Friday, March 8, 2013

Mr Hitchcock Presents...

My good friend Brian had a book launch last week.  We have been a members of the same writers group for years. He is whimsical and  poetic. I like to kill people. He writes about big issues of loss in the vineyards, childless women losing their minds and making small toys from tree bark. I like to kill people. He is a romantic at heart. I like to kill people. His fiction has never really found a home yet his non fiction - cookery books and journalism, has been published to great acclaim. I would kill his fiction publisher.

He was having a casual chat to a publisher about writing a non fiction book about the greatest films of the sixties. They passed on that, then had a light bulb moment and  asked him to do a book about what he thought was Hitchcock's greatest film. And argue his case.
It hit  the number 1 spot on Kindle and went into print within a month of  its E launch.
My relationship with Hitchcock is  as  follows.  I named my first dog after Kim Novak.  My mum let me get my ears pierced aged 16, she didn't  let me watch Psycho until I was 18! My first memory of the big 'What If....'  was when I watched the Birds and thought....'MMMM what happened there?'  And have always harboured the thought that crop spraying  of the local fields with some weed killer had put some neurotoxin  in the food chain and made the birds go a bit 'Rambo'.
And I have always wanted to be a Hitchcock blonde but as I am the type that wears good clothes as if I have stolen them, that will remain as likely as me  understanding The Life Of Pi.
Digging around I came across a few quotes that I couldn't let go. You probably know them but they are  worth a revisit.  So here's a wee homage to the great director. Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. Film director. Born August 131899, died April 29 1980. He was born in Leytonstone  East London/ Essex. David Beckham is a Leytonstone  boy as well. That is jellied eels  country, they call everybody  'john' (even women) and say 'innit' at the end of every sentence.

'If it's a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.'  Indeed Bernard McLaverty once said to me and I use this in workshops; - if you can write it, imagine watching it through a window where you cannot hear and record what you see. Hitchcock famously hated children and loved dogs, a man after my own heart. His signature  cameo in The Birds is in the first minute where he walks his own dogs out of the pet store. They are Sealyham terriers called Geoffrey and Stanley. Innit?

Alfred said, among other stuff -
'Revenge is sweet and not fattening.'

His answer  to an actor wanting to know what his motivation was 'your salary.'
'The man who invented bagpipes got the idea from seeing a man carrying around an indignant asthmatic pig.' I think he added that the pig sounded better.

'To me "Psycho" was a big comedy. Had to be.'
'You can't direct a Laughton picture. The best you can hope for is to referee.'
'Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.' Does that also work in the crime writing world?
He says about  "North by Northwest". 'Our original title, you know, was "The Man in Lincoln's Nose". Couldn't use it, though. They also wouldn't let us shoot people on Mount Rushmore. Can't deface a national monument. And it's a pity, too, because I had a wonderful shot in mind of Cary Grant hiding in Lincoln's nose and having a sneezing fit.'

Brian, my friend, finally casts his vote as best film to 'The Birds'  where birds of all sorts start behaving like  football hooligans. You can argue about this at dinner parties but here are a few facts of no consequence whatsoever to boost your argument.

It was advertised by the line ;'Suspense and shock beyond anything you have seen or imagined!'

The film starts off with Tippi Hedrin and Rod Taylor indulging in some romantic nonsense that makes you wonder why they had no work to go to. Tippi is also good at that 'running in tight skirt and stilettos combo' which should be an Olympic event. She also rows in that skirt. No comment.
This is Tippi preparing for the triathalon.
My favourite bit is when the school teacher got her eyes pecked out. But that reflects how I feel about teachers.
In the early 60's Hitchcock was planning to get to work on 'No bail for the judge' but Audrey Hepburn got pregnant.  Then he was doing a treatment for Winston Grahams novel 'Marnie'  to star Grace Kelly but she wanted to stay being a princess and refused the film in the end. He had the rights to The Birds' which had appeared as a short story by Daphne du Maurier in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1952.
The film is interesting in many ways. The hanging ending of The Birds is an antidote to the end of Psycho, where a psychiatrist witters on for ages about the whys and the hows. If you haven't seen it for a while just listen to the way the music  doesn't punctuate the action, there is no opening music at all, just birds screeching and squawking. There are large periods of silence when the tension just sits and waits... and waits.... For over twenty minutes near the end , hardly a word is spoken.  Brian has calculated the carnage begins 49 minutes into the film. The school house attack is 70 minutes in. It adds up to 103 minutes of folk getting pecked at.  He makes an interesting point, it  was not normal for Hollywood to harm kids in films. Yet in the schoolhouse scene all of them are at risk, everybody is equally terrified. Brian said that Hitchcock was reflecting the fact that war is indiscriminate.

Brian voted it best because of its sheer  tension which builds for no reason as there is no solution. It's a relentless, harrowing journey that leads absolutely nowhere.
The bit where the birds attack the village was voted  by Bravo as the 96th Scariest Movie Moment.
So sit down and have a wee glass of vino and watch it again. As the other tag line says...'The  next scream you hear could be your own!

Caro GB  8th of March