Saturday 7 July 2018

Alfred Hitchcock with James Stewart

Watched a couple of Hitchcock films this week. Vertigo, Rear Window, Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much. The thing that seems to stand out is the performance and acting of James Stewart. I also recently watched It's a Wonderful Life too. It's been a bit of a post-war film-binge!

Very often, I start to watch films made in this era and find it difficult to stick with it, as the acting is very 'wooden', sets obvious studio and 'special' effects laughable! I guess that's a sign of the technology of the time. But James Stewart seems to glow in all respects while others (and other things around him) remain similar. Those around him remain 'wooden' in their acting, generally, where he shines and clearly demonstrates that he's a natural and ahead of his time in portraying the plight of his characters. It feels a bit like watching Tom Hanks now, who similarly shines whilst others around him, in many cases, fall away, unconvincing. I'm very impressed, 60 years on.

I guess, there's nothing much anyone could have done about the sets and 'special' effects. In various scenes in these films, there's an outside scene by a beach, or in a car, where I wonder why, instead of making it look so clearly fake, they didn't just shoot the scene outside. Or employ a stuntman to execute a fall instead of making it look like a badly drawn cartoon. But then I'm no film engineer, and maybe limitations on recording equipment didn't allow it. I did wonder if any of these actors actually ever left a studio!

But laying that aside, these films are suspense-filled and gripping to watch, which, I guess, through all the aforementioned, is down to good solid story-lines and top notch directing. Of course, Alfred Hitchcock's reputation doesn't need any embellishment from the likes of me, but I do go back to these films often, which must say something. The Birds, Dial M for Murder, Psycho, Rebecca, Strangers on a Train. They all grip the imagination, often with twists and turns that even, all this time later, audiences don't see coming and which remain compelling viewing.

But the point of the post really was to highlight James Stewart who, for his era, in the words of Monty Python, shines out like a shaft of gold when all around is darkness!

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