Happy Birthday Alfred Hitchcock
Today is the Alfred Hitchcock’s 112th birthday. Which film will you watch to celebrate?
I thought today we would look at two excerpts from the famous interview by Peter Bogdanovich:
How would you define pure cinema?
Pure cinema is complementary pieces of film put together, like notes of music make a melody. There are two primary uses of cutting or montage in film: montage to create ideas–and montage to create violence and emotions. For example, in Rear Window, where Jimmy Stewart is thrown out of the window in the end, I just photographed that with feet, legs, arms, heads. Completely montage. I also photographed it from a distance, the complete action. There was no comparison between the two. There never is. Barroom fights, or whatever they do in westerns, when they knock out the heavy or when one man knocks another across the table which breaks–they always break a table in bars–they are always shot at a distance. But it is much more effective if it’s done in montage, because you involve the audience much more–that’s the secret to that type of montage in film. And the other, of course, is the juxtaposition of imagery relating to the mind of the individual. You have a man look, you show what he sees, you go back to the man. You can make him react in various ways. You see, you can make him look at one thing, look at another–without his speaking, you can show his mind at work, comparing things–any way you run there’s complete freedom. It’s limitless, I would say, the power of cutting and the assembly of the images. Like the man with no eyes in The Birds–zooming the camera in–the staccato jumps are almost like catching the breath. Is it? Gasp. Gasp. Yes. Young directors always come up with the idea, “Let the camera be someone and let it move as though it’s the person, and you put the guy in front of a mirror and then you see him.” It’s a terrible mistake. Bob Montgomery did that in Lady in the Lake–I don’t believe in it myself. What are you really doing? You are keeping back from the audience who it is. What for? That’s all you are doing. Why not show who it is?
Here’s a question that’s of interest to me. At the time of the interview, Marnie was being wrapped-up.
You’ve said that your pictures are finished before you set foot on the set–that is, once the script is completed. What is your working process with the writers?
In the early days–way, way back in the English period, I would always work on a treatment with a writer who would be a plot maker, or story man. I would work weeks and weeks on this treatment and what it would amount to would be a complete narrative, even indicating shots, but not in the words of long-shot or close-up. It would have everything in it, all the details. Then I used to give it to a top writer to dialogue it. When he sent in his dialogue, I would sit down and dictate the shots in a complete continuity. But the film had to be made on paper in this narrative form. It would describe the film, shot by shot, beginning to end. Sometimes with drawings, sometimes without. I abandoned this method when I came to America. I found that American writers wouldn’t go for that sort of thing. I do it verbally now, with the writer, and then I make corrections and adjustments afterwards. I work many weeks with him and he takes notes. And I describe the picture for the production designers as well. Marnie has all been finished as far as the layout of the picture, but there’s no dialogue in it. I would say I apply myself two-thirds before he writes and one-third after he writes. But I will not and do not photograph anything that he puts in the script on his own, apart from words. I mean any cinematic method of telling it–how can he know? On North by Northwest, Ernie Lehman wouldn’t let me out of the office for a whole year. I was with him on every shot, every scene. Because it wasn’t his material.
Here is an interview for AFI on the difference between suspense and mystery: