Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Hitchcock 9 presented by Nigel Algar and Charles Barr

Sala Scorsese (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 30 June 2013

Hosted by Peter von Bagh, Nigel Algar (BFI) presented The Hitchcock 9 project, "the largest and most complicated project we have undertaken".

Charles Barr gave an inspired lecture about Alfred Hitchcock's early career. He referred to Paula Cohen's words that "to study Hitchcock is to study the entire history of the cinema", and to Jane Sloan's characterization of Hitchcock as a sponge, in the positive way, as "an intelligent absorber" - dispelling the notion of Hitchcock as a lonely romantic artist.

Barr discussed the three main periods of Hitchcock's career before The Pleasure Garden, at Famous-Players-Lasky British, in different tasks, and at Gainsborough with Michael Balcon.

He presented several "Hitchcock firsts", including Hitchcock first published article (23 July 1921), the first caricature about him, and early examples of his handwriting and drawing.

He reminded that among Hitchcock's favourite films in his first top ten list (published in 1939 upon his arrival in Hollywood) there were nine silents, among them two movies directed by John S. Robertson: The Sentimental Tommy, and The Enchanted Cottage.

"Graham Cutts has obviously been an important early influence, as can be seen for instance in the intricate exchange of looks in The Passionate Adventure." In the sequence of domestic violence in Flames of Passion, with Mae Marsh, we saw a striking parallel to a similar scene in Marnie, with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Graham Cutts's daughter appears in North by Northwest (in the "Stop!" - "Stop..." scene).

Eliot Stannard was the credited screenwriter in all Hitchcock's silents until The Manxman (in The Ring he was apparently involved, but not credited, as Hitchcock was switching production companies). He was known for his mordant wit and brutal candour.

Stannard was also a prolific writer on the cinema, and in 1915 he already wrote about "The Scenario Writer as Author". Ten years before Pudovkin he wrote about the use of symbols in scenarios. His solutions for the adaptation of Galsworthy's play Justice can be compared with Pudovkin.

With Stannard, Hitchcock made only one crime film, The Lodger. With the switch to the thriller form, Charles Bennett became Hitchcock's main screenwriter.

There were three film excerpts about Hitchcock's approach to the point of view.

Hitchcock expertise with the point of view is evident from the beginning, from the first sequence of The Pleasure Garden. In the montage Hitchcock takes care to include a subjective shot of the binoculars from the viewer's point of view.

In Champagne there is a montage where the man with the moustache looks through the champagne glass.

In The Manxman there is the introduction of the triangle structure, with Anny Ondra and her two men in the same sequence.

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