My top 5 directors (No.5) – Alfred Hitchcock

5) Alfred Hitchcock

 

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock

For this entry rather then write about the man I will pick two of my favorite movies from this master and discuss them. Hopefully, this will provide a more in depth analysis for my decision. Within each category I will briefly discuss the impact of the movie, their importance in the world of cinema (influence if you will), and will provide videos of the most important scenes in my perspective. I will avoid story details for the sake of avoiding spoilers.

 

 

Vertigo (1958)

 

Vertigo (1958)
Vertigo (1958)

Many people become familiar with Alfred Hitchcock through either watching Psycho or Vertigo. I spent maybe two hours thinking about which movie deserves first place and also sat and watched both movies back to back. I finally decided Vertigo just felt like a more complete structured piece of art and everything fitted together like puzzles nothing seemed out of place. I remember a few years back me and a couple of friends were seating down having a few cold ones watching Shawshank Redemption (1994) and suddenly one of them asked “is there such a thing as a perfect movie?”

Many including myself would argue no matter how good a movie is there is always going to be a slight glitch somewhere that would take away from it being perfect whether it is a camera shot, dialogue an out of place movement by the actors etc. All that changed when I watched Vertigo a movie of epic proportions dreamy scenery, outstanding cinematography, hauntingly soothing sound track and above all the” dolly zoom” more commonly known as the “vertigo effect”. The genius that was Hitchcock was the first director to use this method in a movie in order to create the sense of confusion that the protagonists suffered as a result of fear of heights.

The various locations used for the story around San Francisco are all shot to perfection not one tree feels out of place. One particular scene featuring the Golden Gate bridge is amongst my favorite scenes from the movie. The bridge makes multiple appearances throughout the movie perhaps reminding us of the movies grandiose significance, and Hitchcock’s confidence bordering arrogance. To be this good such self-belief is expected.

Some critics have criticized the movies running time however I personally found the pacing to be perfect having watched the movie multiple times I never really felt like skipping a scene or finding myself getting bored.

 

 Why Vertigo?

Scenery, story, mastery without a doubt Hitchcock’s defining moment a masterpiece. The movie has been restored to high definition therefore there has never been a better time to watch this classic.

 

Impact?

Its influence runs wide however the “vertigo effect” is probably the most impactful influence. Movies such as Goodfellas (1990), Jaws (1975)  and Road to Perdition (2002) have all adapted the dolly shot technique. Panoramic wide shots and masterful camera work make each shot as vivid and impactful as paintings on canvas. For those familiar with the work of Federico Fellini they will start to spot his influence on Hitchcock immediately however saying that nothing seems generic. Hitchcock simply borrows and perfects with a sprinkle of his own genius.

 

Favorite scene

 

 

This scene for me encapsulates Vertigo perfectly. Dreamy cinematography, the escalation of music and wonderful use of scenery and colors.

 

 Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)

What has not been said about this movie? Perhaps the most influential movie of all time specifically in the field of horror particularly the slasher genre of horror. Arguably the first slasher movie. Before Michael Myers and Jason there was the mentally disturbed Norman Bates. No other movie deals with mental illness the same way Hitchcock does with Psycho. Anthony Perkins does an outstanding job portraying the disturbed Norman.

 However, as it always tends to be the case the real star here is the man sitting on the directors seat calling the shots. That`s right the tension, the moody, almost unsettling atmosphere, and disturbing scratching and screeching music create tension that even today’s horror movies fail to replicate despite having the technology to do so. Perhaps this is where it has all gone wrong we have become too dependent on artificial means in evoking terrifying emotions, and thus reduced the impact of such movies. The impact of Psycho on popular culture has been immense the iconic shower scene, the scream of fear are instantly recognizable.

What makes this movie so great in my opinion is that very little explanation is given behind Normans obscure behavior this lack of explanation in psychological horror has become the norm in such movies ever since. There is this gut feeling that something is not quite right and this is evoked through Hitchcock’s masterful handling of the camera, and use of symbolic imagery to provide some level of explanation into Norman’s odd behavior. A good example of this being Normans use of taxidermy as decoration perhaps hinting towards his propensity for violence, yet he is portrayed as being very calm and collective in his approach.

 Psycho is as much about exploration of the mind as it is a horror movie therefore writing about this movie is no easy task. After all there has been books written about the interpretation and significance of the movie.

 The use of shadows, dark blacks and symbolic imagery symbolizing introvert desires are presented in masterful fashion. This is as much of an art house movie as it is provoking and effective. No movie horror or otherwise has been able to achieve the same level of impact as Psycho it is a colossal achievement that stands unmatched and probably never will be.

 

Why Psycho?

 

My favorite movie shot in black and white no other movie makes use of black and white the same way does Psycho possibly with Vampyr (1932) being an exception. Plus very few movies encourage as much discussion as Psycho despite endless books detailing the movies significance and interpretation.

 

Impact

 

The most explicit movie of the 1960s breaking barriers and demonstrating violence and taboo themes can be part of the industry. Its impact on popular culture and a prime example of psychological study and masterful directing make this classic a marvelous achievement. The ambiguity of the cause of Norman Bates illness has allowed spin offs, sequels and recently a fantastic TV series (Bates Motel). A show worth checking out.

 

Favorite scene

 

It’s almost impossible to choose a single scene every scene is significant and plays an important part in understanding the story. Consequently, I will provide two scenes that had the most impact on me.

 

This scene demonstrates Bateman’s complicated relationship with his mother.

Here we see Norman finally having lost control of all reason.

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