If you enjoy the works of David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, or David Fincher, then you owe a debt of gratitude to Alfred Hitchcock. The Hollywood provocateur not only mastered the craft of filmmaking, making almost 53 movies in during his career, he was also an expert in navigating the needs of movie studios and his own goals as an artist.
Now, writer and radio broadcaster Steven Benedict has done an incredible job assembling many of the quintessential Hitchcockian visual themes that made all of his movies immediately recognizable.
Check out the video below, and read on to find out more about some of the qualities that made Alfred Hitchcock a true auteur, a director with a distinctive voice and style.
As Benedict does a great job of showing in his video, Hitchcock was a genius when it came to building tension and creating anxiety. He filled his movies with slow ascents upstairs (while you wonder what's around the corner), parallel editing to show two scenes happening simultaneously (while you wait for them to converge), and an obscene number of people dangling off buildings (while you wait for them to plummet to the ground). The entire enterprise of cinematic suspense moved forward with Hitchcock's commitment to unexpected twists and turns.
It's no secret that ol' Hitch had a thing for blondes, and, when you're the most famous director in the world, it's not too hard to get them in your movies! You had Kim Novak in Vertigo, Tippi Hedron in The Birds and Marnie, Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, and, of course, Grace Kelly in Rear Window (pictured above). Most of them were icy, platinum blondes (with the exception of Kelly) who were complex and enticing, typically complicating the pursuit of the male lead in the best of ways. Often, these woman wore a spiraling hairdo that symbolized a loss of control to their romantic counterpart. While the idea of the beautiful leading lady was not pioneered by Hitchcock, he helped make the leading actress one of the major draws to the theater.
Hitchcock had a well-documented obsession with surrealist art, even going so far as to collaborate with Salvador Dali for a dream sequence in Spellbound. The movement had clear commonalities with Hitchcock's professional idea, specifically stripping ordinary things of their commonplace meaning in order to expose a psychological truth. This tied in with his interest in Freud (another figure whose influence is all over Spellbound), and these qualities helped Hitchcock create thinking characters and a sense of empathy that is so necessary in thrillers.
Fascination with Voyeurism
Hitchcock devoted his life to the art of looking, so it comes as no surprise that themes of voyeurism crop up in many of his classics. In this scene from the horror game-changer Psycho, Norman Bates spies on one of the blonde bombshells (Janet Leigh) while she undresses. Hitchcock innovated the dynamic of watching a movie by putting the audience in the position of the murderous peeping Tom, offering the scene from his perspective. In doing so, the director was one of the first to make a large audience question their own role in watching, and how the images in front of them make up part of a larger whole.
These were just some of the topics that Benedict managed to so artfully compile in his video. What were some of your favorite Hitchcock tropes and moments from The Hitchcock Gallery?