choice between Notorious, Vertigo or Rear Window as my favorite
Alfred Hitchcock film. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is a brilliant,
thrilling, masterpiece that misleads you every step of the way.
It's a film that gets better with every viewing, as you can
get a new perspective each time. I think Vertigo is Hitchcock's
most artistic and ultimately best film. Sure Hitchcock has made
some brilliant films, but I think none have the depth that Vertigo
does. Vertigo is an examination of desire and it's about how
what we often think of romantic love can truly be selfish emotion.
I'm most fascinated with the films study of Scottie's (played
to perfection by James Stewart) relationships to Madeleine and
Midge, who is the opposite of Madeleine. Midge is real, Madeleine
is not. Scottie is obsessed with Madeleine; her mysteries, her
beauty, who wouldn't want her? While Midge is available, loving,
honest, but plain and unexciting. She's the kind of women you
don't look twice at. It's really interesting psychology about
the male psyche. If nothing else, master composer Bernard Hermann
and the film's final image are sure to move you. The visual
aspects of the film are astonishing (the use of profile shots,
the passionate green lighting effects glaring through the window,
the Golden Gate Bridge, the final shot, etc, etc). Vertigo is
an amazing masterpiece that's one of the most important films
in American cinema history, by one of the most influential filmmakers.
terms of importance and certainly influence, few filmmakers belong
higher then Hitchcock, who's legendary status rates him as one
of the most celebrated filmmakers of all-time. Though Hitchcock
became one of the definitive masters of the Hollywood studio system,
his roots, style, and influence were far from American. Obviously
being born in Britain and beginning his career there is evident,
but Hitchcock's similarities with German cinema would remain most
prominent throughout his career (even and maybe especially within
the Hollywood studios). Early in his career Hitchcock received
advice on staging and lighting from German master F.W. Murnau
and the influence is reflective of Hitchcock's mastery. The German
influence is that of Hitchcock's "artificial realism"
in which he can fully control every detail of the Mise-en-scene.
The only way to fully control lighting, decoration, architectural
shapes, and connections of colors was to film in a completely
controlled environment. This is "artificial realism",
which was originally incorporated during the German silent era
(with films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) and ultimately
mastered by Hitchcock (most notably in his definitive masterwork
Rear Window, where he perfectly controlled every single detail).
Hitchcock's films are so well known, celebrated, a studied that
there is so much to remember about him (including his famous cameo
appearances). His trademark suspense and ability to play with
the audience has dubbed him "the master of suspense"
and his influence in film is monumental. The term "Hitchcockian"
is well regarded among the many Hitchcock influences of contemporary
cinema as his basic themes, style, techniques, and films have
been remade, homaged, or imitated in some form or another. Some
of the aspects of Hitchcock's films I remember most (besides his
overall mastery of the Mise-en-scene) are the objects within his
films (which sometime represent his trademark plot use as the
"macguffin"). Whether it's the key or wine bottles in
Notorious, the ring in Rear Window, the lighter and glasses in
Strangers on a Train, the necklace in Vertigo, the scissors in
Dial M for Murder, the newspaper in Psycho, or the glass of milk
in Suspicion (just to name a few examples), each are little objects
that control enormous emotion and suspense. Few filmmakers make
objects such a prominent role and he uses them to emphasize the
emotional response while also revealing his overall reliance on
technique and storyboarding. Hitchcock's dependence of his films
is usually in the pre-production stage of storyboard and scripting
where he plans the shot exactly the way he wants (it is said that
he has never even looked into a camera during the actual shooting
production). Of course it is the reliance of post-production that
make Hitchcock the true "master of suspense", as his
films display the perfection and command of his skillful editing.
Another memorable aspect of Hitchcock's film that get remembered
are the women, most notably the blondes. Hitchcock had an obsession
with blondes almost as much as his obsession with the theme of
obsession. Sleek, cold blondes (like Ingrid Bergman, Eva Marie
Saint, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, and of course his favorite Grace
Kelly!) play a role in most of his films opposite the suave, sly
males (Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ray Milland, Joseph Cotten).
Of course, Hitchcock's reliance and use of Hollywood stars was
very evident and some of his later films may have suffered a bit
from the lack of "star-power". Hitchcock's films are
a complex blend of mood, style, story, and deceptive technique.
He mixes terror with humor, suspense with irony, or mystery with
dreams. The films are always moving forward at a gripping pace
while never losing focus of the simplistic or ironic details.
At the core of his structure is generally a chase, with the suspense
heightened by his essential themes of strange psychological states.
Of course his most trademark psychological examinations include
obsession, voyeurism, desire, trust, and violence. Though he never
won an Academy Award (outside a Lifetime Achievement Award in
1968), Hitchcock's acclaim and popularity stands as one of the
most successful and long-lasting in the history of film. His career
spans six decades and I think you can say he's made great films
through them all. Beginning during the silent era, Hitchcock also
made some great early sound films that rate among the best of
early British cinema (notably The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes).
In 1940 Hitchcock moved to Hollywood and directed Rebecca for
producer David O Selznick. Though I believe the film to be among
his more dated, it stands as the only Hitchcock film to win the
Academy Award for Best Picture. Hitchcock continued making many
classics during the 1940s (notably his three films with Ingrid
Bergman- Notorious, Spellbound, and the overlooked Under Capricorn).
It is the 1950s (Hitchcock's richest period) that extended him
into the class of the greatest filmmakers. During this decade
he made eleven films, all of which are great and especially two
of which rate among the greatest of all-time: 1954's Rear Window
and 1958's Vertigo. Also made in the 50s is his most underrated
masterpiece, 1956's The Wrong Man. With these three films (as
well as his other masterwork- 1946s Notorious), Hitchcock is at
the peak of his mastery and I believe them to be his best films.
However, it is 1960 that marked the greatest impact to Hitchcock's
place in American film with the release of Psycho, a film that
changed the face of filmmaking forever and stands as his most
beloved classic. Though I prefer other Hitchcock films, the brilliance
and importance of Psycho is undeniable and still impacting today
(it also captures Hitchcock masterful manipulation with his audience,
as well as key contributions from Hitchcock collaborators Bernard
Herrmann and Sal Bass- both geniuses in their own right). Hitchcock
was shocked at the success of the film and it altered the way
he made films thereafter. As a result his final six features after
Psycho are not as masterful (with the possible exception 1964's
Marnie which recalls his themes of Vertigo). Hitchcock's final
film (1976's Family Plot) is atypical in the fact that it's more
a straight comedy and much of it is improvised against script
(and despite the films poor reviews, I actually think it's pretty
good and has a rather interesting final shot of his career). In
all, Hitchcock directed 54 feature films, many of which stand
today as memorable as ever. He truly was one of the greatest masters
and his films and influence live on.