Film Review: Directed By Alfred Hitchcock at Pacific Cinémathèque

Kim Novak in "Vertigo"

It seems oddly fitting to look back on the work of Alfred Hitchcock in the shadow cast by the passing of noted film critic Andrew Sarris, the great conduit and proponent of auteur theory in North America. Hitchcock, after all, remains one of the preeminent instances of the auteur filmmaker, having wrestled his productions away from an impersonal “assembly-line” studio quality and infused them with a distinct directorial style, one which bolsters his legacy to this day.

It is a testament to Hitchcock’s body of work – a body spanning England to America, film to television, black and white to colour – that even the casual viewer surely walks away with a small sense of the accumulated MacGuffins, doppelgangers, male gazes, witticisms, voyeurs, murderers (and murderesses), blondes, and sublimated sexual perversions that constitute only a small fraction of that uniquely Hitchcockian stamp.

Beginning this Thursday and running through August, the Pacific Cinémathèque’s Directed By Alfred Hitchcock program offers audiences the chance to observe these themes at work, showcasing nine of the Master of Suspense’s best loved films, his complete directorial efforts for television, and two WWII-era French rarities thrown in for good measure.

 

Pacific Cinémathèque Presents: "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock" from Pacific Cinémathèque. Source: Vimeo.

The feature films are the immediate draw here. The titles comprise a loose “best of”, cherry-picked largely from Hitchcock’s golden period in the nineteen fifties and early sixties, with a few outliers on either side. Rear Window (1954), North by Northwest (1959), The Birds (1963), and Vertigo (1958) make up not only the bulk of the colour contingent, they also constitute some of North American cinema’s most revered moments.

Just consider this list, all of which contain the most iconic images in film. An immobile Jimmy Stewart, plaster-casted leg jutting out from his wheelchair, peers through a telephoto lens across the courtyard of his apartment complex. An impeccably tailored Cary Grant loses precious ground in a race against a menacing aerial crop-duster. A blissfully unaware Tippi Hedren casually lights a cigarette as a sea of crows slowly descends on the empty playground just behind her blond bouffant.

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