Archive for March, 2013


Apologies for posting a day early but I’m super busy tomorrow so thought I’d get it out of the way. This weeks film is Vertigo which recently overtook Citizen Kane to become Sight & Sound’s best film ever. It is a film I’ve seen several times and truly admire… so sorry if this review is a little biased!

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Scotty (James Stewart) is a retired detective who is afraid of heights – also know as ‘vertigo’. When an old friends hires Scotty to investigate his deranged wife (Kim Novak) Scotty becomes scarily obsessed with her.

THE GOOD

Everything in this film is fantastic. And I truly mean this; there are very little problems in this film and it is a perfect example of why Hitchcock is hailed as the master of suspense.

 

The film is essentially a culmination of all the experimental aspects of previous Hitchcock films containing the mysteriousness of The Lady Vanishes, whilst being as tense as Notorious and as haunting as Rebecca; all with a dream sequence that rivals the one in Spellbound.

From the start of the film the narrative and style are set up beautifully with the use of a ‘vertigo shot’, which uses a track and zoom simultaneously to mess with the perspective of the camera. It is a shot that was created for this film and one that has been homaged several times in major films such as Spielberg’s Jaws.

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The films narrative is also extremely clever as it essentially ends are an hour and half with a huge twist; before beginning again with an even huger twist.

Although heavily criticized at the time (the film somehow failed at the Box Office) the performances of both the leads are sensational with Kim Novak standing out in the role of an insane woman.

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THE BAD
The only problem that I could possibly think of when watching this film is that some people may find it to be a little boring at points. I’ve spoken to a friend and he agreed pointing out that there are long periods in which James Stewart simply drives his car around. These scenes are shot magnificently and build tension beautifully; however compared the fast pacedness of many modern thrillers, an audience member may become tired and lose interest.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo about 10 minutes in, walking past the camera carrying some kind of instrument case.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Vertigo is the best film Hitchcock made and one of the best films ever made.

5 Hitchs!

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This week’s film is The Wrong Man and sees Hitchcock tackling a true story for the first time. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Manny Balestero (Henry Fonda) is a happily married man who goes to the bank to take out a loan and suddenly finds himself in prison for robbery. Although he had done nothing wrong witnesses constantly identify him as a criminal. Manny with the support of his family must somehow figure out a way to clear his name.

THE GOOD

The film begins with a narrated prologue by Hitchcock himself, which sets the tone for the film beautifully and makes it clear that the story is a true one. This instantly makes the audience interested into what is going to happen and why Henry Fonda is the Wrong Man.

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As the film builds the tension becomes fantastic especially when Manny is first recognised as being a ‘criminal’ and the consequences that follow including his arrest. There are many cool shots within this film that are rarely used in cinema, making it nice to see that even at this point in his career Hitch wasn’t afraid to experiment; for example there is a shot in which the camera spins around Henry Fonda’s face with increasing speed, or a fade from one face into another towards the end of the film.

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THE BAD

Being based on a true story (and apparently factually correct) there are many problems with the narrative seeming far too convenient; for example the fact that the only two witnesses had died seemed suspicious but was glossed over.

The ending was also a disappointment as the tension built up to such great extent that what actually happened was too realistic, boring and predictable.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitch makes his cameo in the aforementioned opening prologue, it is the only time which the director speaks in one of his films.

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FINAL THOUGHTS?

The Wrong Man is an interesting story, albeit not a flamboyant one. The ending could have been a little better exaggerated however I suppose realism is what was being aimed for. Enjoyable with a few very good moments. 4 Hitchs

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This weeks film is Hitchcock’s 2nd attempt at making The Man Who Knew Too Much. I always found it a little odd that someone would want to remake their own movie and this had made me very excited to see how different his retry would be.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The storyline is essentially the same as the original, with the only major change being that Marrakech has replaced the French Alps, and the daughter from the original is now a son.

The story a married couple (James Stewart and Doris Day) along with their son on holiday in Morroco, when a suspicious man tells them about an assassination attempt (and subsequently dies) they find their child kidnapped and themselves blackmailed from all sides. In order to save their family they are forced into a chase across Europe leading to an extremely thrilling finale.

THE GOOD

After watching the first version and knowing it to come from the same director, this film is hard to judge on its own merit. Much of it remains the same, therefore in this post I’m going to focus on the differences and what is better, what is worse than the original. 

Firstly I enjoyed the exotic setting of Morroco much more than the cold alps. Morroco has a vastly different culture to the UK and America, which therefore meant that the characters became instantly more relatable as they where the only ones to which we had something in common.

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This version is also much more tense albeit a little slower (see below), with the tension mounting to some extreme levels especially in the climatic scene at the Albert Hall. This scene is perhaps the most famous from either version and is truly a wonderful example of filmmaking. There are 12 minutes without a word of dialogue as an orchestra plays and the characters move around; it build slowly into a climax which is hard to beat in terms of nerve-wrackingness.

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Doris Day is also very good in the role of a Grace Kelly look-a-like, with the use of song Que Sera Sera being a pleasant surprise as I did not realise it was from this film.

THE BAD

The major flaw of this film is its pacing, the original film is somewhat shorter at 75 minutes compared to the 2 hours for which this film drags on. Although some of this extra time is used well in order to establish the characters; the action is paced too far apart leading to large periods of boredom that are salvaged only by a great performance by James Stewart. 

The film also lacks the prescence of a villain; with Peter Lorre not being replaced; this is a shame as Lorre’s performance and character are one the memorable moments from the original.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock’s cameo is tiny and easily missable; he appears in a crowd at a marketplace and stands with his back to the camera.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

The US made version of the Man Who Knew Too Much is better than the original but still suffers from many of the same flaws. These are covered over by better production values and a much more competent cast however this film will never be considered the greatest of anything and is merely so-so.

4 Hitch’s.

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This weeks film is a strange one as it is Hitchcock tackling a new genre of dark comedy! 

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Trouble With Harry is that he’s dead. When Captain Wiles (Edmun Gewnn) thinks he has killed a man in a hunting accident he attempts to hide the body, unfortunately several other residents also believe they have killed the man and thus are bound together in lies. 

THE GOOD

I was not expecting this film to be a comedy when I began watching; therefore it took me a little time to get involved. However once I had grasped the humouressness there are so many good jokes – both physical comedy and witticisms – that it was difficult not to laugh. 

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The universe of this small town created by Hitchcock was a joy to watch with all the cast performing magnificently. The narrative is also fantastic with every element tying together in perfectly.

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This also marks the first film in which Hitchcock worked with composer Bernard Hermann and the score created is a unique and original one, which is extremely memorable and matches the tone of the film perfectly.

THE BAD

The film is good in terms of comedy, however it lacks any of the real tension, which typify a Hitchcock film. There are very few Hitchcockian moments, although this is primarily because of the narrative it is a little disappointing.

Also there are about as many jokes that don’t work as there are jokes that do, meaning the film is a bit of jumble; albeit a hilarious one.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo walking past a posh car about 20 minutes in.

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FINAL THOUGHTS
An interesting foray into comedy by the great director, but a lack of tension lets it down. 4 Hitchs. 

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