Monday, December 17, 2007

Alfred Hitchcock

There are so many reasons Hitchcock is a Saint of The House of Fun, but I have a very particular one in mind. What's interesting about it is that it's not just about film, or even just about artistic creation generally.

It's really about what you do when you get to the top. Top of what? Doesn't matter. It's about how you deal with things when everyone around you acknowledges that you are the best, the peak, the go-to guy. Most people coast; some pontificate, some simply repeat what got them there, even if that won't work to move them any further.

Alfred Hitchcock in the late '50's was in such a glorious position. His work in the '50's is a string that anyone would envy: To Catch A Thief, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest. All of these, North by Northwest in particular, are in the center of what the studios would want to make over and over; great leading man, great soundtrack, story, direction. I think they would have wanted several 'North by Northwests' if Sir Alfred were willing to grind them out. And, mind, I'm not saying these films aren't great, they are. Let's check out the super cool intro to North by Northwest, thanks to the animation of Saul Bass and the music of Bernard Hermann; watch for Hitch at the end of the clip!

But as great as all these films were, for Hitchcock it simply wasn't enough! He wasn't going to be content to just make product, even really, really good product. He had follow his fetishistic, voyeuristic impulses all the way, past what he had started to show us in Rear Window and Vertigo. He had to give us... Psycho.

Here's what Entertainment Weekly has had to say about it:

There's no way around it: Psycho cut movie history in half. When that knife came sawing past the shower curtain at poor, sheeplike Marion Crane(Janet Leigh), Alfred Hitchcock announced that from now on all bets were off. No one was safe; a heroine could be butchered 45 minutes into the movie; a nice young man(Anthony Perkins) could turn out to be a psychotic killer with his mama's embalmed body upstairs...To be truthful, there's a little bit of Psycho in everything we watch nowadays. What Hitch wrought with his little TV crew marks the line of demarcation, in our culture, between the age of sentiment and the age of sensation. It's to pop culture what Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is to fine art: the arrival of a loud and jagged modernism.

[my emphasis] Yes, yes, I know that's a bit much, but it's just to give you the idea!

My point is not about whether you like this particular genre of film or not; it's to give Alfred Hitchcock props for doing what we wish all people at the peak of their profession would do. Spending their hard won cultural capital on not merely vanity or maintaining the status quo, but raising the bar even further! Doing only what someone in that position could do! Just for this alone, Alfred Hitchcock will always be a Saint of The House of Fun.

1 comment:


Absolutely love Hitchcock. Love pointing him out to friends who, incredibly, don't know about his appearances in his own films.