This year, we celebrate 40 years since the death of one of the greatest film directors in the world, the true master of suspense. Alfred Joseph Hitchcock left a legacy in the history of cinema revolutionizing the way of producing the genre thriller. He was born in England in 1899, but he spent most of his life in the United States, where he would achieve greater infrastructure and recognition in the film industry. He received the title of Sir from Queen Elizabeth in 1979.
Some examples of its innovations: filming techniques hitherto new for the time, such as camera positioning, the accompaniment of the scenes in order to make the viewer feel distressed and tense even if the scene does not bring an element of tension. Other striking features are the elaborate and surprising soundtracks that perfectly match the context of the film. The soundtrack is almost a character in Hitchcock’s films, the atmosphere of tension is accentuated by the strong music, almost a warning to anyone who is seeing that something important in the story is about to happen.
He also developed the MacGuffin concept: it basically consists of focusing attention on an object at the beginning of the film, implying that the conflict of the story will revolve around it, when, in fact, throughout the film the objective becomes irrelevant and is sometimes even forgotten. In one of his most renowned films he uses this technique, I will not tell you what it is because you may not have seen it and knowing it previously spoils the whole experience that the director wants to provide us with.
Another peculiarity of our master of the seventh art is the Camafeu technique, which, translated into Portuguese, means special participation. In this case, the special participation was made by the director himself. In several films, Hitchcock appears briefly figuratively. This became almost a joke among fans: finding Hitchcock.
In order not to detract from the plot’s attention, the director chose to always appear at the beginning, usually in situations such as crossing the street, standing at the bus stop, walking on the sidewalk. In, for example, he appears in a picture frame in the living room of the protagonist of the film. I confess that, in this case, I didn’t get to see it when watching it for the first time.
Tim Burton with the duo – Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski, or Paul Thomas Anderson with Philip Seymour. These are some examples of directors who have their “darlings” – actors who are almost always called up to relevant roles. With Hitchcock it is no different, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak are the main examples of actors and actresses who were present in their main films.
James Stewart’s partnership with the director emerged from a “breakthrough”: it was all agreed for Cary Grant to act in (1948), when, at the last minute, the actor needed to be absent, thus making the vacancy available for James. After the success in the film, the partnership of the two added in 3 more films (, and ), all of them during Hitchcock’s most successful period, the second half of the 1950s.
I will now list the director’s three biggest films, if you don’t know much about the work of this incredible filmmaker, for these three you can already have a good sense of their importance in the world of suspense.
The 3 greatest Hitchcock films
The first is: nominated for four Oscar categories, including Best Actress and Best Director, and perhaps has the most famous murder scene in the history of cinema, the notion of a soundtrack as a character in his films is very noticeable here, directly influences viewers’ emotions throughout the film.
It’s available on Netflix
The next is: it is perhaps the director’s only color film that manages to maintain the charm of black and white films. The look of the film is very interesting, the contrast of colors brings a theatrical air. For many, it is Hitchcock’s most beautiful film.
Closing with: the oldest of the three, released in 1954. Paralleling our pandemic moment, the protagonist of the film, Jeff (James Stewart), is quarantined in his home due to his broken leg, and his distraction becomes observe the lives of the residents of the surrounding apartments. The camera game and the sequential shot of this film are impressive.
The last film he directed was, in 1976, 4 years before his death. Interestingly, now, on 3/6, he will be on Telecine Cult, a good opportunity to follow the last film of Sir’s brilliant career Alfred Hitchcock.