in Thief Kelly does steam things up a few times. Interestingly, LBJ (Stewart) definitely warms more to Lisa (Kelly) as she steps out of her conventional role and joins him in his adventurous world of the obsessive peeping sleuth.

Lifeboat. Some good dramatic sequences, with occasional stagier, slightly clunky philosophical-quandaries-on-a-lifeboat passages. Interesting but second-rate Hitch for me.

Psycho. The first 30 minutes or so is such a terrific noir, I almost wish the film didn’t take the turn it does. The film claims its greatness right off with that incredible score, definitely one of the greatest in Hitchcock and in film in general. Then you have the masterful visuals and mise-en-scène throughout, truly a feast for the eyes: the close-ups of Marion driving as night as she’s getting to the Bates motel, that foreshadowing scene in the hotel parlor room with Norman framed with that menacing owl over his head (and what I believe are, among the stuffed birds, paintings of mythological scenes involving Pan, known as the god of rape among other things), the shot of the camera pulling out slowly from Marion’s eye after the shower scene, the angle at which the camera is set to film Norman’s “craning” neck towards the register as the detective is looking through it. Story-wise it’s not the most appealing of the Hitchcock films for me, but this is really is the director at his most skillful and technically impressive.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#60 Post by TMDaines » Mon Oct 17, 2016 5:29 am

Starting my Hitchcock drive with The Lady Vanishes. Such great fun, although I've come out of it primarily wanting to see more Charters and Caldicott rather than more of the master's work. It's amazing that this film ending with a full blown shoot out works. If you leave this material in the hands of most, you would struggle to strike a balance between all the mystery, romance, action and comedy, without have audiences throwing their hands up in the air and decrying it becoming preposterous.

I've enjoyed all of the British Hitchcock that I've seen so far, but I've only been skimming the cream off the top so far - bar the terrible Jamaica Inn.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#61 Post by Black Hat » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:00 am

I rewatched Rebecca recently and tho I still love it, for the first time I found the score to be a complete distraction has anyone felt this way?

What's strange about Rebecca is it's so dominated by Joan Fontaine, Mrs. Danvers, subtext and mise-en-scène you almost forget Olivier's in it every time you pop it on. What an odd film career he had. I can't think of another great actor you can't wait to get off the screen. In Rebecca for instance you'd much prefer if George Sanders had been worked into more scenes.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#62 Post by Noiradelic » Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:36 am

TMDaines wrote:Such great fun, although I've come out of it primarily wanting to see more Charters and Caldicott rather than more of the master's work.
Night Train to Munich will cure you of that desire.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#63 Post by Drucker » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:20 am

Black Hat wrote:I rewatched Rebecca recently and tho I still love it, for the first time I found the score to be a complete distraction has anyone felt this way?
I have half-heartedly watched Rebecca twice and this is mostly the reason. I find it needlessly dramatic and over the top. I finally bought the blu-ray so I'm ready to give it another shot, but the score absolutely removes me from the film.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#64 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:26 am

Torn Curtain: I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. I don't know its reputation all that well, but I get the impression that, outside of that murder scene, it's not well liked. Granted, nothing quite lives up to that scene, but on the whole it's fun and quick moving with a consistently sustained tension and sense of mystery and an admirable restraint in the preaching department. It's the first time I can remember seeing a slow moving car (or in this case bus) chase. It's a thrilling slow-burn of a scene. Newman and Andrews make for a frigid couple, but Newman, at least, does his role perfectly--his looks of repressed unease and consternation are commendable and sell many of the scenes. If not top shelf Hitchcock, among the best of the second tier. I'd happily rewatch it.

The Trouble with Harry: What a tedious movie. I suppose I can't blame Hitchcock as much as the script, tho' why he'd choose a script so hokey, unfunny, and full of hoary cliches (is there really a whole scene of people happening to wander by one random location in the woods all at the same time while an old man soliloquizes from behind a tree?) is beyond me. It's a narrative of endless scenes of uninteresting people talking archly at each other (sometimes in admittedly beautiful scenery). This vies with Topaz as my least favourite Hitchcock.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#65 Post by zedz » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:49 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:The Trouble with Harry: What a tedious movie. I suppose I can't blame Hitchcock as much as the script, tho' why he'd choose a script so hokey, unfunny, and full of hoary cliches (is there really a whole scene of people happening to wander by one random location in the woods all at the same time while an old man soliloquizes from behind a tree?) is beyond me. It's a narrative of endless scenes of uninteresting people talking archly at each other (sometimes in admittedly beautiful scenery). This vies with Topaz as my least favourite Hitchcock.
I rewatched this recently and still really liked it (the only other time I'd seen it was back in the 80s on 35mm when it was rediscovered and rereleased). I guess the big difference is that I find it amusing. For me, it's a film about core Hitchcock values (eccentric characters, black humour, transferred guilt), but arranged in a unique way, as a comedy - even a farce, with its expertly choreographed opening and closing doors in the climactic scene. Perhaps the sweetest black comedy ever to come out of Hollywood, and boy, does it look gorgeous. This must be Hitchcock's most straightforwardly beautiful film.

I also rewatched another very old favourite, The Wrong Man, which is punishingly dour and extremely effective. As with Harry, Hitchcock, at the height of his popularity, is experimenting by addressing his core values in a different register, and this film very strongly draws from noir and neorealism. It also has the most downbeat ending of any Hitchcock film (until, in what must have been a studio imposition, it doesn't). I like this small, tough film a lot more than the glitzy spectaculars that surround it.

Also rewatched Rear Window, which is probably my favourite Hitchcock film and is always more formally engaging and purely entertaining than I remember.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#66 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:00 pm

zedz wrote:Also rewatched Rear Window, which is probably my favourite Hitchcock film and is always more formally engaging and purely entertaining than I remember.
One thing I think is true for Hitchcock more than anyone else I can think of is that his "classics" are not just worthy because of their omnipresence in the cultural landscape, but because these are the films that best age well and get richer with each viewing. I love North by Northwest as much as I ever did, and it's a perfect film so how could I not? Saboteur is just as enjoyable as it was on my first viewing, but no extra layers have ever peeled back or revealed themselves on revisits. And this of course doesn't change their impact or value or worth. However, I liked but was not enthusiastic about Vertigo, Psycho, or Rear Window on first viewing way back in the day, but each revisit has left me more and more convinced of their greatness, even if I'm still not 100% sold on Vertigo being the be all end all it's often made out to be. All will of course be somewhere on my list.

I think Sausage's take on Torn Curtain is close to mine: I'm always surprised that this gets kicked around so much. I definitely like it better than Marnie, which is the chic title from this period to love, but is one that I've grown colder to, especially in light of all the heavy lifting it seems to receive from proselytizers (and don't even get me started on people trying to reclaim Topaz!). Then again, I think Family Plot, while second string Hitchcock, is a lot of fun as well, and I strongly believe Chabrol borrowed his method of ending films in his later period directly from it and Frenzy. Though he always gets lobbed with the obvious "French Hitchcock" label, I always intended to write an academic paper on the lesser-explored direct parallels between Chabrol's later work and Hitchcock's, but sadly never got around to it. Maybe someone else will write it for me!

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#67 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Oct 19, 2016 4:51 pm

I re-watched Rebecca and Notorious, and both continue to make me drowsy. At least Joan Fontaine is interesting to watch, especially in bubbly nervous mode in the first half. Less so later when she starts rubbing her hands and wrists to portray anxiety. Olivier is dull in a drab part. While I get so little from Notorious that every time I see it I forget I've seen it before until halfway through. And that has to be the dullest Cary Grant part ever. Two well-known Hitchcock films I never cared for.

Re-watched The Wrong Man and wasn't as involved as I had been other times. It really turns into a police procedural for nearly the last 2/3rds. Still a solid film. Just a little drier than I recalled.

Strangers on a Train -- this one always holds up. Great film.

Murder -- Quite a good film. As long as you accept that the murder investigation is led by a celebrity actor after a conviction has occurred, it's an interesting film filled with some eerie scenes. Hitchcock frequently has the key action occur just off-screen. When the initial murder occurs, the camera pans across the windows of a building as folks poke their heads out to see what the commotion is. When the verdict is announced, the camera remains in the empty jury room where we just watched some lengthy deliberations, an attendant comes in to straighten up, and we hear the sentence passed in the adjacent courtroom. And for the haunting hanging we see startled reaction shots, shadows, a bit of taut rope.
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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#68 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:02 pm

I was about to eyeroll that reaction to Notorious but then I remembered I feel the same way about North by Northwest. We all have our quirks.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#69 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:10 pm

I also re-watched N x NW and had the same reaction to it I always do. I enjoy the mistaken identity, the early reveals of some key info, Cary Grant. etc. While here and there a few scenes and parts don't work that well. Almost certainly in my Top 5.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#70 Post by Shrew » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:37 pm

Under Capricorn is not the best Hitchcock, or even my favorite, but it is his most underrated film. It is to Rebecca as Saboteur is to 39 Steps: a refinement of tropes and themes within a new setting, at times more compelling but often missing the elements that make the originals so much more entertaining. It's never going to top Sight and Sound, but it deserves better than its orphaned state (so give it a watch and don't let it be my orphan!).

Lemmy brings up how everyone seems to be pulled down by old class norms that were vanishing. Under Capricorn is about exactly that, the way the past (especially one’s socioeconomic class) exhibits an inescapable gravity. Australia, like America, is a land where one is supposed to have a “blank slate,” but every character founds themselves pulled back toward the class divides that defined the old country. But while this may be a natural movement, it is not a positive one.

This is also the pinnacle of Hitchcock’s virtuoso long-take period. The Paradine Case, Rope, and this are the exemplars of that technique, though it always was and would remain a major part of Hitchcock’s arsenal. In Rope, the long-take is an effective suspense mechanism and in Paradine it’s an empty flourish, but I think here it best fits the needs of the story. What I find most remarkable about this style is Hitchcock’s way of editing within time and space by not editing. Instead, by subtle camera movement and blocking he captures multiple set-ups in one shot, moving seamlessly between close-ups, medium shots, and long shots. While this is present in the other films, it is particularly important her, as the long take reflects the weight of time, and thus the past.

Let’s take one shot for example. About midway through the film, Henrietta and Charles head off to a party. Sam artlessly suggests a ruby necklace, but the others chide him. The camera starts in a close-up on the ruby necklace held behind Sam’s back. As the rubies are rejected, Sam grasps them in a fist, then hides them in a back pocket as he steps forward, making way for the others to pass the camera and exit the scene. The camera then pans back to Sam, who has stepped into the background, standing in the arch of a hallway, awkwardly trying to find his place among his wealth. Finally, he steps back toward the camera, back to where he held the rubies and looks upward. His resigned, sorrowful face is caught in another close-up. It is the face that matches the hands earlier fiddling with the rubies, hidden before but now externalized.

Now, this all could have been achieved with more economy via editing. Close-up of rubies, cut to Bergman leaving, cut to Cotten watching her in leave from beneath arch, then walk to center of room, cut to close-up of anguished face. However, I think the long take emphasizes the weight of time and memory. In fancy semantic talk, the rubies are less a sign and more an object, and by using one take their weight or presence remains ever in the image, up to the point where Cotten finally externalizes his feelings of rejection. His shame lingers as he awkwardly paces in the foyer. It is a less intellectual connection, but more emotional.

There’s a similar idea in the most celebrated shot: the long take panning across the mansion as Audaire peeps in each window. The camera pans from the stately dining room to the rotten kitchen populated by the nastiest of the underclass. This creates a unified geography of space and time occupied by both finery and squalor. Class divides are omnipresent. Like a lot of the camerawork in Paradine, this sequence is virtuoso filmmaking, but there’s a lot more substance to the style.

The film is not without flaws. Cotten sells the anguish of getting back his wife by losing her to another man in the middle section, but it’s hard to imagine him as a stablehand. Lancaster, the aristocratic peasant, would have been a perfect choice, and perhaps able to bring more physical chemistry into the central relationship. Likewise, Wilding is great in the first half as an effete idler, but less convincing as the third wheel in the Flusky marriage. Viewed through a modern lens, Audaire reads more like a “sassy gay friend” trying to get a girlfriend to leave a man that’s wrong for her, and his turn to romantic interest is bland and unconvincing.

I also feel that there’s some scene or scenes missing between the Fluskys. There’s a loss present in the film, which makes it resonant, but no rekindling. So much time is given to Charles and Henrietta (including the big revelation) that the inevitable happy reunion feels unearned. At the least, Sam needed some moment of catharsis. Henrietta and even Milly both get to spill their souls and lift the weight of the past off their shoulders, but Sam remains stoic and thus emotionally removed from the audience.

Finally, there’s Bergman’s wardrobe. The costuming here is mostly high quality period technicolor, but most of Bergman’s dresses look terribly pastel and bland. Her initial appearance is meant to be sickly, but a similar palette is kept up long past reason. Even her big dress in the middle of the film is dull. However, this may well be the fault of fading prints. Forget Rope or The Man Who Knew Too Much—this is the technicolor Hitchcock that needs desperate restoration.

Unforgiveable, however, is the terrible bonnet donned about 1 hour in, which makes her look like one of the terrifying babies in The Band Wagon’s “Triplets.”

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#71 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:49 pm

Shrew wrote:Under Capricorn is not the best Hitchcock, or even my favorite, but it is his most underrated film.
Unless you wrote for Cahiers back in the day, where it was voted on and declared the best Hitchcock film!

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#72 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:38 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:Torn Curtain: I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. I don't know its reputation all that well, but I get the impression that, outside of that murder scene, it's not well liked. Granted, nothing quite lives up to that scene, but on the whole it's fun and quick moving with a consistently sustained tension and sense of mystery and an admirable restraint in the preaching department. It's the first time I can remember seeing a slow moving car (or in this case bus) chase. It's a thrilling slow-burn of a scene. Newman and Andrews make for a frigid couple, but Newman, at least, does his role perfectly--his looks of repressed unease and consternation are commendable and sell many of the scenes. If not top shelf Hitchcock, among the best of the second tier. I'd happily rewatch it.
domino harvey wrote:I think Sausage's take on Torn Curtain is close to mine: I'm always surprised that this gets kicked around so much. I definitely like it better than Marnie, which is the chic title from this period to love, but is one that I've grown colder to, especially in light of all the heavy lifting it seems to receive from proselytizers (and don't even get me started on people trying to reclaim Topaz!).
I didn't choose to watch it again this time because it doesn't have a chance of breaking my top 20, but I have some good feelings about this one too. It's a Foreign Correspondent-type picture updated for the Cold War era. I think Hitchcock said he was forced to work with Newman and Andrews, but I thought they did more than adequate jobs, and there are wonderful secondary characters all around. Nice bits of suspense and comedy alongside the flaws, including some less-than-stellar-looking scenes. Though I always thought it was strange that Hitchcock followed up a somewhat unsuccessful (at least critically) political thriller with another (much worse) one.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#73 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:45 pm

I'm going to have to start upping my viewing rate.

Was putting together my provisional list, and while the first ten was easy and probably won't change, I've started to lose confidence in my second ten after realizing I haven't seen a lot of these movies since high school or earlier. I feel guilty having Suspicion higher than Stagefright because I don't actually remember the former besides the final reveal and my general impression of it. And what about Shadow of a Doubt? It did nothing for me the two times I saw it, but the last time I had to've been 17. Sure, Rebecca's great, but do I really know that considering my most vivid memories of it come mainly from clips shown in The Celluloid Closet? How much more than Dial M For Murder would I really like The Lady Vanishes if I'd actually seen the former sometime in the last 15 years? Jeez it's been a long time since my first Hitchcock flurry. I must've been eight or nine when I saw my first one.

I'm going to have to break my initial rule and find more time for revisits (the spotlight doesn't help me at all--I've seen all those recently enough, or enough times not to need to go back). I was not expecting to waffle this much on Hitchcock. I used to know him much better than this--when did that stop?

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#74 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:53 pm

I've been surprised at how much some of my rewatches has affected my esteem of certain films - unfortunately quite a few times diminishing it somewhat. (But then I watched them with the view of being very "tough" on them.) Some films I thought were a sure thing for the top 10 will barely, or not make, the top 20.

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Re: Auteur List: Alfred Hitchcock - Discussion and Defenses

#75 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Oct 20, 2016 1:57 am

I've plowed through 20 Hitchcock films in the past month or so, and I've been surprised how consistent my reactions have been, in line with my previous viewings. But for the most part these are my 3rd or 4th viewings, so maybe that is to be expected. I really remembered little of Under Capricorn, and on this second viewing I found it more interesting than I expected. Though it's still uneven. I found The Wrong Man solid, but had thought of it before as top-drawer Hitch, and recalled really getting involved with the first half hour. This watch I was less involved and grew a little impatient with the procedural stuff.

I really didn't recall Murder at all, and found it quite interesting. The only thing bad is I didn't realize I had two copies of it in my Hitchcock hill, and wound up watching a sketchy public domainy edition, and only afterwards noticed I had a Studio Canal disc. The quality was pretty marginal, with occasional image and sound problems cropping up briefly. Not sure if the occasional sound issues can be fixed -- it mostly seemed like actors not picked up properly by the mics -- but the Studio Canal must have been better than what I watched.

I'm not exactly sure where the rest of my Hitchcock discs are. Mostly the early and late films -- with some scattered mid-period films. Most of the silent/early films I only saw for the first time 3 or 4 years ago, after I picked up a Studio Canal set, so it'll be a good time to reacquaint myself with them and re-evaluate.

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