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TheCanadian Review of American Studies, Volume 11, No. 2, Fall 1980 Where'sthe Hitch? EricRehmer and Claude Chabrol. Hitchcock: TheFirstForty-FourFilms. Translated by Stanley Hochman.New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1979. t78pp. JohnRussellTaylor. Hitch: The Life and Times of AlfredHitchcock. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. 320pp. RobinWood. Hitchcock's Films. (Third edition, revised andenlarged.)NewYork: A. S. Barnes, 1977. 174pp. Maurice Yacowar AlfredHitchcock's importance to film studies is at least partly due to the qualityof criticism he inspired long before our present glut of publications. Thetwoseminal studies have just been reissued; they dwarf their successors still. Hitchcock study began in 1957with the brilliant book by two Cahiers du Cinema critics, Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, who have since become first-rankdirectors in their own right. That book crystallized the French interest in commercial American cinema, nourished the energy of the NouvelleVague film-makers, and became the model for auteurist film analysis.Now it has finally been published in an English translation, scrupulouslydone by the general editor of the Ungar Film Library, Stanley Hochman. This translator often goes beyond his mandate, silently, to correct the authors'errors in detail, whether due to their faulty memories or to the caprice of the French prints. Despite Hochman's discreet and careful corrections,some oversights need to be corrected for the record. Mysense ofDownhillhas the hero falsely accused of impregnating a shop-girl,not theft. Themurderer in Murder! is a friend of the accused but is not her fiance. Theplot summary of Rich and Strange should include the central couple's dalliancewith other "lovers" and their witnessing of a birth as well as deaths. 224 Maurice Yacowar The hero in Young and Innocent is the murdered lady's protege but nother gigolo.And Walter Slezak plays the second-to-last, not "final" castawayrescued in Lifeboat. Sometimes the translator retains a French term where a more precise English word might have been more clear, such as "journey'' for his "itinerary" on Downhill, and "double" or "lookalike" for the "sosie" of Foreign Correspondent. But these are insignificant cavils given the excellence of the translation and our gratitude for having this essentialtext at long last made available in English. Rohmer and Chabrol give short and sensitive analyses to each ofHitchcock's first forty-four films,concluding with The Wrong Man (1957). Their reading is stillpenetrating and persuasive on the effect of Hitchcock's Catholicismupon his art, and upon his characteristic themes of guilt, transfer and doubling.In their response to Hitchcock's fluid, constantly expressive cinema, the book is as vital an introduction to the authors' films as it is to Hitchcock's. Arguing close to the text, Rohmer and Chabrol are mercifully free fromthe waffling rhapsodies of much French film writing. The book remains an exciting model of film analysis. So, too, does Robin Wood's classic study, now in its third edition; butit suffers from three dubious "improvements." The hardcover binding andthe $16price-tag are an unwelcome way of providing the weight and respectability that somebody somewhere must erroneously have thought was lackingin the inexpensive paperback editions. Wood has also added an eighteen-page "Retrospective" in which he reconsiders his ten-year-old reading of Hitchcock. Wood's re-evaluation is disappointing. It is not a more balanced perspective but a subjective imposition upon his subject. The body of the book, in which Wood analyzes the eight films from Strangers on a Train through Torn Curtain, still shows a first-rate critical intelligence at work. I am certain that everyone of my generation of film students was first excited to analysis by Robin Wood's Hitchcock; withhis rangingsensitivityand his clear and elegant style, Wood remains a model-and an intimidation. But the new and wider vision that he proposes in his "Retrospective" turns out to be a set of blinkers. Where in the original work Wood set himself the noble task of working out an understanding of the artist and his art, now he attacks Hitchcock for not living up to Wood's present preferences. The brilliant critic turns into a niggling reviewer. Let me admit that my argument with Wood on this point began "in another movie yet." In his witty and generous...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 223-232
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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