I hardly ever watch television - there's never anything I want to see. But I do like watch films on my computer and at the moment I'm obsessed with Hitchcock. Last week I saw in quick succession the recent film (Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock, Helen Mirren as Alma, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh) and the HBO/BBC's The Girl (Toby Jones as Hitchcock, Imelda Staunton as Alma, Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren). The first was about the making of Psycho and the second about the making of The Birds and Marnie. Well, I must admit that the first one has more or less faded from my mind and the second one totally stuck in there. Of course its portrayal of Hitchcock as a sad sexual predator has been much disputed but as it was based on Tippi Hedren's own account I'm inclined to believe it. And I was amazed at how good (and how beautiful) Sienna Miller was - not to mention Toby Jones, who managed to make Hitchcock both creepy and deeply pitiable.
Anyway having seen these I am now having a feast of the original films. Only problem is I can't bring myself to watch Psycho which I saw many years ago, or The Birds which I've never seen and for some reason have never wanted to. But I saw Marnie for the first time the other day -- slightly strange, to say the least, though I know many people really like it -- followed by North by Northwest, which I've seen before and loved just as much the second time around -- and then To Catch a Thief, which liked the least of the three despite glorious Riviera locations, beautiful but I felt slightly wooden Grace Kelly and of course gorgeous Cary Grant.
Then came Vertigo -- I'd also seen it, many years ago, but had totally forgotten it. It's believed by many to be Hitchcock's best and last year was actually voted The Best Film Ever Made, knocking Citizen Kane off the top slot for the first time in fifty years. Well. Is it? Even if I'd seen every film ever made, I don't know how on earth I would ever make such a choice. My own all-time favourite, Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion, isn't even on the top fifty list published by the BFI, though his La Regle du Jeu is at number 4.
But Vertigo? I can sort of see what they were getting at. It's not scary like Psycho, it doesn't explore sexual psychology like Marnie, it's not an excellent thriller like North by Northwest. It doesn't have an attractive hero who we can empathise with -- in fact James Stewart is a strangely distant, though in the end deeply tragic figure, whose obsession with a woman who died and then was seemingly, and mysteriously, reborn ends up driving him more or less insane. It's completely lacking any of the sometimes rather peculiar wit you find in many of Hitchcock's films. But it leaves you thinking, and to be left thinking is pretty much my own criterion for how good a film is. I think I'm going to watch it again very soon.
What's your favourite Hitchcock?