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February 07, 2017

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SD

I'm not sure what time will ultimately reveal about Alfred Hitchcock's films, but I feel pretty certain that his personal shortcomings will not constitute a permanent barrier to greatness. Hitchcock was an artist who examined how obsession could overpower the life of a person and that person's relationships with others, how guilt and shame could cripple a person's well-being, and how the mysteries of the complex relations between men and women might succeed or fail in defining the course of a person's life. His own demons continued to feed his explorations of these matters. And his sadistic tendencies drove him to dominate, control, and inflict psychological and physical pain on others.

The same as well might be said for such artists as Charles Chaplin and Roman Polanski. Have they been considered lesser artists for having publicly humiliated their wives and children; being controlling and manipulative; or drugging, raping, and sodomizing teenage girls? I don't in all honesty think so. Hitchcock while making The Birds told Tippi Hedren that she would be filming a short crucial scene wherein mechanical birds would be tethered to her with thin elastic bands and would "attack" her. In the event, the birds turned out to be real, they zoomed in on and pecked at her head, and the scene took five days to film -- physically and emotionally exhausting the actress. Sadistic and uncalled for? Undoubtedly. Indicative of Hitchcock's own peculiar demons? Yes. But is this in some way evidence of a permanent barrier to artistic greatness? I don't see how.

What I think could happen in future generations is that Hitchcock's work may be forgotten for technical reasons unimagined by us today -- in the same way that for some people Chaplin fails to speak to them because he flourished in silent rather than sound films. When Hitchcock's work is briefly remembered in that brave new world I would venture to say that some journalists, bloggers, tweeters, or media telepathists might try to blame his decline on his personality or his obsessions but they won't get very far on that track. He might be temporarily relegated to the archival sidelines but his genius as a master of cinematic art will ultimately prevail.

And once again we may see a hologram-like beam of the familiar face with voice, introducing himself to an imperfectly remembered blonde actress with the words "Call me Hitch. Hold the cock."

David Schacker

Yes, it is possible that so stunted a human being might become a great artist. But for me, Hitchcock's "failures of human empathy" make him a director of rather cold films (with some exceptions) - in comparison to Carol Reed, a versatile director who could make Hitchcock-type films, but with heart.

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