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Why is Alfred Hitchcock a Good Director & His Best Movies

Why is Alfred Hitchcock a good director? Hitchcock is the master of suspense among other things.

His cinema has enticed audiences throughout the decades (and still does) as well as movies-makers and experts.

His “secret recipe”, his talent, has been scrutinised and studied to exhaustion: the use of sound-track, camera movement, psychological late-motives, appearance of the well known “Hitchcock blonde“, his legendary MacGuffins

But it is actually the way in which he involves the audience making it a scene-voyeur that has given his movies that special touch.

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The Neck at the Center of Sexual Desire

Hitchcock made the neck the centre of so many attractive camera shots.

The back of the neck on the big screen can be open to many different interpretations: the audience not only feels close to the character; it can almost smell this part of the body without getting caught, which can be both sensual AND threatening.

Watching someone from behind can be either flattering or intimidating for the person who is being observed. People who find other people attractive can easily watch them from behind as it is less probable they will get caught ‘in the act of  looking’.

Stalkers take this looking-without-being-seen to the extreme, as they not only watch but they also follow their object of attention. This is shown in Hitchcock´s movies repeatedly.

Therefore, mixing sensuality with guilt, on equal amounts, is key to Hitchcock´s timeless masterpieces.

Therefore, mixing sensuality with guilt, on equal amounts, is key to Hitchcock´s timeless masterpieces.

What are Hitchcock’s Best Movies?

Hichcock´s best films are as diverse as they can get.

Psycho, Rebecca, Rope, The Birds, North by Nothwest, I Confess, Lifeboat, Vertigo… are just some of Hichcock´s best films and none of them a waste of time, I tell you! On the contrary, his savoir-faire shines through his entire filmography.

Nevertheless, if I had to pin down just three (which by the way would be an extremely difficult task), these would be:

1. Psycho
2. Vertigo
3. The Birds

The reason for my selection is simple: he enriched the cinematographic language practically with every single one of his movies, but these three created a following in themselves.

Even though they were pretty risky in their narrative at the time of being made, he was very successful with the final results even though he had no previous reference to this type of filmmaking.

Why?

Let’s take a look at these films.

1.`PSYCHO´

This film might be the best example: he introduces the main character (Marion Crane) from the very first minute the film starts. We see her get cozy with her lover, at work, and how she then suddenly turns into a thief and a runaway.

We know for sure this movie is about this woman and her difficult life… Until she gets violently killed about half an hour into the film. Her murderer is the real lead-character of this movie! Something so simple, and so easily assimilated by different audiences today, meant turning script-writing rules upside-down back in the 60s.

Quite a handful for a big-studio feature film.

Hitchcock knew not only that this technique was going to work really well, but that it would also terrify and even traumatise audiences through and through.

And it was indeed a big hit!

2. `VERTIGO´

Here’s a film with plenty of neck shots. There’s another novelty to it: Hitchcock reveals a twist to the audience around half way through the film.

In fact it is revealed to everyone except to the main character!

The suspense then relies not just on the action in itself but on the reaction James Stewart, who plays John “Scottie” Ferguson, has when he finally finds out what we, the audience, already know. This way the connection with the viewers is not only powerful, but magical.

3. `THE BIRDS´

One could see The Birds as the one movie with special effects out of Hitchcock´s filmography. It took quite a few postproduction tricks to turn those birds into evil creatures. But Hitch not only turned adventurous with the effects, he took the opportunity to come up with some innovative camera shots as well.

Attack of the birds:

One of them can be found in the following sequence:

One of the characters is looking for a friend after one of the bird´s attack. She comes into his friend’s house and calls him out. She suddenly realises he is indeed in the house, dead, lying on his bedroom floor. His eyes have been taken from the sockets by these raged animals.

To maximise the feeling of disgust anyone could experience before such a view, three camera shots have been used to show his grotesque face, each one of them a closer shot than the one before.

The way it was edited -quickly changing from one image to the next- made history in movie making.

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Perfection on Many Different Levels

To sum it all up, I would say Hitchcock was a good director because he worked his stories to perfection on many different levels:

– He directed the actors extremely well.
– His voyeur style of framing shots became one of his trade-marks.
– He tried to disclose the dark side of human nature with every feature film.

He knew better than most what the public wanted. Sexual repression, violence or cold-blooded murder are themes reflected on his pictures. Through them, he constantly tries to get into the Freudian subconscious of the characters and of society, and he succeeded.

Wouldn’t you agree?

 

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