Blog Directory CineVerse: Tie-ing up the loose ends on Hitchcock

Tie-ing up the loose ends on Hitchcock

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Over the past 12 months, CineVerse managed to view and discuss 13 of Alfred Hitchcock's 50-plus feature films, representing approximately 25% of the Master of Suspense's work. Not a bad sample size. Fittingly, we concluded our "Hitchcockronology" 2016 monthly series with "Frenzy," a film that echoes "The Lodger," the movie we kicked things off with back in January. Both are concerned with psychotic killers of women and innocent men wrongfully accused of the crime and on the run. "Frenzy," I forewarned our members, can be a disturbingly graphic meditation on violence and misogyny that, despite its 42-year vintage, still has the power to make you squirm in disgust. But such was Hitchcock's intention, now that he had the artistic license to visually depict an utterly deplorable crime without having to hint about it and tiptoe around the censors. "Frenzy" harkens back to Hitch pictures of old yet shows a fresh and different approach by the director, who would only proceed to make one final film thereafter before he died. Our major observations on "Frenzy" are as follows:

It employs some of the same themes, including the wrong man innocently accused and a psychotic killer, that were used in The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Lodger, and others.
It makes you identify with the psychotic killer—in this movie, Rusk—just like you are forced to identify/sympathize with Norman Bates in Psycho; consider the scene where Rusk has to retrieve the pin from a dead girl’s hand.
It employs ample black humor (such as the pin-retrieving scene) and mixes in mirthful bits of droll comedy (like the inspector suffering his wife’s cooking) with the darker elements, creating a nice tonal shift between dark and light—as Hitch had done in many previous movies.
However, this film was shot in Britain—his first film to do so in 22 years—not Hollywood.
Moreover, Hitch didn’t rely on fake-looking process shots in his backgrounds; here, he shoots on many scenes location in London’s famed Covent Garden, where the director’s father was a grocery merchant many decades earlier. 
o In this way, the setting and the hustle and bustle of native Londoners as extras makes the film feel fresher, livelier, more kinetic and more contemporary than many of his prior features. 
o Inspired by the French New Wave, Hitch opted to shoot on location and use non-professional actors in the background to foster a sense of verisimilitude. 
This was also the first movie by the Master of Suspense to feature nudity and graphic onscreen violence and get slapped with an R-rating.
Frenzy is also among the director’s pictures to not have arguably not have a MacGuffin, although you could make a case for the tie clip Rusk needs to retrieve being the MacGuffin.

The innocent man wrongfully accused and on the run.
A psychotic killer capable of great violence but who may look innocent and harmless on the outside.
Characters expressing themselves through food, violence, or both: Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut he desired to make a film that would explore the life of a city completely through food. "I'd like to try to do an anthology on food, showing its arrival in the city, its distribution, the selling, how it's fixed up and absorbed. And gradually, the end of the film would show the sewers, and the garbage being dumped out into the ocean... Your theme might almost be the rottenness of humanity." Consider how Rusk, a violent killer, is preoccupied by food in many of his scenes—he’s also a fruit and vegetables dealer in the market.
Evil and violence is not restricted by social class: instead of a knife or gun, the killer here uses a necktie, a symbol of the upper/business class, refinery, and sophistication. Rusk’s lapel pin is also a symbol of urbane culture and elegance.
Violence and evil can occur anywhere—even in crowded urban areas teeming with life—and a murderer may be dwelling among us anywhere and everywhere, maybe even next door. Think about the famous uninterrupted shot where, after Rusk takes Babs upstairs to his apartment, the camera slowly retreats downstairs and out into the streets—suggesting that a horrible crime is being committed and goes unnoticed in the midst of a civilized metropolis. The way this scene is executed—shifting from silence to street bustle sounds—creates a sense of horrible irony and makes the viewer feel pessimistic and alone, knowing that evil is overlooked and unpunished in an unjust world.

The Lodger (which also begins with a murdered woman being fished out of a London river)
Peeping Tom
Dressed to Kill
Eye of The Beholder

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