Tuesday, February 23, 2010

59) The Lady Vanishes (1938), RV!: Spellbound (1945) and 60) Rope (1948)

59) The Lady Vanishes (1938) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Date Released: November 1938 Date Seen: February 19, 2010

RV!: Spellbound (1945) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Date Released: December 1945 Date Seen: February 19, 2010

60) Rope (1948) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Date Released: August 1948 Date Seen: February 20, 2010 Rating: 4/5

When I watch any of Hitchcock's monolithic films, it's impossible to ignore his consummate playfulness. The thematic cruxes of his films--the emphasis on national pride in The Lady Vanishes, the amateur psychology in Notorious or the morally dubious notion of an ethical application of murder in Rope--are all played to the hilt but that's all that can be said about them. They're just the means by which Hitchcock can tinker around with cinematic form. His film's central ideas are, at times, borderline incoherent in the double standards they create. For example, the dramatic rigor with which Hitch's camera snakes around its subjects in Rope suggests a persistence of vision, or in this case a pre-deterministic certainty that the truth/corpse will out, that is absent in any of the film's characters. In Notorious, a double standard that smacks of involuntary misogyny is created when a feminine curative touch is emphasized as Peck's character's only hope of becoming cured while Bergman's continually dismissed as just a weak-minded female in the eyes of her superiors and her mentor, who considers her only fit to make his coffee.

This puts the viewer in the unique position of seeing the world from the eyes of an omniscient and sometimes tyrannical authorial god. Hitchcock sees all and treats his stories like wonderful games whose rules he can bend or ignore the consequences of so long as they achieve their intended effect. Its hard to argue with the seductive nature of the screwball banter in The Lady Vanishes or the tracking shots in Rope. And for that, these films, as purely formal exercises, are somehow able to sustain themselves as accomplished cinematic works, even if they are so impressive because they have more skill than soul.

No comments:

Post a Comment