So it’s another year and it’s maybe not off to a great start (blogging-wise that is), but I’m working on getting to the last of those 2015 films slowly but surely. My top 10 list may be super late and far from all-inclusive, but hey, to quote one of my favorite BP winners, “that’s the way the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.”
I’m taking a film studies class again this semester, on Robert Altman and some other new Hollywood directors, and while it won’t have as many rewatches as my Hitchcock one, we did start out with one of the few Altman films I’ve seen. And because it’s really my only rewatch for this month, I’ll go back to December for a bit and recap the final two Hitchcock films of that class.
December 2, 2015: The Birds
So at one point in class, my professor had something about how Hitchcock was getting influenced by the French New Wave and foreign art films around this time (I’m just guessing, but it probably helped that the FNW directors loved him). I’ve always thought of The Birds as a rom com gone wrong; it’s starts out with an absurd meet-cute between Melanie and Mitch and then delves into weird horror/disaster movie territory. But apparently we can add foreign art film into the mix of genres Hitchcock was playing with in this movie. I had to have them pointed out to me, but apparently talking about your first world problems on a sand dune is classic Antonioni. When Melanie is talking about being accused of jumping naked into a fountain in Rome, apparently it’s a clear reference to La Dolce Vita (which I also haven’t seen). And then birds attack! I love the absurdity of this film; it just makes it so fun to watch. It definitely holds up on a rewatch, and the hilarious horror movie and rom com tropes still get me.
December 9, 2015: Marnie
I declared Marnie as my least favorite film upon first watching it, and the only reason that might change is that there are now some of his older films that I like a little bit less just because they’re old. I might be very firm in my convictions that I don’t enjoy this movie, but I’m still very confused as to how misogynist it is and whether or not it is a good movie at all.
It’s interesting that a lot of the arguments for Marnie as one of Hitchcock’s most artistically truthful films are many of the same arguments in favor of Vertigo, in my opinion Hitch’s best and definitely one of my favorite films of all time: the artificiality is intentional, both in the technical elements and the acting, and Hitchcock was probably aware of the misogyny and was trying to work through his own tortured feelings. I still can’t figure out why this seems valid to me in Vertigo‘s case and not Marnie‘s.
According to critic Robin Wood, the main thing that sets Marnie apart is the hero, Mark, played by Sean Connery. In Wood’s view, Mark’s character is defined by the fact that he understands the intertwining of good and evil better than any other in Hitchcock. Yes, he does condescend to Marnie, trap her and rape her, but eventually he does end up curing her of her psychological problems, and he sort of thinks they work together to do so. It’s just not necessarily presented that way because somebody with Marnie’s psychological problems would have a hard time admitting or recognizing that they want to be cured.
I suppose that Mark’s character, or rather Hitchcock’s attitude toward him, is exactly why I like Vertigo more, besides that I just like it more purely based on the visuals (I just think it’s a prettier film). I feel as if in Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart is not meant to be a hero in the strictest sense of the word because he is so pitiable. In no universe can he be seen as helping Kim Novak, so I feel as if Vertigo ends up being more critical of the male gaze/patriarchy than Marnie. But all in all, I feel as if I can’t really fault Marnie for expressing something different but equally effectively….. But I still don’t like the movie.
January 20, 2016: McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Oh I love McCabe & Mrs. Miller! It was great to kick off the class on this rather than M*A*S*H, which I really didn’t like when I saw it because it was so much more mean-spirited than the TV show (which is one of my favorites ever since I was kid). But I love McCabe & Mrs. Miller, not only it is probably my favorite Warren Beatty performance (and this comes from a die hard Bonnie and Clyde fan), but Altman’s mastery of a subtly melancholy tone throughout has me perfectly verging on tears for the whole movie. It was really such a mistake that I only rated it 3.5/4 stars when I first reviewed it; it’s definitely a 4/4 for me.
I believe the reason I did so is that the DVD both looks and sounds pretty bad, in terms of quality. I never could figure out if it was a restoration thing or a DVD thing or a tv screen thing, but I did some research and I guess it is supposed to be that way in keeping with the time period. It just keeps bothering me because even though I can imagine what the film would look like if they didn’t do the “flashing” effect they describe in that article, it seems like they could have made the film without doing that and we would have been able to see more definition in the darks. Ah well, I still really like the film and get the choice they made…. I just still wonder how much better/appropriate it would look on 35mm! #filmgoals
Regardless, it’s such a sweet and beautiful film even if it looks “bad.” It really is one of my favorites, if you haven’t seen it yet please do yourself a favor and catch up with McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
So next month I probably won’t have a lot of these rewatches either, just one other Altman film and some BP winners I will probably just end up listing for completeness. Every once in a while I do end up with a surprise rewatch though, so stay tuned to see what that might be!