Sunday, 7 July 2013

Patrick McGilligan, "Alfred Hitchcock, a LIfe in Darkness and Light"

Although I've read quite a lot about Hitchcock over the years I'd never read an actual biography of him until now. The Donald Spoto has been on my to-read list for some time, but I won't read it now. I know from this book what it says. I was inspired to get this book by seeing the recent film with Anthony Hopkins, about his relationship with his wife Alma and the making of Psycho. 

I'm really glad I did. It's long, but never boring for a moment despite the wealth of detail, down to describing exactly how certain shots were achieved in some films. Hitchcock is seen here as something of a romantic, and with a Victorian sexual upbringing which probably did him no good. I can see that. It is also emphasised that he started his working life as a designer. If you think of his films as designed they make sense in a way they perhaps did not before, and did not always to critics at the time, some of whom dismissed them as pulp horror. I hadn't realised how much of the writing Hitch did in his films - he didn't take writing credits. This book is really good, don't be put off by its length. The title "A Life In Darkness and Light", while absolutely right for what most of his films looked like, gave me earworm of the Bob Dylan song "Isis", you know, "I came to a high place of darkness and light, dividing line ran through the centre of town" and suddenly I saw the scene portrayed in that song (the two men frantically chopping through an ice-bound cavern until one of them dies), as pure Hitch. Hitchcock should have made a film of the song. Can anyone tell me about other films which were based on songs?

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