Monday, December 14, 2015


Kent Jones' Hitchcock/Truffaut, currently playing at Film Forum, is a rare bird, a film based upon an iconic book which memorialized the extensive conversation between two great filmmakers. Truffaut had only made three films when he sought out Hitchcock in l962. Visiting Hitchcock for the young filmmaker championing the Nouvelle Vague and the auteur theory of cinema was like a pilgrim traveling to mecca. As such the film has a degree of separation from the films since it relates to them by way of the written word. Along the way David Fincher, Paul Schrader, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson make cameo appearances to discuss both book and film. But the real star of the show is Martin Scorsese and the subject that takes up most of the celluloid are arguably Hitchcock’s two greatest masterpieces Psycho (1960) and Vertigo (1958). Scorsese is particularly brilliant describing Psycho and the placement of the steering wheel within the frame of the shot in which Janet Leigh is driving to her doom. Interestingly Truffaut and Hitchcock had one childhood trauma in commo; they were both imprisoned as children by their fathers. In Truffaut’s case the incarceration would become part of the plot of his autobiographical first film, The 400 Blows (1959). But what the two more profoundly shared was a love of cinematic form that was comparable to how the abstract expressionists felt about paint. They were formalists in this sense. Talking about Psycho, Hitchcock says at one point “There wasn’t a message…it was pure film” and he talked proudly about the idea of producing “mass emotion,” through the use of famous techniques like the montage between the shower head. Janet Leigh’s naked body and the bathtub drain in the film’s famous bathroom scene. What is astonishing is that even when you know what happens in both Psycho and Vertigo, the revisiting of the great moments of these two movies still manages to send chills down the spine. The feeling is somewhat similar to the hearing the canons going off in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. They never cease to surprise, regardless of the fact that you know what's coming. Psycho, Vertigo, Spellbound (1945)--don't the titles sound like they could be drawn from the pages of the DSM-5?

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