Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: The return of Alfred Hitchcock

17 comments
Jimmy Stewart, left, and Kim Novak in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 'Vertigo'. Photo / AP
Jimmy Stewart, left, and Kim Novak in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 'Vertigo'. Photo / AP

For a filmmaker who's been dead for more than 30 years, Alfred Hitchcock has been getting a lot of attention lately.

His 1958 film Vertigo recently displaced Orson Welles' Citizen Kane at the top of Sight & Sounds' influential Greatest Films poll and there are no less than two major upcoming films focusing on the legendary director.

I'm choosing to interpret Vertigo's slow ascension to the number one spot on Sight & Sound's poll as a beautiful coming together of the more elitist sensibility projected by the legendary magazine and the more populist view held by a typical film fan. Like me.

The mastery of Citizen Kane cannot be denied, but it's nothing like the heady rollercoaster ride of Vertigo. The former is an exercise in finely honed cinematic technique, but the latter sweeps you up with grand thrills and even grander emotions for one of the most dazzling and unnerving experiences in the history of the medium.

And if gaining the top spot means more people see Vertigo, then hooray for that. My local DVD store proprieter mentioned to me yesterday than all their copies of Vertigo have been in great demand since the poll results were released last week.

It was watching (and being terrified by) Vertigo as a thirteen-year-old that calcified my deep love for cinema. I knew I was hooked from that moment forward. Not only is it one of the coolest films ever made, it's also a fantastic entry point into the deep cinematic world of Alfred Hitchcock, which I subsequently explored feverishly.

Describing Vertigo as a romantic drama may put some people off, but it is the film's portrayal of romantic obsession that makes it so powerful. The real terror comes from within James Stewart's character, Scottie. The titular ailment serves as a metaphor for Scottie's overwhelming desire (for Kim Novak's character Madeleine), and how it's completely beyond his control. It's chilling. Also, Novak is devastatingly attractive.

So anyway, I am stoked that Vertigo is now (sort of) officially the greatest film ever made. It's the most accessible movie to ever hold that position. I am confident it will set off a whole new wave of Hitchcock appreciation.

Also bringing Hitchcock back into the spotlight these days is The Birds and Marnie star Tippi Hedren, whose dysfunctional relationship with the great director is the subject of an upcoming HBO "docudrama" called The Girl, starring Toby Jones (Captain America) as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller (Layer Cake) as Hedren.

Hitchock was notoriously controlling of his legendary succession of blonde leading ladies, and by all accounts, Hedren copped some of the worst abuse.

Although just like when his performance as Truman Capote in 2006's Infamous was overshadowed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning take in Capote, poor old Toby Jones will no doubt suffer comparisons to a much higher profile actor taking on the Hitchcock role when Hitchock, starring Anthony Hopkins, is released in theatres.

The film is set around the time of the making of the 1960 classic Psycho, and apparently delves into a largely unheralded aspect of Hitchcock's career - the enormous role his wife Alma Reville (played in the film by Helen Mirren) played in the making of his films.

Reville has continuity and screenplay credits on several early Hitchcock films, but is considered by some to be overlooked for the true breadth of her contributions to the master's ouvre.

I look forward to seeing how the Hitchcock movie addresses this. Also, Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel plays Vera Miles. So I'm like, totally onboard anyway. James D'Arcy is certainly well-cast as Psycho star Anthony Perkins if this picture is anything to go by.

Hitchcock is one of the most famous filmmakers of all time, but I'm constantly surprised by how many people haven't seen any of his films, or simply don't know where to begin beyond Psycho and The Birds.

Vertigo is as good a place as any for the reasons mentioned above, but if you like what you see, take in any of the following next: Strangers on a Train; The Lady Vanishes; Rear Window; North By Northwest; Rope or Shadow of a Doubt. Frenzy is great too. And The 39 Steps is amazing. I could go on...

*Have you seen Vertigo? Will you now that it's topped Sight and Sound's list? Are you amped for either of these movies about Hitchcock? Comment below!

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 31 Aug 2014 13:56:28 Processing Time: 719ms