Entries tagged with “Alfred Hitchcock”.


‘Topaz’ is quite different than most of the previous movies in the filmography of  and also lacks the (American movie) stars in its distribution, as his fans were accustomed in the 20 or 30 years that preceded its release in 1969. These may be two of the principal reasons that the movie is less credited in by the critics and historians of cinema. There are, however, sufficient reasons of satisfaction for the movie fans, and the film does not fall in my opinion lower than ‘Torn Curtain’ that preceded it by three years, and also brought to screen a Cold War spy story. On the contrary, I would say.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065112

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065112

 

The film brings to screen a novel by which tells a true story of a Soviet spy ring in the high French political environments during the critical days of the Cuban missiles crisis. The events in the fall of 1962 that brought the world closer than ever to an atomic war were since then the subject or background of many books and films, but Hitchcock was the first well-known film director to bring what was at that time very recent history to screen, in a moment when the story was still under censorship in France. However, this was not in the area of comfort for Hitchcock who liked to be very involved in the writing of the story and building of the suspense, an opportunity that was lost with ‘Topaz’ . This may be also why there is less Hitchcock thrill in this film than we are used. There is yet quality, but more in the details than in the overall architecture.

 

(video source Alfred Hitchcock TV)

One of the best parts of the film is the rendition of the atmosphere of the time and places where the action takes place. Washington, Moscow, Copenhagen, Paris are all well served by filming on location, the only exception is Cuba, for obvious reasons. We can say that Hitchcock was a pioneer (also) of the international spy thriller, and we can only imagine what would have happened if he had been trusted with a James Bond movie. He also uses in a flawless manner the combination of documentary clips cut and edited together with filmed fiction. The lead actors are not doing great service to the movie, but we can see a progress and less stiff acting than in previous films. It is with the supporting roles that the good surprises appear, with the beautiful and exotic in the Cuban episode, and the French stars and giving style and credibility to the French episode of the action. It is in the humor of dialogs and situations, in the use of music (composed by Maurice Jarre) and in the creative games of colors that we find some of the Hitchcock touch. Otherwise, we can just enjoy a good action movie based on a Cold War story which has the merit to have been filmed at the time of the Cold War. Not a bad film, but not really one of the best Hitchcock films either.

 

 

I love seeing films half a century after their initial releases. It’s not only a cinematographic experience that in many cases brings up unexpected gems, but also an opportunity to compare the acting and directing styles, the technical means, and the perspective on events, which some were actuality at the time the films were made and became history since then. In some cases it’s also the opportunity to compare a fresh viewing with our own memories about the film, although this is not the case here with Torn Curtain , a late film by , whose Cold War theme seen from the Western perspective had no chance to pass the filter of the censorship in my native Romania at that time.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061107

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061107

 

There are many interesting elements in this story about a an American scientist (,) who plays spying games and simulates a crossing of the lines to East Germany in order to discover the status of a key weapon in the rockets arsenal of the Communist block. When his unknowingly fiancee () joins him against his will, his mission becomes more complicated. It’s at the same time a psychological thriller (the fight of the minds between the American professor and his East German counterpart), an action movie, and a relationship story with some of the Hitchcock touch. As in many of his films, Hitchcock succeeds wonderfully in the thriller part, partially succeeds (or partially fails) in the action area, and fails completely in the romantic zone.

 

(video source Video Detective)

 

50 years later, the very interesting part of the film is the rendition of the Cold War atmosphere. I have seen several films about that period, some more recent, and I was surprised how well Hitchcock succeeded to catch the feeling of the area without falling in any black-and-white clichees, describing a world close to what I knew, with people living under the pressure of a dictatorship, but still managing to joke, eat, drink, dance even under the scrutiny of the portraits of Karl Marx. There are less credible scenes – for example the whole auto-bus episode (why were these people traveling together at all?), but they belong to the action part of the script. Acting is decent, with Newman and Andrews doing what I remember they were supposed to do, but the most wonderful surprise is a poignant scene with the Russian-born actress which some may remember from Zorba the Greek . Her role there was unforgettable, so is the one here if you have the chance to see the film. A few daring Hitchcockian camera takes build the thriller part. A film to watch, especially if you are Hitchcock fans.

 

They do not make films like this one any longer. Usually this sentence when found in the review of a movie is supposed to be appreciative. Not in the case of ‘s Obsession. The film is made in 1976,the year Hitchcock was making his last movie, and owes a lot to the style of story building and telling, and to the cinematographic tricks of the master. One thing is however missing – the element of novelty and permanent search that was characteristic to Hitchcock, which made each of his movie different from the previous. Obsession is a film a la Hitchcock without the surprises. Even worse, without the humor.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074991

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074991

 

The idea is interesting and ‘Obsession‘ may have been one of the first to use it. A rich man’s wife and girl are kidnapped and a fat ransom is demanded. The man (acted by ) decides to call the police, and the story turns into a tragedy when the car with the kidnappers, the wife and the girl explodes in the events following the police action. The hero is overwhelmed by remorse and guilt for his decision to turn to the police rather than just pay the ransom. 16 years later, in the same place where he first met his wife, he meets a young woman with a striking resemblance. He falls for her, and ends by asking her into marriage. Actually, here are some of the good moments of the film. Is he really in love or is the guilt driving his actions? Is he attracted by the young girl  or by the memory of the deceased wife (double role for )? Can the past be really fixed that easy?

 

(video source Arrow Video)

 

All is almost fine with the questions, the problem is with the answers and the way these are given. The way the conflict is solved is predictable in the big lines. There are some surprises at the very ending, they do not change to much of the essence of the story, and make the final scenes very hard to sustain in facts and in the psychology of the characters. In order to present the facts in the past, director uses a technique inside the flash-backs which I did not like too much, probably because it was not built well visually (cannot tell more, would be too much of a spoiler). Techniques from Hitchcock’s films are reused intensively, especially the musical score, but they seem already out of fashion already for the mid-70s. So is the style of acting, especially of the lead character acted by . On the other hand watching is a real pleasure, it is her that maestro Hitchcock would have loved to include in the cast of one of his movies.

Obsession‘ fails in my opinion and to my taste first of all because it tries to explain too much. I think that explaining less and trusting the cinema viewers to fill in the missing details would have been better.

2012 was a good year for us, fans of Alfred Hitchcock. Two movies were released centered around the character of the genial and obsessive master of suspense. I liked ‘Hitchcock’ starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren which I saw, a while ago, close to its release date. I had somehow lesser expectations from ‘The Girl’ which bears the anti-promotional label of ‘TV Film’ – luckily I can say that despite the very different approach and the controversial approach in describing the character and personal life of the great director, it also is a very good film, and there are many more good reasons to put it near the most respected and starred companion, besides the year of the release.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2132485/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2132485/

 

‘Based on a true story’ can also be sometimes a deterrent but it is not here either. The reason is that the ‘true story’ is about the relationship between director Hitchcock and Tippie Hedren, the feminine star of two of his movies – the famous ‘The Birds’ and the lesser known ‘Marnie’ that followed. Screen text at the start of the movie makes a case for the authenticity of what follows and to some extent prepares us for a version of the Hitchcock character which was rumored during his life, documented in memoirs and testimonies after his death, but never caught as such on screen until now. A Hitchcock who was not only obsessive in his film making, but also in the relations with the actresses he worked with, a film director of unequaled talent but also an aging man who tried to overcome the inevitable by trying to use the fascination he won with his art and personality in order to bring to bed the much younger stars he worked with, and when one of them like Tippie Hedren rejected him. he was sliding into what we bluntly call today harassment.

 

(video source Tom Engelman)

 

The approach taken by the script and by director Julian Jarold was rejected by many of the admirers of Hitchcock. I do not have an opinion one way or another, but I will observe that some of the great admired artists of our time had their own problems that reflected in their personalities and relations with the teams or women in their lives – to mention Woody Allen, Polansky or Depardieu as a few other illustrious examples. The personal lives after all make good material for biographical movies (like the one we are discussing here) but hardly can shade their cinematographic work. I actually believe that Jarold tried to stick to facts, without necessarily making a moral judgment. According to his own criteria the viewer can consider the ‘Hitch’ in this film as being a harassing maniac, or an aging man falling to an autumnal crisis in his life. What cannot be denied is that one way or another ‘The Birds’ remains like a peak movie in the creation of Hitchcock and history of cinema.

Some fine actors work make this movie even more interesting. Toby Jones creates a very credible Hitchcock with the silhouette and voice of the character we know and love, and enough ambiguity to serve the purposes and ideas of the director. Imelda Staunton almost made me forget Helen Mirren with her rendition of Imelda Hitchcock. Last and best, Sienna Miller has all the beauty and inner strength that makes us believe that there was such a girl who stood up to the advances of the great Alfred Hitchcock.

 

There is a woman behind any great man, or so they say. According to the story told in ‘Hitchcock’ this may never have been more true than in the case of the famous master of suspense that was Alfred Hitchcock. His wife Alma Reville was a talented script-writer, a focused and sharp assistant-director, and above all a dedicated wife who not only did all she could to support in many ways the genial director, but also made sacrifices and put intentionally in shadows her own self to ensure his indisputable success. Sacha Gervasi‘s first(!) long feature film is apparently the saga of making the masterpiece of the horror genre called Psycho, but for me is before all a film about Mrs. Hitchcock.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0975645/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0975645/

 

One thing that Hollywood knows to do well is movies about Hollywood. This is the case again with Hitchcock, a film which radiates love for cinema, succeeds to be funny and is a reverence at the same time towards one of the directors who was a darling and a maverick of the film industry at the same time, dominating the suspense, horror and spy films genre in the 50s. We see him here at the top of his creativity, after a series of successes which he knows he must avoid repeating in style in order to stay relevant when crossing the threshold of the age of 60. This is not simple even for the legendary Hitch, as the (Hollywood) system would rather have him go on the safe path of blockbusters, and much of the story in the film is about taking artistic and personal risks in order for him to make the movies he wants. His eccentricities and oddities are presented in details and with delights, yet they hide his more serious search for artistic truth and a fight against aging and the drought of creativity he fears will come with the years. Hitch takes an enormous bet, but we all know the results. Psycho as well as his next film The Birds are the two peaks of a fascinating filmography.

 

(video source The JoBlo Movie Network)

 

The cast is fabulous, but here in my view lies also the weaker point of the film (all relative, of course). I was not thrilled by Anthony Hopkins‘ rendition of Hitch. One of the actors I always thought can do no wrong is over-exaggerating in this film the physical dimensions of the character. 17 years ago he succeeded to be more Nixon than Nixon himself in Nixon, and one year later he repeated the performance in Surviving Picasso. In both movies he played the characters from inside, understood and lived them. In this Hitchcock his act has a dose of unexpected artificiality. This only makes even more blatant the superb acting of Helen Mirren, radiating inner strength and intelligence in one of the best roles of her career (and what a career she has!). Scarlett Johansson is what we expect in the juicy role of Vivian Leigh, Hitchcock’s blonde du jour in Psycho. The biggest surprise comes however from James D’Arcy who is such a perfect clone of Anthony Perkins that I suspected for a few seconds that some special effects were used to built a computerized image of the late actor. The Hitchcock wrapping imagined by Sacha Gervasi for the whole film works quite well. The personal troubles of the character are not completed elucidated, this film is not a deep analysis of the creative processes of the great director, but the film is overall fun, and this is the essence of the work of Hitchcock – challenging the viewers but eventually delivering entertainment, not cinema theory. Hitchcock is fun.