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November 11, 2012

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James

Led here by Twitter: Is HITCHCOCK really that bad?

lipranzer

As much as I love PSYCHO, I still can't get behind this viewpoint. To me, that's like saying the lyrics of a song don't matter.

Glenn Kenny

I don't take this as complete gospel myself, Lipranzer; that's one reason I tagged the post as a literary interlude. What's interesting is that it's 1965, and both Truffaut and PARTICULARLY Hitchcock are both on the defensive about what makes the film great and/or effective. Stuff such as this was part of what motivated Robin Wood to say, "Hitchcock was a much greater artist than he knew." Although I do think Hitchcock DID know, or at least knew more than he said. That still doesn't mean that what he's saying here is entirely bunk, and given what the upcoming movie "Hitchcock" posits as the director's creative process, it's worth remembering the cerebration and calculation that Hitchcock is alluding to here.

Petey

"As much as I love PSYCHO, I still can't get behind this viewpoint. To me, that's like saying the lyrics of a song don't matter."

But of course, the lyrics of a song DON'T matter. Ever listen to Charlie Parker or Beethoven?

If the song works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't.

Cinematography doesn't matter. Acting doesn't matter. Messages don't matter. If a film works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't.

This is all why we (correctly) fetishize the director in cinema. It's the only job description in filmmaking that doesn't really do anything specific, other than make the film work or not work, of course.

Big Black

Whilst we're all throwing around wild proclamations, I would argue that the lyrics -if there at all- don't *have* to matter, but it's really nice if the ones that are there, do.

David Ehrenstein

The lyrics of a song DO matter!

http://www.amazon.com/Finishing-Hat-Collected-1954-1981-Principles/dp/0679439072

"I don't care about the subject matter; I don't care about the acting; but I do care about the piece of film and the photography and the sound track and all of the technical ingredients that made the audience scream."

And subject matter and acting are necessary to get the audience to scream eery bit as much as the piece of film and the photography and the sound track and all of the technical ingredients. "Psycho" wasn't a sory chosen at random, and Perkins and Leigh are beyond superb.

Petey

"I would argue that the lyrics -if there at all- don't *have* to matter, but it's really nice if the ones that are there, do."

When I'm exiled to a desert island with a solar powered CD player and only 10 CD's to keep me entertained, one of those ten will be James Brown's In the Jungle Groove.

Do the lyrics there "matter"? The song title Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing is pretty apropos to the whole album. Not a single word is wrong, but...

Of course, I love Bob Dylan too. Whatever works.

David Ehrenstein

What works is Stephen Sondheim, Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Petey

"What works is Stephen Sondheim, Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Oscar Hammerstein II."

Nothing wrong with those folks. But...

You should aspire to be a bit more catholic in your tastes, David.

lipranzer

"song, noun (1) a short metrical composition intended or adapted for singing, especially one in rhymed stanzas, a lyric, a ballad. (2) a musical piece adapted for singing or simulating a piece to be sung. (3) poetical composition, poetry. (4) the art or act of singing; vocal music. (5) something that is sung."

Call me crazy, but I think Charlie Parker - whom I revere, by the way - would concur with that definition (and Beethoven wrote "Ode to Joy", which, oh yeah, was SUNG!).

Ahem.

To get back to my original point, maybe I, or you (or Hitchcock, if you want to put a fine point on it) are confusing "matter" with "meaning". I don't think the lyrics of a song - or the story and/or subject of a film - have to "mean" anything, but they have to "matter" in the sense I think they should be well-written, or fit in with the other musical elements (and yes, I include James Brown's work here), and not insult my intelligence or taste. Petey, if I take your argument to the extreme, should I like a snuff film if it "works" (that is, all the technical ingredients Hitchcock talked about were well put together)? If it doesn't - and I can't conceive of any way that it would - than yes, the subject DOES matter!

Petey

"Petey, if I take your argument to the extreme, should I like a snuff film if it "works"

Well, the problem with snuff films is the morally abhorrence of the PRO-FILMIC EVENT itself. So, I'd argue that's an example that doesn't say anything germane, rather than my argument taken to the extreme...

David Ehrenstein

I'm a lapsed Catholic Petey. In every respect.

Petey

"I'm a lapsed Catholic Petey."

The connection between 'Catholic' and 'catholic' pertaining to the arts taste is tangential to the extreme, of course. (The lower cased 'catholic' is one of my favorite words. It's high praise indeed for an arts critic in my book.)

catholic (adjective)

"her musical tastes are quite catholic"

universal, diverse, diversified, wide, broad, broad-based, eclectic, liberal, latitudinarian; comprehensive, all-encompassing, all-embracing, all-inclusive. ANTONYMS narrow.

-----

Extra Credit Topic:

Discuss how the Catholic church came to fail in its mission of catholicism. Explore the question of whether or not this is an inherent outcome in the religious sphere, and to what degree 'one good pope' could rectify the failing.

Bonus Super Credit Topic:

Is Alfred Hitchcock a Catholic filmmaker? Is Alfred Hitchcock a catholic filmmaker?

lipranzer

Alright, Petey, then we'll try what is my least favorite movie of my lifetime, if not of all time; William Friedkin's JADE. You may, I grant you, not be as offended by that movie as I was, but on a pure "technical" level, I suppose it works. What does that matter if I spent the entire time wishing I was somewhere else because I was so disgusted by what I was watching? And you can't even blame it on the actors "ruining it", unless you have a hatred for Chazz Palminteri, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Biehn or Donna Murphy, among others (I won't go to bat for David Caruso, though I did like him in MAD DOG AND GLORY, PROOF OF LIFE and the remake of KISS OF DEATH). So again, the subject matter does matter.

And I don't "fetishize" directors, though I don't want to derail the thread by getting into an argument about auteurism.

David Ehrenstein

"Discuss how the Catholic church came to fail in its mission of catholicism. Explore the question of whether or not this is an inherent outcome in the religious sphere, and to what degree 'one good pope' could rectify the failing."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075938/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MYnqDIzHGI

"


Is Alfred Hitchcock a Catholic filmmaker? Is Alfred Hitchcock a catholic filmmaker?"

No.

Petey

"And I don't "fetishize" directors, though I don't want to derail the thread by getting into an argument about auteurism."

See, that's my point. It doesn't matter if you're an 'auteurist' or not. Both camps still (correctly) fetishize the contribution of a director to a movie's artistic success or lack thereof. John Huston is famously a non-auteur by the strict Sarris definition, but we still (correctly) generally cite the merits of his various movies to him.

The director (ordinarily, mostly) contributes few lines, no music, no acting. There is no job description there other than making the movie work or not work. The buck stops here. I'd posit that you'd attribute the failure in your eyes of Jade to Friedkin, no? (I thought Jade was more 'meh' than horrible, but I still attribute that to an off-effort by Friedkin. I was glad to see him nicely rebound with Bug.)

David Ehrenstein

Huston didn't make the auteur cut for Sarris, Manny Farber greatly disliked him, and "Cahiers" didn't care for him either until "Reflections in a Golden Eye." But Kael adored him and so did "Positif."

Sarris likewise missed the boat on Mankiewicz -- who was a "Cahiers" favorite and as big an influence on Godard as Hitchcock was on Truffaut. See "The Barefoot Contessa" immediately followed by "Contempt" and you'll see why.

Not David Bordwell

Well now that's interesting... the other day "The Barefoot Contessa" was on TV and my wife asked me if I liked it, and I replied that it was reminding of "Contempt."

No, wait. We were watching the Criterion disk of "Phaedra" and that conversation ensued.

Tony Perkins and Ava Gardner were both in "On the Beach," though, and I was wondering what the hell had happened to Ava Gardner in the few years between "Contessa" and "Beach" -- although it occurred to me that she might doing her best Liz Taylor impression.

What the hell was this thread about?

lipranzer

Petey - no, I don't completely attribute the failure of JADE to Friedkin (though, since I consider him a highly overrated director, he certainly didn't help), I lay most of the blame on Joe Eszterhas' utterly offensive screenplay. So again, the subject DOES matter.

Petey

"What the hell was this thread about?"

Whether Ava Gardner is 'pure film' or 'experimental film'.

Joseph McBride

How can anyone not like a movie in which Alfred Hitchcock hangs out with Ed Gein? I persuaded
my parents to take a detour through Plainfield on our summer vacation in 1958 so I could
see his house. The locals were very hostile and creepy. One guy told us they had recently
burned down the house so tourists like us would stop asking about it. We hightailed it outta
there.

Check this out

I'd posit that you'd attribute the failure in your eyes of Jade to Friedkin, no? (I thought Jade was more 'meh' than horrible, but I still attribute that to an off-effort by Friedkin.

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