When I was in my teens, my parents allowed me to stay up late after everyone else had gone to bed and watch Alfred Hitchcock movies on TV. I have since wondered about their leniency over my watching films where horror and suspense were the keywords for every movie poster.
At any rate, I developed an appreciation of Alfred Hitchcock’s filmmaking ability through all those late night movies, viewing such films as The Birds, Psycho, and Marnie. Later, I purchased a book by Donald Spoto, The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of his Motion Pictures, and devoured it, marking each film in the Table of Contents as I had the opportunity to see it. I’ve seen all of them, beginning with The Thirty-Nine Steps, making me a fan you might say.
So when I saw the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut advertised at my local art cinema, I made sure to drop by to watch it. The film is based on the 1966 book Cinema According to Hitchcock that French film director Francois Truffaut published about his interviews with Hitchcock during the 1960’s. It is a mix of archival footage of the two of them and Truffaut’s assistant, and present day interviews with directors speaking about how Hitchcock’s brand of storytelling influenced their cinematic endeavors.
It was fascinating. The film is rated PG-13 for suggestive material and violent images. Directors interviewed included Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Linklater, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, and David Fincher among others.
The interviews between Hitchcock and Truffaut especially focused on Vertigo and Psycho. The narrator comments that while Hitchcock’s movies of the 1940’s were good, in the 1950’s he was on fire. Those are the ones I recall watching late at night lying on the carpet in front of the old tele, spellbound (grin).
Since the movies back then couldn’t show sexual encounters as they do today, much was done as metaphor. It was fascinating to hear Hitchcock talk about the symbolism of the encounters between Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo, and how racy it was for Janet Leigh and her lover to be only partially clothed in their hotel room in Psycho.
He also shares some things about working with actors. He didn’t give much artistic license to them, if any, yet his results on screen were astonishing.
Hitchcock dug deep into his fears for subject matter for his films, and even if you are not writing that type of story for filmmaking, a lot can be learned from watching his films. He is likened to an artist, painting on the screen, and his films were so visual, so like art, the images linger in one’s mind long after the closing credits. To say he is the master of suspense is simply a fact. One that the directors interviewed attests to.
This was a worthwhile film to see. Ask for it at your local art house theater, or hope it comes to Netflix soon. If you’re a film buff like I am, you don’t want to miss it.