Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's talk about Hitchcock

Shall we?

Well, if I really must have a reason to talk about Hitchcock I'm going to have to rewind and fast forward quite a bit...

Too often the excuse for silly, immature, by the numbers cinema is passed on to the audience.

It shouldn't be.

See the argument goes that the audience can't, or won't be bothered, to work out "complex" ideas in a film. And someone who's new to the medium, or who hasn't checked out cinema going back a few decades or more, might be forgiven for thinking as such.

Actually, no. If you're a "movie lover" and haven't checked out at least some "old" movies/films by the likes of Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut and other such masters, then shame on you.

Well... not really shame on you... more like your loss... your serious loss.

Trailer for Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon'

So, let's talk about Hitchcock. Still no?

I see.

I might have been a tad vague in my reasoning for talking about Hitchcock. Hmmm... how to put it?


You hear about how everyone... well a few people... well... maybe just a few critics are deriding that little film about robots in disguise? I mean it's the most recent picture in a trilogy of sorts... You know... the one with the giant robots and huge explosions and other... you know... explosive situations? Yea. That movie.

A lot of the times that sort of thing, because of the fact that maybe it's taking in boat loads of money, is justified, with "audiences really prefer not to think through a movie" - I'm just paraphrasing here mind. And recent, slightly skewed "research" might lead one to justify that...

Hence my want to talk about Hitchcock. Errr... no? Why? Cos we can talk about all those other guys I mentioned before you say?

Trailer for François Truffaut's 'Les Quatre cents coups' (400 Blows) 

Yea. You should really go check those guys out. Their work is beautiful, evocative and thought provoking - even when they're working with black and white and no explosions. But while they may have had mainstream appeal in their own right I wouldn't go so far as to say they had global appeal in their time... alas, they seem to have trouble with global appeal even in our time.



Let's talk about Hitchcock.


Good. Great!

He proved that you could make money with "high concept" films while not alienating the audience and still garner critical acclaim and global fame... although initially, he may have had a tough time getting some American critics to see the value in his work.

I see you pulling away now... a few more minutes? I promise I'll make it  worth your while.

Trailer for 'Psycho'

Heard of 'Psycho' (1960)? No. Not that 1998 version - which I hear was a travesty... No I really didn't watch it. There was no need to. Go see Hitchcock's original Psycho you'll see what I mean - it was shot in black and white but even with that "handicap" it does so well in eliciting a visceral reaction out of you.

If you've heard somebody describe any story as a "modern, psychological yarn" you will be surprised to see how much of that you see here in a film made in 1960 - and how much faith, unlike most modern mainstream directors, Hitchcock had in his audience.

So you think that Psycho is not that hard to follow compared to "modern" standards?

You should check out 'Vertigo' (1958).

Trailer for 'Vertigo'

Technical innovation aside, the story telling is intense, complicated and riveting. And I would argue that its complexity holds up even by modern "intellectual" standards.

That's all well and good you say? You want a pop-corn movie? One that you can sit back and enjoy? One that takes you through exciting chases, chills, thrills and a few laughs?

You don't mind all that and a little bit of intelligence and humour do you?

Try 'North by Northwest' (1959) on for size. But be warned - it's more than a bit intelligent and it has a brilliant sense of humour. You get chases, mistaken identities, spies, damsels who are decidedly not in distress (Who'd have thunk?!?! In the 50s?!?!), killer crop-duster planes... KILLER CROP-DUSTER PLANES DAMMIT!!!

Trailer for 'North by Northwest'

And those are just some of the highlights of his career.

Some of his work has inspired, and keeps inspiring, some of our greatest filmmakers today.

Take a look at Christopher Nolan's work and I can't help but see a Hitchcockian sense of humour and a sense of the same crisp, lean narrative.

Does 'Memento' (2000) not have a wicked sense of humour while making your mind do summersaults? That's kind of what Hitchcock does with North by Northwest although with a much lesser degree of a mental workout - that he leaves for Vertigo.

You know that thing that David Fincher keeps trying to do ever so often with the long, uninterrupted shots? He tried it a couple of times with 'Fight Club' (1999) and 'Panic Room'(2002)? I'd go so far as to argue that that was pure Hitchcock inspired - see 'Rope' (1948) and you'll get where I'm coming from.

Tailer for 'Rope' - like a few of Hitchcock's trailers
contains little from the actual film.

So yea.

That's why we needed to talk about Hitchcock.

Also, remember the other guys I told you about? Well... Hitchcock was my stepping stone to those guys. No. He's not less important than they are - if anything, for me, he might be slightly more important.

So what it comes down to... what I guess I am saying is...

It's okay if you make "crappy" movies - just don't justify it by saying that the audience won't get it. Yea... what I'm saying is... the audience are intelligent enough to grasp almost anything you can throw at them.


If they weren't David Lynch and a few other directors you might have heard of wouldn't have careers.

Edit; July 12, 2011:

I consider myself not adequately chastised for missing out on naming Ingmar Bergman in my original post - that is one name which should not have been missed. I've attempted to fix this inexcusable oversight by adding a link to the original post - I felt it might be cheating to edit the text afterwards. Thanks to shaari for bringing this to my attention.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does nobody get Superman?

Or rather, does nobody given the responsibility of bringing the essence of Superman to the "mainstream" not understand him?

Smallville just(ish) completed an extremely successful(how?!?!?!) 10 seasons and I'm left thinking "Five for Fighting" understood Superman better than the writers on that show.

"Superman (It's not easy)" by Five for Fighting

Yea, I know they set the "no tights, no flight" rule WAAAAAay in the beginning and maybe THAT should've been the first clue that they didn't get Clark.

Not. At. All.

And it pains me that it went on for so long, twisting the Superman mythology left and right and generally messing things up in the least creative ways imaginable - it even proved unsalvageable to Geoff Johns.

Promotional photo for Smallville

BUT it happened. And, thankfully, it's over. Yet it's left this really bad taste in my mouth. A feeling of despair permeates my soul every time I hear about any new Superman related developments.

Don't get me wrong. HUGE fan of Christopher Nolan's directing and David S. Goyer's writing. And although Nolan is not directing the next Superman film, that honour falling to a Zack Snyder of "300" and "Watchmen" fame, I am willing to suspend my skepticism one final(?) time - cos that's at least part of what Superman is about.

Isn't it?

Ever the eternal optimist. Ever the eternal "boy scout". Ever the eternal barometer of doing what's right, even when the odds seem insurmountable and grossly out favour him - and through it all you know that he will emerge untainted and heroic... even if it meant dying.

What's that you say? Smallville was a reimagining of sorts? It was an attempt to go another way? What coulda been?

Then why do it as Superman? It could have been the origins story of another superhero altogether - a new one. Oh... right... without the name recognition a lot less of the series would have been commissioned and therefore it would not have been as successful?

I beg to differ.

Cover art for Superman: Secret Identity

Superman: Secret Identity did all of that and more and STILL managed to retain the essence that is Superman. It's a shame that it can't be made into the next Superman film though... but MAN is it a beautiful story... Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen out did themselves, and most Superman writers in recent memory, and they weren't even writing about "the real" Clark Kent...

Secret Identity moved me and provoked thought about heroism, our global condition and obligation(s) - all the while staying true in service to its inspiration.

We should be so lucky if an iota of that thought process went into anything Superman that is to come in the near future...