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Archive for the ‘film’ Category

A weekend nonfiction reading review…because even pastors need a break from heavy theological reading!

Peter Ackroyd.  Alfred Hitchcock. London, UK: Chatto & Windus, April 2nd 2015. 279 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

This is a biography on the famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock.  More than other directors Hitchcock himself at times was more of the “star” of his films with the prestige of his directing than the actors who played in his movie.  Even after decades following his death Hitchcock’s films are classics and Hitchcock’s silhouette is instantly recognizable by people today.  So to read this biography of him is a treat.

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Hitchcock's Villains Murderers, Maniacs, and Mother Issues

Eric San Juan and Jim McDevitt.  Hitchcock’s Villains.
New York, New York: Scarecrow Press, 2013. 196 pp.

My wife and I have recently become fans of Hitchcock’s films so it was a delight to stumble upon this book in the library.  I didn’t read this book because I am somehow morbid but because I think Hitchcock understands the depth and quirks of depravity more than most film makers in his life time and even film makers today.  One thing that I appreciate about his film is how his villains are believable (not a cookie cut-out that is standard in many cheesy films); and if they are unbelievably horrendous, there is still something about them that reminds us of their humanity.  For me being reminded of the humanity of Hitchcock’s villains doesn’t necessarily mean we should always sympathize with the villains (although sometimes Hitchcock does want us to go down that road) but the fact that they are more like us than we realize brings us to the uncomfortable realization that everyone’s sinful nature can make us depraved monsters, a truth that we might not like to admit.  Ultimately I enjoyed Hitchcock’s film and this book for its observation that leads me to think more deeply of the Christian doctrine of total depravity.

This particular book is a collection of short chapters that explores Hitchcock’s themes in the way he portray his villains and also analysis of specific antagonists in his films.  I’ve enjoyed the book’s analysis especially with how the writers point out things I missed when I watched them.  I was blown away by the book’s take on the film Veritgo and the thesis that the protagonist Jimmy Steward is really the villain in the film.  Vertigo is one of the more stranger films that I didn’t know what to make of it when I first saw it but after reading the book I do see the authors’ point that Jimmy Steward is really not the ex-detective police hero that the beginning of the movie made him out to be, especially with how controlling and selfish he is later in the movie.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciate is the exploration of Hitchcock’s fear of authority throughout his life that comes out in his film.  In several films the police are not necessarily the villains but they are not necessarily friendly either.  At times they can go after the hero in the film, mistaking them for villains such as in the movie Stranger on the Train.  Having friends in law enforcement I think it is unfortunate that at times Hitchcock can present a far more sympathetic villain than he does of authority and those who enforce laws.  At the same time I can appreciate Hitchcock’s observation that those who uphold the law are not perfect either, with their bumbling around and at times being down right wrong.

I wished the book could have explored more on the villainy of ideas.  This constructive criticism is not meant to fault the book but also a compliment for the author’s approach of Hitchcock’s work from the angle of how ideology produces villain.  Their discussion left me hungry for more exploration of this theme since I believe worldviews, philosophies, and various “isms” can produce moral monsters from what seem to be every day people.  I appreciated the chapter that looked at this theme in the movie Rope.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the book.  I have seen most of the films the authors discussed with the exception of two; it made me want to watch other films that was briefly mentioned but it also made me realize there are certain films that I’m glad I haven’t watch yet nor plan on watching because of how twisted it is.  In some instance I believe it’s better not to watch it being act out before one’s eyes.  I do recommend the book.

Purchase: Amazon

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