“Hitchcock/Truffaut” – An Homage to the Master

14 12 2015

Today’s top film directors – including Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, tumblr_no6ty0GSHi1r6ivyno1_1280David Fincher and many others – pay tribute to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, in the very engaging new documentary “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” directed by Kent Jones.

The film uses the historic 1962 weeklong interview sessions between Hitchcock and French film director Francois Truffaut as its starting point. The two men were on the same page from the beginning when it comes to the language of film: Both saw its potential as an art form, and as a medium for self expression; Truffaut may have been the first film theorist to recognize Hitchcock as more than a genre specialist.

The modern day directors featured in the film sing Hitchcock’s praises too, pointing out his skills as a visual storyteller, frame composer and planner of shots, using some of Hitchcock’s best movies, like “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” “Sabotage” and others to make their cases. At the same time, they trace Hitchcock’s use (and reuse) of thematic elements: Falling, imprisonment and obsession; fetishized objects like keys and doorways; and meaningful camerawork that reveals things even someone on the scene might miss.

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Left to right: Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock and translator Helen Scott

The film also contains a run of rarely seen home movie footage of Hitchcock, bringing his energy and playfulness to life in a  way one rarely sees, particularly in some of the recent films that have illuminated certain times in his life.

For anyone interested in Hitchcock’s work, this is a master class, and the directors are the guest lecturers who explain just what the Master of Suspense was really doing in his best films.

Here’s the trailer to “Hitchcock/Truffaut.”

 





“Night Will Fall” Uncovers the Grim Realities of Concentration Camps

28 04 2015

HBO and the British Film Institute delve into the grim realities of German atrocities during World War II in the recent documentary “Night Will Fall,” directed by André Singer. The film tells the tale of the British Government’s efforts, under the direction of Sidney Bernstein, to capture for posterity what happened in the German death camps, so that the deeds carried out by the Germans would not be forgotten.

Bernstein took on the overwhelming job of filming the scenes at the camps using Allied cameramen. Both the cameramen and the soldiers who captured the camps were unprepared for what they found: dead bodies of the Germans’ victims piled like cordwood, the gaunt figures of surviving prisoners, the defeated but unbowed officers who ran the camps, and, perhaps worst of all, the ordinary townspeople who lived outside the camps and ignored the overwhelming stench of death that filled the air. The survivors greeted their rescuers with joyful tears, but these same rescuers made the shocking decision to punish the Germans, soldiers and civilians alike, by forcing them to dig mass graves and bury the bodies of the dead.

As the Allied forces moved further into German territory in the days after the war, more camps were discovered and more reels of film were exposed – so many that Bernstein’s job grew to be completely unmanageable, presenting far more footage than could ever be used. Bernstein, an original member of the Film Society of London, called in his friend Alfred Hitchcock for help. They had last worked together in 1944, when Hitchcock directed the short propaganda films “Aventure Malgache” and “Bon Voyage.” Although Hitchcock was only available for a brief consultation, he made a few valuable suggestions about how to approach the project so that future generations would not be able to doubt the film’s veracity. Unfortunately, the project dragged on so long that it had to be shelved. In the early days of the Cold War, the Allies put their efforts into rebuilding Germany as an ally against the Soviet Union; a lengthy documentary reminding the world of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity was no longer considered useful. Some of the footage wound up in other, shorter films that were shown in the United States, but for the most part it was lost to history; some of it went on to be presented in the 1985 as the PBS film “Frontline: Memories of the Camps.” 

“Night Will Fall” reassembles much of that film, and presents it with tearful testimony from both concentration camp survivors and the former soldiers who freed the camps. For Hitchcock fans, it presents a look at a lost chapter in the life of the Master of Suspense, but most importantly, it is a stunning, clear-eyed look at one of humanity’s darkest hours, one that must never be forgotten.





Recent Acquisitions at The Hitchcock Report

30 03 2014

It seems there’s a never-ending supply of books about Alfred Hitchcock, both new and old. Here are a few of my recent acquisitions of books about Hitchcock and his collaborators.

• “The Alfred Hitchcock Story,” by Ken Mogg. Published by Titans Books, originally published in 1999. With a foreword by Janet Leigh, “The Alfred Hitchcock Story” looks at each of Hitchcock’s films in chronological order, with contributions by noted Hitch scholars including Dan Auiler and Stephen DeRosa. In this lavishly illustrated book, Mogg and his contributors find qualities to praise in even the least interesting Hitchcock films, which is something to celebrate.

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• “Torn Curtain,” by Richard Wormser. Published by Dell, 1966. “Based on a screenplay by Brian Moore – Now a sensational Alfred Hitchcock movie!” the cover says. Yes, it’s a novelization of Hitchcock’s cold war thriller “Torn Curtain,” starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews that promises, according to the cover, “Nerve-shattering intrigue, volcanic passions—an espionage drama that plays East against West…lover against mistress.”

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• “Pocket Essentials: Alfred Hitchcock,” by Paul Duncan. Published by Pocket Essentials, 1999. A slim paperback that really could fit in your pocket, this title is another guide to Hitchcock’s films, rarities and themes—this time without any art. The same author wrote a similar title (it might even be the same text) with many colorful illustrations for a recent Taschen hardcover on Hitchcock.

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• “David O. Selznick’s Hollywood,” by Ronald Haver. Published by Knopf, 1980. Coffee table book about Selznick, his independent studio, and the golden age of Hollywood, with beautiful pictures, personal letters from Selznick’s archives and, of course, memos from David O. Selznick. Features fold-out pages with metallic inks and embossing, plus beautiful sketches of Manderley from “Rebecca,” probably the most successful of Hitchcock and Selznick’s collaborations.

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• “Selznick,” by Bob Thomas. Published by Doubleday and Company, 1970. This is a critical biography of Selznick, so of course it delves into the contentious relationship between him and Hitchcock. At a testimonial dinner held in Selznick’s honor in March, 1965, Hitchcock said, “When I first arrived in this country, David Selznick sent me one of his famous memos. I wanted to make it into a film titled ‘The Longest Story Ever Told.'”

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• “A Year of Hitchcock,” by Jim McDevitt and Eric San Juan. Published by Scarecrow Press, 2009. Another overview of Hitchcock’s ouevre, this book adds helpful details and insights that make it a good introduction to The Master of Suspense.

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Alfred Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman

9 12 2013

Alfred Hitchcock with Ingrid Bergman, star of “Spellbound,” “Notorious” and “Under Capricorn.” One of Hitch’s favorite female leads, Bergman pulled back from Hitch’s Hollywood-style thrillers at the end of the 1940s to star in films directed by her new husband, Roberto Rossellini. These films were in the Italian neorealism style, like “Europe ‘51” and “Journey to Italy.” Bergman eventually moved back toward roles in Hollywood movies. She never worked with Hitchcock again after “Under Capricorn,” but they remained close friends. This picture is probably from the American Film Institute tribute to Hitchcock in 1979. ingrid





Alfred Hitchcock and Myron Selznick

9 12 2013

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Alfred Hitchcock (yes, with mustache) in about 1924, with Myron Selznick. In the late 1930s, Selznick would be instrumental in Hitch’s emigration from Britain to Hollywood, CA, where the director had signed a long-term contract with Selznick’s younger brother, producer David O. Selznick.








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