Legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock said, “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?” In a summer filled with too much real-life drama, what better relief could there be than seeing classic Hitchcock films on the big screen? Cinema-goers will have that rare opportunity, as a retrospective of Hitchcock films is being shown at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv cinematheques throughout the month.
The cinematheques’ programs are almost identical. The Jerusalem series opens on August 11 at 7 p.m. with The 39 Steps (1935), one of Hitchcock’s best pre-Hollywood, British films. When a London man (Robert Donat) takes pity on a spy who is being followed, he ends up being accused when she is murdered. Madeleine Carroll plays the beautiful blonde with whom he flees to Scotland, and the chase and mystery are among Hitchcock’s most suspenseful.
Suspicion (1941) is about a shy young woman, played by Joan Fontaine, who had a similar role in Hitchcock’s Rebecca. She begins to suspect that her new husband – played by Cary Grant, cast against type as a gambler with a shadowy past – wants to kill her.
In the 1946 Notorious, a noirish romantic thriller, Grant is again at times unsympathetic, as he plays a US intelligence officer who recruits the daughter (Ingrid Bergman) of a notorious Nazi to spy for America. This film was made during World War II, and a plot turn in it suggests that Hitchcock had advance knowledge of the atomic bomb, something the director always denied. He he said the smuggled uranium in the story was just the “MacGuffin,” his term for narrative device.
A third film from the Forties, the 1948 Rope is an extremely disturbing psychological thriller about two murderers (Farley Granger and John Dall) and how they conceal their crime, shot in 10 takes.
The Hitchcock series features two of his Grace Kelly films: the somewhat stagy but still effective Dial M for Murder (1954), with Kelly and Ray Milland; and the riveting, original and funny Rear Window (1954), with Jimmy Stewart as a tough photojournalist who is housebound due to a leg injury and becomes convinced that one of his neighbors is a murderer.
The 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much, a remake of Hitch’s 1934 British film of the same title, about a couple (Doris Day and highlights events movies television radio dining Jimmy Stewart) whose son is kidnapped while they are on vacation in Morocco, features a few musical interludes from Doris Day (“Que Sera, Sera”) that will either charm you or make you giggle.
Vertigo (1958) also stars Jimmy Stewart, this time as a traumatized San Francisco detective trying to uncover the truth about a mystery woman (Kim Novak). Vertigo topped the Sight and Sound 2012 critics’ poll as the greatest film of all time.
Hitchcock’s final film from the Fifties, North by Northwest, again starring Cary Grant (with Eva Marie Saint as the femme fatale), is one of his masterpieces, where Grant plays an ad man caught up in a web of murder and intrigue. It features two of the director’s most famous scenes: the crop-dusting plane and the chase on Mount Rushmore.
Psycho (1960), starring Anthony Perkins as a disturbed mama’s boy and Janet Leigh as a woman who checks into the wrong motel, contains the most famous murder scene of all time and is still unbelievably frightening.
The Birds (1963) stars Tippi Hedren – a young actress with whom Hitchcock became obsessed – as a party girl forced to combat an invasion of killer birds. Hedren is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith and grandmother of the actress starring in 50 Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson.
Reportedly, Hedren and Hitchcock’s personal relationship went sour after she refused his advances, and he tried to sabotage their second collaboration, Marnie, a psychological thriller co-starring Sean Connery.
Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972), about a serial killer who uses a necktie to strangle his victims, is one of his last films and drew criticism for misogyny.
But let’s end with another Hitchcock quote: “A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theater admission and the babysitter were worth it.”
For schedule information and to order tickets, go to the Jerusalem Cinematheque website at www.jercine.
org.il and the Tel Aviv Cinematheque site at www.cinema.co.il.cinefile