Saturday, December 7, 2013

2013 in Shit: Hitchcock

Hitchcock actually came out in 2012, but I didn't see it until this year. I considered rendering it ineligible because of that, but decided not to, mostly because I kind of wanted to write about From Up On Poppy Hill, and a blogger is nothing without their integrity. So this will be short.

I'm putting this at the tail end of the "cycles of violence" week largely because of how important Hitchcock is to me as a counterframe to the Coens, as I talked about in regards to Stoker. This is largely from my reading of the American remake of Let The Right One In, which (the original) is maybe my favorite movie in the genre; the remake, Let Me In, relies much more heavily on Hitchcockian tropes, most visibly in the "new" scene with the car crash. This movie glances in the direction of that difference, thouh, like many things about Hitchcock, it doesn't do much more than glance.

There is exactly one reason to see Hitchcock, and it's the obvious one; Anthony Hopkins' duck-faced mugging. Which was strong enough to carry me through the movie, enjoyably, I'm pretty happy to admit. On another level, as a friend put it, this is a movie whose stakes are so incredibly low - Hitchcock might have to move out of his mansion! oh no! - that little gestures like that are clearly at the heart of the movie.

Even Hopkins' enjoyable acting has its problems, though; it's also pretty clear that this film is in some way meant to be a corrective, a (polite) refusal of the auteurist manly valorization that pushed Hitchcock into the spotlight in the first place, suggesting that his wife played a very large role in his success rather than placing it solely within the grasp of his rugged artistic individualism. So when Hopkins consistently steals every scene, what is clearly an enjoyable act for him is loaded with yet another diminution of the labor of the people around Hitchcock.

And also, because of its low stakes setting the viewer's sights on the particulars, scenes like the one where Hopkins is casting for Norman Bates come across as a really unpleasant mixture of pretty neat acting and really fucking gross, as his choice is made when Perkins confesses his own anxiety/fixation on maternity. In one sense this is consistent with the way that Hitchcock detaches itself from a strictly realist perspective, as in the scenes where he establishes a peep hole into Johansson's dressing room (the aforementioned glance) or the Ed Gein flashes. Is it a statement about Hitchcock's own twisted, misogynist sense of what he does, the special process that makes him such an accomplished aesthetician shown in all its grossness through wish fulfillment? It certainly doesn't read that way. It mostly reads like excuses for Hopkins to make a duck face.

Which, hey, that's cool. It's pathologizing in exactly the way highbrow art tends to get away with being, and its one good aspect is largely responsible for undermining the possibility of its being really great. I enjoyed it well enough though, I suppose.

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