Spanish one sheet for REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1954)
Designer: Fernando Albericio
Poster source: Heritage Auctions
Bryan Menages writes: Hitchcock is the unquestioned master of suspense. But what is it about his scenes that makes them so gripping, and why do they stand up to repeated viewings, even when you know the twist?
To answer this, the Nerdwriter turned to blocking—how you position stuff and people in relation to each other—specifically, the blocking in an early interaction from Vertigo. In the lengthy scene, a retired detective (Jimmy Stewart) meets a shipping tycoon (Tom Helmore) in his office, where he’s about to be lied to quite a bit.
During the meeting, Hitchcock uses the chairs to suggest power, with the dominant party at any given time being physically higher than the seated party. Similarly, the back half of the room is slightly raised and blocked by partial walls, almost like a stage…(read more)
A few nights ago, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds‘, for the first time in decades. I wonder why? I’ve seen restored versions of Psycho, Read Window, and Vertigo multiple times, but for some reason I’d missed re-watching this one. It was a pleasure to see again. And to see Tippi Hedren with fresh eyes.
And I’m not the first to notice it. A brief Google search shows seekers asking if Tippi and Paris are related. (they are not) In the course of this, I also rediscovered that Tippi Hedren is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith. Born in 1957, Melanie Griffith recalls visiting the set during the filming of The Birds, in 1962, when she was a little girl.
I was also pleased to find that the earthy and vivacious brunette female co-star is Suzanne Pleshette, another detail I’d forgotten. She has features similar to Elizabeth Taylor, or a young Stockard Channing.
Notice, in the photo below, how the 33 year-old Hedren has similar features, or facial expression, to the 34-year old Paris Hilton. See a similarity? I think it’s there.
Since we all know the story, and suspense isn’t a factor, I was free to pay closer attention to Tippi Hedren‘s performance, and to the interpersonal drama between the main characters, played by Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, and Suzanne Pleshette.
What a strange, dark, pensive, Freudian, romantic-erotic narrative! Where much is left unsaid, but implied. Jealousy, loneliness, abandonment, flirtation, hostility, attraction, are all explored, but not resolved. I’ve always thought of Vertigo as being the most neurotic, sexually obsessed, repressed, fixated story in Hitchock’s canon, but I had underestimated the peculiar storyline of The Birds. Before the actual birds take over the story, there’s a lot of familial and romantic turbulence. And the cast is wonderful.
Tippi Hedren looks so elegant, mischievous, and glamorous, one can see why Hitchcock selected the untrained model, fixated on her, and elevated her to movie star. Much is written about Hitchock’s abusive, controlling personality, and troubles with female leads, no need to cover that here, Hedren was no exception. Leaving all that aside, it was a pleasure to simply marvel at how lovingly photographed the neophyte actress is, and how well-crafted the film is. The moody San Francisco and northern California seaside locations, the special effects, the sound design (no music, only bird sounds make up the film’s score) the cinematography…besides being one of the most famous horror movies of all time, it’s also a terrific early 1960s time-capsule. Next time you watch it? Forget about the birds, and follow the other elements of the story. Perhaps you’ll find it as rewarding as I did.
Robert Nason writes: In Alfred Hitchcock’s films, the lack of information—or the possession of it—can have deadly consequences. The titles are revealing: “Suspicion” (1941), “Notorious” (1946), “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934, 1956). In his concise, insightful book on the director, Michael Wood asserts that in Hitchcock’s films there are “only three options: to know too little, to know too much . . . and to know a whole lot that is entirely plausible and completely wrong.”
“Some claim that Hitch was a sadist who took ‘pleasure in seeing beautiful women in harm’s way.’ Mr. Wood argues that Hitchcock worked out his own fears on film: ‘Far from enjoying the torments of these women at risk, he identified with them.'”
Hitchcock was born on Aug. 13, 1899, the son of a greengrocer. Members of this economic class, Mr. Wood says, were suspicious of the posh people above them and the unruly ones below. Hitchcock’s films would abound with upper-class villains and fearful mobs. As a Catholic, Hitchcock was an outsider in Protestant England; he would later be an English outsider in America.
Shy, chubby and intelligent, the young Hitchcock had few friends. He preferred attending sensational London trials—and movies. Instead of fan magazines, Hitch—as he preferred to be called—avidly read technical film journals and landed a job designing movie title cards. As a fledging director of silents, he was influenced by the shadowy lighting and dynamic camera movements of German Expressionist cinema. He would combine their beauty and atmosphere of anxiety with a dash of black humor and a blonde in jeopardy. All the ingredients were in place for his third feature, “The Lodger” (1927), the film “in which he became Hitchcock,” as Mr. Wood puts it. The title character is suspected by everyone as a Jack-the-Ripperish killer. Is he or isn’t he? “Innocence and guilt,” Mr. Wood notes, “leave many of the same traces.”
When Hitchcock came to Hollywood in 1939, he had already imparted alarming warnings to his British countrymen in a recent string of thrillers. He would send the same message to Americans: A menace threatened not only Great Britain and the United States but civilization as a whole. In many of Hitchcock’s great British films, from “The 39 Steps” (1935) to “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), we’re usually not told who the spies are working for, but there’s little doubt who the enemy is. Likewise, in his early Hollywood film “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), the “peace activist,” suavely played by Herbert Marshall, is actually a spy working for the unnamed foe.
While some Hitchcock films deal with global threats, the truly frightening works dwell upon more intimate dangers. In the film that was the director’s personal favorite, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), Joseph Cotton plays a dapper killer of wealthy women, proving that evil could lurk even in anytown America. In “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and “Rear Window” (1954), brutal murders occur, respectively, in an amusement park and a middle-class apartment building. Hitchcock became an American citizen in 1955, the same year that his hit television program “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” debuted. Mr. Wood suggests that the habitually fearful Hitchcock worried about “losing what he most cared about” at the pinnacle of his career, and this contributed to the richness of his confident yet melancholy films during the next few years.
Mr. Wood devotes more space to “Vertigo” (1958) than to any other Hitchcock film. In this masterpiece of misinformation and obsession, Jimmy Stewartplays a retired private investigator fascinated by a suicidal woman who is hardly who she seems to be. In “North by Northwest” (1959), Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a shallow Madison Avenue advertising man thought by enemy spies to be an American intelligence officer who in fact doesn’t exist. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1980, in Wide Angle, Daniel Sallitt writes:
Hitchcock’s work has always provided much of the source material for discussions of the nature of point of view and identification in the cinema. The most readily identifiable and frequently used sequence in Hitchcock has the characteristic form of alternation between closeups of a person looking at something and shots from the person’s point of view of what the person is seeing; this kind of sequence, embodying as it does a very pure notion of viewpoint, has always seemed the central instance of subjective cinema. Add to this the undeniable power of Hitchcock’s films to involve the spectator in the narrative in some way which has always seemed more direct than that of other films, and one has the makings of a rudimentary model of identification, with manipulation of visual point of view creating a sense of subjective involvement by proxy in the film universe. The purpose of this paper is to examine and question this model, which seems to me a simplification, albeit a very understandable one, of what is actually going on in the films.
The fact that Hitchcock’s point-of-view sequences often appear at moments of greatest narrative tension and viewer absorption may be part of the reason that we tend to assume a simple cause and effect relationship; it is, however, worth noting and examining the many examples of point-of-view or subjective sequences which don’t operate in the expected way. The particular point which I would dispute most strongly is that Hitchcock’s films are in some way dedicated to a notion of psychological subjectivity, that the films examine reality from an individual’s psychological viewpoint which we are compelled to share. It is necessary to ask exactly how Hitchcock employs subjective techniques, and exactly what their effect is, before deciding on what level subjectivity is operating in the films. In addition, I wish to identify more general aesthetic strategies operating in Hitchcock of which point of view is a specific manifestation.
The first thing to consider on the subject of point of view and subjectivity is the frequency with which Hitchcock switches the visual point of view from character to character within a sequence. A few examples, chosen at random from among many: the switch to the crofter’s point of view as he spies on Donat and Peggy Ashcroft from outside the house in The Thirty-Nine Steps; in the church sequence in the second Man Who Knew Too Much, the pastor’s point-of-view shots of his wife informing him of Stewart and Day’s presence, in a sequence which otherwise works from Stewart and Day’s point of view; the transition from Grant and Bergman’s point of view in the wine cellar in Notorious to Rains’ point of view as he sees them kissing; the seamless alternation between the point of view of Bruno and Miriam in the fairground murder sequence in Strangers on a Train. There is no shortage of such examples; Hitchcock constantly exercises his option of moving from one point of view to another. What is most interesting about these alternations is that they jolt the spectator so little.
There is no more sense of dislocation or of a violation of rules than there is with any shift of emphasis from one aspect of a situation to another. On the basis of this observation, one should question the extent to which the use of a character as the focal point of a point-of-view sequence necessitates an adoption of that character’s psychological perspective on the event. If this were the case, one would expect to be jolted at each switch of point of view, as one were forced to adopt a different psychological orientation. Indeed, if we know anything about a character’s psychology during a point-of-view shot, it consists of stored knowledge from previous scenes or shots rather than information obtained from the shot itself; any inferences we make about the psychological state of our “stand-in” are just that, intellectualized inferences; whereas the direct impact of the shot comes instead from our perception of what one would see from this point in the film universe. Our eyes substitute for the character’s eyes, but we have no force acting on us at that moment to even make us aware of the character’s thoughts, much less to make us share them.
As confirmation of this, note the large number of point-of-view shots in which there is no importance attached to the character’s psychology, or even in which there is no particular character corresponding to the point of view (for instance, when a shot previously established as a character’s point of view is repeated after the character has gone). A few examples: the early shot in Notorious in which we get the point of view of a newsman looking into the courtroom; in the scene in Foreign Correspondent in which the two fake policemen are trapped by an accumulation of hotel workers, the point-of-view shots of McCrea and Day escaping down the corridor as seen by the pseudo-cops; Raymond Burr’s point-of-view shots of the blindness inflicted by Stewart’s flashbulbs in Rear Window; the point-of-view shots through the windows of the stalled dining car in The Lady Vanishes, many of which have no observer of whom to be the point of view. Here there is little or no possibility of the point-of-view shots being intimately bound up with character psychology and still the shots work perfectly well, giving us no sense of being daring or unusual devices.
The effect is very much as if we were simply borrowing a character’s eyes for a moment so that we could use their viewpoint. One concludes that, far from being a device to inflict the character’s psychology on us, the point-of-view shot is somehow rather impersonal and remote from the character whose point of view is being used, as if our direct experience of a viewpoint would always outweigh our intellectualized inference of what the shot would make the character feel. The point-of-view shot seems to be an accurate evocation of a character’s psychological state only when that psychological state resembles the one that the point-of-view shot naturally inflicts on us, the sense of suddenly having visual access to a new, different universe—as in, for example, the scenes of Vera Miles exploring the Bates house in Psycho, or of Fonda being jailed in The Wrong Man. Which is to say that the point-of-view shot is a means of putting the spectator in some relation, not to the character, but to the film universe. Read the rest of this entry »
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Got 12 hours to spare? Love movie history? Truffaut’s interview with legendary director Alfred Hitchcock isn’t for casual film hobbyists, it’s for heavyweights, hardcore cinema enthusiasts. Or Truffaut admirers with a Hitchcock itch.
From Open Culture:
Back in 1962, François Truffaut, the inspiration behind French New Wave cinema, met with Hitchcock. And, assisted by a helpful translator, the two directors talked through Hitchcock’s life and vast filmography, moving from his early films shot it Britain (Blackmail, The 39 Steps, Secret Agent), to his later Hollywood productions – North by Northwest, Psycho and Vertigo. In total, Truffaut and Hitchcock talked for over 12 hours, and, several years later, Truffaut published a now classic book based on these conversations: Alfred Hitchcock: A Definitive Study (1967).