The world of film critics have finally, FINALLY, acknowledged that a film by Alfred Hitchcock is better than the only Orson Welles film anyone can remember. Vertigo has finally made it to the top of the list of the greatest films of all time, according to the poll conducted by Sight and Sound magazine.
I'll be honest. I've never cared for Citizen Kane. I think the acting is atrocious and the story isn't all that inventive. But Orson Welles always gets mad credit for his innovation, for creating all these techniques that no one had ever done before. And it makes me crazy.
I grew up in a household that worshipped at the altar of Alfred Hitchcock. Sure, he's a creepy misogynist with serious mommy issues. And he was kind of a jerk to his actors. But the man knew how to put a movie together. He did it not just for a few films, but for decades. Just think about all of the Hitchcock movies that come to the top of your head. And they're all great films. North by Northwest. Rear Window. Psycho. Notorious. Dial M for Murder. Strangers on a Train. A lot of Hitchcock lovers will tell you that Vertigo isn't even his best film. My dad introduced me to all of these movies, and a whole lot more.
So it has always irked me that Welles and Citizen Kane have been revered as this genius director with this incredible, no-one's-ever-done-it-before type film when Hitchcock was doing the same types of things. The deep focus shot that everyone credits Welles for? Hitch was doing it, too. In a film that I'd sure as heck watch over and over rather than ever watch CK. That'd be Rebecca, a beautiful film. Filled with acting that doesn't make me cringe.
In his lengthy career, spanning decades, Hitchcock never won a best director Oscar, which is a sin and a shame. Despite his beautiful 360 degree kiss shot between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. Or the amazing tracking shot from that movie where the camera pans down throughout the entire party down to show the key in Ingrid's hand. Or the walk down the stairs with Grant, Bergman, and Claude Rains. Or the walk up the stairs and the use of shadow as Cary Grant brings what may or may not be poisoned milk to the desperately ill Joan Fontaine in Suspicion. Or the closed set in Dial M for Murder that no other director could have pulled off. Or the brilliant 11 minutes of Vertigo that pass without any dialogue without the viewer noticing because the action of Jimmy Stewart following Kim Novak is so compelling.
Based on the breadth and depth of his work, from the classic horror film of The Birds to the black comedy of The Trouble With Harry to his personal favorite Shadow of a Doubt (featuring a very young Macdonald Carey, of Days of Our Lives fame), he made great film after great film from the 1920s until the 1970s. (Have I mentioned Frenzy yet? Check that one out!) Back in college, I was so excited when our college movie program showed The Man Who Knew Too Much. My bff wasn't so sure she was interested in watching it, but it was clearly important to me, so she grudgingly agreed to go, with the caveat that she would leave after the first hour if she wasn't feeling it. After 20 minutes, I knew she was hooked. But smart aleck that I am, I still had to lean in at the hour mark and whisper that she could leave now. She didn't even look at me as she shushed me. You can't leave a Hitchcock halfway through.
Which is why I'm so thrilled today to see that the greatest director of all time with the greatest body of work ever put out by one filmmaker has finally been recognized for his greatness. Congrats, Hitch, you creepy, vaguely stalker-ish, dirty, brilliant man.