December 27, 2009

Episode 19 - Alfred Hitchcock Presents

If it looks like I've been delaying the upload of this episode for ages, it's because I have. I was nervous during the entire episode for fear of saying something wrong in the presence of my two prominent guests, Gjorgji Janevski and Baze Petrushev, and it shows. After all, it is difficult to say something new about Alfred Hitchcock, the man has been analyzed to death and back - Slavoj Zizek's ideas are particularly interesting here - but that doesn't mean one shouldn't try. In the end, my fears may have been for nothing: between the three of us in the studio we dug up enough interesting facts, trivia and ideas to fully justify the episode. We even added some brilliant Hitchcock monologues for good measure!

The first film we talked about is Psycho (1960), by far the most important - if not the best - of Hitchock's films. Piling up information on top of Bernard Hermann's stabbing score, we went through camera angles, alternate takes, questions of identities, Marion Crane's untimely death at the middle of the film, and of course, the Gus Van Sant remake from 1998, which is analyzed in depth in this essay here.

Then, there's The Birds (1963), Hitchock's only pure horror film for which Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has quite a lot to say in the following clip.

Finally, we talked about Vertigo (1958), which in my humble opinion is the master's richest film by far, overflowing with Saul Bass's grand visuals (including the nightmare sequence captured below), Hitch's multilayered storytelling and the spirit of San Francisco. There is a very good reason why Terry Gilliam cited the film in his SF masterpiece 12 Monkeys (1995) along with Chris Marker's 28-minute photo story La Jetée (1962), building up from the connecting theme of identity loss and re-creation of time. Should you have an open evening before you, I suggest you watch all three films in chronological order for maximum impact.

Musically speaking, the episode features a heavy dose of Bernard Hermann's iconic soundtrack scores, a string of tracks by his follower, the shifty Barry Adamson, as well as a couple of rarities in Landscape's "Norman Bates" and the theme song to the bizarre Psychos in Love.

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Oh, and by the way, I still don't get it entirely: despite the fact he's made only two films that could be labeled as horror - the splatter-sub-genre-defining Psycho and the somewhat subversive The Birds - just why do people still insist on calling him "director of the macabre"? Are two films enough to seal one's status?

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