In this New Yorker article, Anthony Lane talks about the mysterious allure of Hitchcock and his films. He piles praise upon Hitchcock for his unsentimental directing and artistic mastery, while commenting that his personality perhaps made his art more accessible and simultaneously off-putting than it would have been otherwise. His entertaining article perfectly elucidates why we love Hitchcock despite his follies, and points out all the ways he still continues to mystify us today. Hitchcock was a casual liar, a manipulator, and a genius. He was not a great thinker, but his common-sense understanding of human fear and weaknesses allowed him to reach inside our minds and play with our thoughts; through skill and a masterful understanding of film, he controls audiences with an ease that makes one shiver as much as the content in his films do. His sadism, aloofness, meanness and masochism are all traits that make him both a detested man and a beloved filmmaker. His movies were art, and his personality a show, and our love for him is undying.
Hitchcock was a film genius, understanding the art of cinematography and frame psychology like no other director after him. He and his silhouette are universally recognized, making him perhaps the only director in history to become a permanent part of international vernacular. He was conscious of this fact, appearing in cameos in most of his films and creating two TV shows featuring his name and himself in all episode openings. He crafted his persona to fit what he desired to be, and spun many fantastical stories about himself and his childhood to the media to generate and satiate public interest in himself and his movies. Because his persona was simultaneously carefully crafted and so obviously just that – a persona – his aura of mystery was able to carry over into his films and permeate the emotional connections generated in audiences whenever they heard the name “Hitchcock”. He was able to condition his audiences to think a certain way even before seeing a film of his! He injected his own fears into his films, as a way to make it more personal; he was obsessed with procrastination – a trait cultivated by his stint in a Jesuit school and community – and this often aided him well in his thrillers.
Hitchcock was truly the Master of Suspense, generating emotions in audiences no other filmmaker has single-handedly been able to produce. He made more than fifty films in his career spanning six decades, using his ability to manipulate the audience’s feelings of anxiety, fear and empathy to keep people coming back for more. He pioneered many different His films spanned from 1925’s “The Pleasure Garden” to 1976’s “Family Plot;” his film-making spanned two eras – his British era ended with 1938’s “Jamaica Inn”, and consisted of darker, seedier storylines. His American era started in 1940 with his masterpiece “Rebecca”, and consisted of physically brighter and better-constructed films as Hollywood gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted, with minimal constraints. My personal favorite film of his is 1954’s “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.