Hi there (if anyone is still bothering to read this, haha).
It’s been too long, I know. I’ve been doing stuff and seeing things. One of the things I saw last Friday was a documentary on the book Hitchcock about — you guessed it — Alfred Hitchcock, written by the French director François Truffaut.
Through interviews with directors like Scorsese, Wes Anderson, James Gray, and Olivier Assayas, the documentary discusses the making of the book — mostly through the establishment of the friendship between Truffaut & Hitchcock and their subsequent interview which make up the contents of the book. According to the documentary, Truffaut considered Hitchcock the greatest director working at the time. His decision to take on the book project was inspired by his desire to elevate Hitchcock in the eyes of his detractors. Back then, film critics largely considered Hitchcock an entertainer and not a legitimate artist. But he did many things in his films which demonstrate how unique his visual instinct was.
For one thing, he did a lot of shooting from above, the “God’s eye view” as some of the directors called it. One example the film gives of this technique being used well was of a scene in the movie The Wrong Man, where the accused is taken to a prison cell. When he enters, we watch from above — an omniscient point of view. Then the point of view switches to the prisoner’s own as the camera cuts from his face to the different corners of/objects in the cell that the man is looking at. There was also a lot of discussion of Hitchcock’s obsession with particular objects — a piece of rope, or keys for example — and the way he often chose to focus in close up on the action of an actor handling a particular object.
The most interesting things I learned had to do with Hitchcock’s relationships with actors. He did not collaborate. He directed every. single. action his actors took. He’s quoted as saying “Actors are cattle” and that’s exactly how he treated them. They were tools, instruments used to realize his vision. Like life-sized dolls. It’s amazing to me that a person could have such a clear idea of what they want and how they want it that they would control every aspect of the process. Naturally, the actors weren’t thrilled about it XD
I’ve only seen 3 of Hitchcock’s films so far: The Birds, Psycho, and Rear Window. The next will be Vertigo. It’s about a man who kills his wife, then obsesses over her to the point of withholding his love from a woman who’s in love with him, unless she agrees to change her appearance to look exactly like his dead wife’s. Disturbing, right? Right up my street, haha. I’m not just interested because of the plot, though. Vertigo was one of the films the documentary spent the most time on. According to a few of the directors, the events in the film aren’t necessarily believable, and there are a few plot holes. But, supposedly, Vertigo shows off some of Hitchcock’s best visual storytelling. He said he “wrote with the camera” rather than with a pen, pencil or typewriter, and you can definitely see that in his work.
Here’s a bit of trivia (that they didn’t even mention in the documentary!): Did you know Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia, had supporting parts in 3 of his films? Instead of telling you which ones, I’ll leave you with this lovely photo I found of Hitchcock, his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, and his granddaughters. Let me know below if you recognize Patricia from any of Hitchcock’s movies.