Telluride: Impressionist Alistair McGowan voices the late director so the Master of Suspense can walk you through his films “Self”.
Here’s a movie documentary that sounds like a time-travel machine. But we are not running into the past – the past is coming to us.
In “My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock,” film-turned-documentary Mark Cousins hopscotch through the master of suspense’s work based on ideas and images, not your typical film-by-film chronological approach. He has made hyperlinked connections throughout Hitchcock’s filmography (clips from almost every of his films appear) to show that these works are not of the past: they remain in the present tense forever.
To do so, Cousins presents us with a brilliant trick: It looks like Hitchcock is narrating the documentary and guiding you through his work and through topics you might not otherwise notice. can do. Impressionist Alistair McGowan portrays Hitch in voiceover and downplays him all over, from a quick breathlessness to almost snoring, before beginning a new conversational riff for his deep belly laugh. Hitchcock who created such an art of self-promotion made appearances in his own TV shows, appeared on camera for trailers for his films, telling wicked stories on “The Dick Cavett Show” as nothing but blue food at a dinner party. About to serve. That bottleneck feels alive again.
“You’ve built your nest in the 21st century, haven’t you?” McGowan-a-Hitchcock, which can only be described as a chortle. “But don’t you want to avoid it, little one?” It introduces the first of six themes, each of which receives approximately 15 minutes of thought: escape, desire, loneliness, time, fulfillment and height. It’s a personal selection of ideas and relationships in movies presented with fun and a feeling that, if you really love Hitch, you can probably build a movie around the six categories you like. (My own would probably be: Looking, Perspective, Architecture, Painting, Food, and Humor—more than any others, his films feature comedy as a form of suspense.) “My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock” has a sense of involvement. We haven’t seen that in a movie documentary since Rodney Escher’s “Room 237.”
For the Desire section, the cousins don’t stick to “vertigo,” but show how Sylvia Sidney keeps looking at the kitchen knife she wants to use to stab her husband in “sabotage.” And there’s a wonderfully creepy shot in “The Paradine Case,” making the male gaze extremely literal, when the camera tracks over a woman’s bare shoulder to show what Charles Laughton’s character is all about. Hitch is cut straight from an extreme close-up in “Turn Curtain” of one of Paul Newman’s blue eyes, shining the light and making it shine like a jewel, with Grace Kelly down her throat in “To Catch a Thief”. I have worn the jewellery.
These relationships don’t feel nearly as tense as “Three Moments in Film That Featuring Bubbles”, which led to Cousin’s 2011 documentary “The Story of Film: An Odyssey” (a moment Jonathan Rosenbaum rightly called). opened. That series was pervasive but reductive may have been, with Cousins repeatedly referring to classic Hollywood cinema as “a bauble.” That doc (“Hitchcock is the most important visual artist of the 20th century – even more important than Pablo Picasso”) or even her bold proclamations as “a film” with strange turns of phrase (“Port of Shadows”) Gone. Eyes down”).
Cousins wrote everything McGowan’s Hitchcock says in “My Name is Alfred Hitchcock”, but somehow Hitchcock’s voice refines Cousins’ own voice as a writer. He would be wise to continue the pattern of this documentary and its previous “Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema” and let others do the narration for him.
Some of the original footage shot by Cousins for “My Name is Alfred Hitchcock” doesn’t work, and neither does his option of showing Hitchcock’s eyes in tight close-ups over and over again from old pictures. But there’s a sense of wonder, inventiveness and spontaneity that most other film documentaries would be nice to aspire to. It’s easy to look at any movie featured here and see how alive it is; It’s another thing to do this for the whole body of work. Cousins could probably go a step further and make the case that Hitchcock was totally primed for the age of social media — shots from his movies and his own self-promotional antics are meme-ready and share-worthy. But it would have been an obvious choice, and Cousins shied away from the obvious in this survey of Hitch’s work.
“Cinema is a lie at 24 frames per second.” This has been attributed to many, but “Hitchcock” says a version of the same at one point here. Every movie lives up to that to some degree, but Hitchcock is the most, whether it’s Claude Rains walking down an out-of-sight ramp to appear as tall as Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious,” or the giant paper- The mache finger, made to look alive, makes the rotary phone “dial ‘M’ for murder in extreme close-up.” With “My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock,” Cousins powerfully makes the case that there’s nothing better than cinema to elevate lies in art.
“My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock” premiered at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.