Monday, November 26, 2012

Hitchcock: master and menace

The most popular and paradoxical of great filmmakers.... What Hedren endured in the making of these films—and what Hitchcock subjected her to—is a crucial element of their artistic power... “Marnie” is the movie in which Hitchcock did so most radically; it’s the movie where his personal torment and Hedren’s own burst forth in every scene, in every moment. “The Girl” is not an especially sophisticated or nuanced drama, but it’s an irresistibly fascinating one, simply for calling attention to what’s already there for the viewing in Hitchcock’s greatest film. In effect, “The Girl” is not a drama but a work of criticism—not one of any groundbreaking originality, but one that points to what everyone ought already to have been talking about in the first place: not least, that it’s no surprise to learn that a filmmaker whose art is devoted to pain, fear, control, and sexual obsession also experienced and inflicted them in life.—Richard Brody, New Yorker film blog “Front Row”
While his minions did nothing, Hitchcock unleashed live birds during filming on an unsuspecting Hedren (Sienna Miller), and continued to do so for umpteen takes.
Written by Gwyneth Hughes with the participation of Tippi Hedren, cast and crew from The Birds, and Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto (The Dark Side of Genius), BBC/HBO's The Girl stars Sienna Miller as the actress whose Cinderella story ended up in the dustbin, thanks to the creepy, manipulative, and predatory behavior of the famed director. Hedren flatly told an AFI audience that she stopped working with him because of his relentless and gross importunings—what we now call sexual harassment. Furious because she wouldn't succumb, he refused to release her from her seven-year contract, and for two years she languished in limbo, until he sold her to another studio. Apparently the onus was on her, and she retained the aura of an actress difficult to work with. (Presumably, Kim Novak, Grace Kelley, and Eva Marie Saint—the other famous blondes who he said “make the best victims”—had more armor or better agents to protect them. No sign of the latter was visible here.) One Slate writer deconstructed this brief '60s interview with Hedren for signs of trauma:
At a London screening of The Girl, Hedren told the audience: “I don’t know if any of you women have had a horrible experience of being the object of someone’s obsession. If you have, you would know exactly what that’s like. It’s oppressive and frightening. You find out that you’ve been followed and you’re being spied upon, and made demands of that you would never acquiesce to in any circumstances. It becomes a situation of not being able to deal with it, not wanting to deal with it and not dealing with it.”
On a brighter note, I'm keen to see the new film Hitchcock, about the making of Psycho. The critical buzz over the weekend trended toward the theme that Anthony Hopkins as Hitch and Helen Mirren Alma Reville Hitchcock make (and steal) the show, which for me is reason enough to see it! (Apparently, Sir A refused to play the part unless his good friend Helen agreed to co-star.) The great Toni Colette also has a part, and who can resist the "bodacious" (NYTimes) Scarlett Johannson as Kim Novak?The period costumes and decor are another bonus, and will have to satiate Mad Men fans until the new season commences.


  1. Hitchcock looks a bit more interesting than The Girl. I will see both.Its weird ever so often a few movies come out at the same time, about the same person, ie, Capote and Infamous staring The Girl's Toby Jones, both biographical dramas about the life and times of Truman Capote. I guess Hollywood likes competition.

    1. "Hitchcock" looks like it's going to be a blockbuster like "Babe," while "The Girl" looks like it may be a sleeper hit like "Gordy."

  2. Could not spot any "tells" in the Hedren interview; the shot was limited to her face so there was no body language. In a 2009 interview shown on You Tube after the short piece, Ms. Hedren calls herself "very fortunate" in her career and has nought but praise for Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock. She did complain about the live birds used in that climactic scene.
    For some reason, I am reminded of the last line of a Welles movie--"Touch of Evil" I think-- in which Dietrich says with perfect style, "What does it matter what people say about you?"
    A philosophy both Orson and Marlene seemed to embrace.

    1. Checked with Wiki and it's "What does it matter what you say about people?"
      I tell myself never to quote from memory, but then I forget.

  3. If one wanted to look at it this way, "The Birds" takes a beautiful, wealthy, pristine (in white fur!) woman and tears her down to a bloodied, quivering, dependent mass of incoherence.
    If one wanted to look at it this way, "Frenzy" is the culmination of a violent pathology.
    And if one wanted to look at it this way, every Woody Allen film could be subtitled "Sex Fantasies of the Nebbish."