Cary Grant runs through a desolate cornfield, pursued by a crop duster overhead. Ingrid Bergman risks her life to go into a wine cellar, looking for a secret. Eva Marie Saint clambers over the faces of the American Presidents at Mount Rushmore. Tippi Hedren is pecked at by mysteriously aggressive gulls. James Stewart watches helplessly from a window as Grace Kelly creeps into a murderer's apartment. Kim Novak drives through San Francisco in a trance-like state wearing a grey suit. Janet Leigh takes a shower at the Bates Motel and never comes out. These movie images could only belong to one director-Alfred Hitchcock. What is most striking is that all these scenes are wordless!
How Alfred Hitchcock Changed the Way We Watch Films
Genius for Creating Memories
The Genius of Hitchcock, is a chance to see how his phenomenal instinct for generating moving photographs that etch themselves on the brain and under the skin went back to his roots in the silent era. It is startling to observe that his sensibility and knack for unsettling imagery were already formed. With its mix of the domestic and the macabre, we are not too far from Strangers on a Train. "Be careful – I'll get you yet!" the putative murderer smilingly warns the landlady's blonde daughter as they play a flirtatious game of chess. Hitchcock's final silent movie, Blackmail (1929), contains a murder with a hand thrashing out of a curtain, foreshadowing the shower scene in Psycho.
This retrospective is a reminder of how huge Hitchcock's body of work was. This greengrocer's son from Leytonstone in East London (born in August 1899) had the energy of Dickens and the facility of Picasso, able not merely to adapt his style to changing artistic values but to shape the entire culture of popular film. In Rear Window, he played with the idea that we are all voyeurs at the cinema. With Psycho, he invented modern horror.
How Hitchcock Changed the Way We Watch Films
Here’s how Alfred Hitchcock changed the way we watched films. Before Psycho, you simply turned up at the picture house and watched the film from whichever point it was at. You stayed till you’d seen the beginning of the next screening, and then left. Hitchcock was the first director to demand absolute commitment to the story. Psycho had set start times, and audiences were begged not to give away the ending.
The film that was almost never made – so shocking and trashy was the Robert Bloch novel on which it is based – is such a pop culture mainstay that the Bates Motel now appears in theme parks, complete with knife-wielding Anthony Perkins lookalikes. No one but Hitchcock could have produced so many films which simultaneously appalled censors, delighted audiences, and impressed critics. He was the ultimate mixer of high and low art, fiercely conscious of the mass appeal of cinema, and yet turning out artistic masterpieces, sometimes twice in one year.
The Real Hitchcock Still Remains Hidden
It’s true that the great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock changed the way we watch films, yet he remains a complete unknown. Alfred Hitchcock must be the best-known, yet unknown, director of the 20th century. A household name who directed more than 50 films, he was in front of the camera as often as he was behind it- making cameo appearances, starring in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, rendering himself as much of a star as his actors.
Hitchcock has finally been reappraised, and is the subject of not one, but two recent biopics-The Girl, and Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense and Helen Mirren as his brilliant, underappreciated wife, Alma. Much as he liked his character to be known vividly, he the person remained relatively unknown. Though both biopics have their virtues, neither comes close to giving us a comprehensive view of the man. Was he really a misogynist, or did he just hate particular women who rejected him? Was he a cuddly, petulant man-child whose marriage was just a business relationship in all but name? Was he fat because he didn’t care what people thought of him, or because he consumed calories to cheer himself up? And did he resent the lack of respect he felt Hollywood had for him? He never won a Best Director Oscar, which (as with the same omission for Stanley Kubrick) makes the Academy look like they were in a parallel universe to the rest of us. The release of two biopics in two months is probably more than we need, and yet it turns out to be insufficient, since the real Hitchcock remains hidden as much as the MacGuffin that animates so many of his movies.