This later Hitchcock film is branded as being one of his most homosexual films ever made. This paper contains research from film scholars and interviews from the documentary Rope Unleashed to explain the background of the movie, the homosexual connotations throughout the film, and what influenced Hitchcock to make a film with two homosexual antagonists. The film was based on a play called Rope by Patrick Hamilton, which is about two young but intelligent boys who decide to kill an old school friend simply for the reason of committing the perfect murder. Hitchcock mostly stayed true to the play, but had to change it slightly to fit the MPAA regulations of the 1940s. Therefore, the film’s gay details are toned down for an audience that rejects the idea of homosexuality even existing. This explains why there is so much research done on the film; now that we have progressed socially enough to acknowledge homosexuality in film, many go back to Hitchcock. He frequently used questionable sexuality in his films to add depth to his characters, especially those that are considered antagonists.
Looking for Alfred is a short film (10 min) about how the artist, Johan Grimonprez, is looking for the perfect Alfred Hitchcock. We see screen tests of older, chubby men, wearing Hitchcock’s iconic suit and hat. The all recite the same quote from his 1966 interview with Francio Truffat:
“It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, ‘What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?’ And the other answers, ‘Oh that’s a McGuffin.’ The first one asks ‘What’s a McGuffin?’ ‘Well’ the other man says, ‘It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.’ The first man says, ‘But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,’ and the other one answers ‘Well, then that’s no McGuffin!’ So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.”
With a series of shots resembling Hitchcock’s The Birds, and Iocated in the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the movie ends with two people being chosen for Grimonprez’s Hitchcock: Tony Blair, the Hitchcock sound-alike, and Ron Barrage (a professional Hitchcock impersonator) for the look-alike.
Why create this film? It seems to admire one of Hitchcock’s most popular films, but why find Hitchcock impersonators? Grimonprez explains:
“I was intrigued by Hitchcock’s legacy. Partially since his regular appearances on TV introducing Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but mainly because of his cameo appearances in each of his own films, he became so familiar that his silhouette was simply recognized on the spot: the way he almost looks like an overgrown baby with his protruding belly under a pair of trousers pulled too high, his lower lip drooping…
So, we embarked on a quest to find the perfect Hitchcock double who would fit the profile for the reenactment of Hitchcock’s cameos in the filmshoot we had planned in Brussels. We organized a series of casting sessions, happening over the course of a few months in New York, Hollywood, and London, which brought together an amazing and colourful assembly of people, including three female, a few African-American Hitchcocks and even two “bad guys” who starred in the X-files.”
It seems like the project was made to continue the legacy of Hitchcock’s branding of himself. “So, we begin with cinema imitating life and come to life appearing strangely like cinema,” says Grimonprez. “The collapse between what is real and what is fake is very much part of the exploration throughout Looking for Alfred, in particular in reference to look-alike culture. Film stars become fake imitations of their celebrity projections and in turn look-alikes, while adopting the attitudes of their cherished idol, become a more real version of what they try to look like.”
Vertigo is a movie that left an impact on audiences. Regardless whether you thought Hitchcock’s portrayal of Kim Novak’s character was misogynistic, or rather a satire on how women are treated, it brings themes that leave the audience thinking no matter how many times they watch it.
However, I do no believe it was Hitchcock’c best film, and therefore I do not believe it should have been named the greatest film of all time by the BFI.
While Vertigo was beautifully made and had the same feel of other Hitchcock films, I honestly walked away from it feeling indifferent. The casting was off in my opinion, and even Hitchcock himself later admitted that James Stewart was too old for the role and that Kim Novak wasn’t his first choice. The film also didn’t introduce an important theme to film history. While voyeurism was clearly an important theme, Hitchcock thoroughly knocked out that one in the movie Rope. The movie was also very slow; while this was obviously intentional, I can’t help but wonder if it made much of a difference in the long run.
I think that Psycho would have a better place at the top of the BFI’s list. Psycho set a standard for all the horror movies that were made afterward, and it changed the film industry forever. It has had such a huge impact on pop culture that the movie is not only a household name, but it’s music and famous shower scene are so well-known that they have become a staple in horror movies to this day.
So why not Psycho? What makes Vertigo, a movie than many people today have never even heard of, so much more special? Like this article that was posted after the release of Vertigo mentions, “it’s questionable whether that much time should be devoted to what is basically only a psychological murder mystery.” In my opinion, Hitchcock made a very slow, but interesting movie that is one of the best out of the movies he made. However, is it really the best of all time?
(Original Review: http://variety.com/1958/film/reviews/vertigo-2-1200419207/)
As we’ve discussed in previous classes, Hitchcock did not shy away from recycling certain shots. In a visual occupation such a film-making, I believe that the best directors are the ones who leave images in your head that never leave. Hitchcock’s dark and ambiguous style particularly stays with an audience long after watching his films, and this is a big reason why his films are considered timeless. Here are some of my favorite reoccurring shots from his films.
Shadowy people by lamp-posts.
Faces obscured by darkness.
The use of reflection.