Because January is the dumping ground for mediocre Hollywood movies, Coral Gables Art Cinema is kicking off the year with a series of classic films that will remind cinephiles what great movies are. Few directors have had the lasting influence of Alfred Hitchcock, known for his masterful use of the cinematic language of suspense. And Gables' curated series of films features some of the master's best-known work.
"This is the first week of the year, and we pride ourselves in playing the finest first-runs, but I think everyone should be well-versed in cinema history, and I think it starts with the classics," notes Coral Gables Art Cinema program director Nat Chediak. "I saw that Hitchcock's films were being restored, and I felt that perhaps there's no other single filmmaker that deserves to be looked at in a theatrical setting more than the Master of Suspense."
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The films, which will be shown in remastered DCP (Digital Cinema Package) for the big screen, include eight masterpieces: North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, The Lady Vanishes,The 39 Steps, Rope, and Shadow of a Doubt. Chediak has dubbed the series "Forever Hitchcock."
"There are filmmakers who are in such control of the medium that you feel that instead of voice to tell stories, they use films, and Hitchcock was one of them. Hitchcock spoke through the language of film, and he was a perfectionist. He used to say, perhaps jokingly, the most boring part of the process was the making of the film itself because once he had the screenplay and the storyboards, all he had to do was go through the motions."
Pressed for a favorite in this mix of movies, Chediak mentions his personal attachment to Psycho. "Not because I stabbed anyone or because I harbor any ill feelings for my late mother," he laughs, "but because of the effect it had on my daughter, who's an aspiring screenwriter and who for many years, while she was in high school, would bring her friends to my media room, and I'd be working in the office upstairs, and at a certain point I'd hear Bernard Herman's wailing violins accompanied by screams from her girlfriends watching the movie."
Psycho is one of those films that subverts audience expectations to give us an antagonist to beat all antagonists: Norman Bates. He is, after all, the psycho who murders the leading lady halfway through the picture. The film highlights Hitchcock's masterful control of the medium -- his ability to create heightened levels of suspense unheard of at the time of the film's release in 1960.
"To me, that's a masterstroke," Chediak says. "You can't pull something like that unless you are in absolute control of your faculties, knowing exactly where you're headed, and it's done by deception. It's what came to be known as the MacGuffin. If you think The 39 Steps is a spy movie or North by Northwest the same thing, you're woefully wrong. Those are pretexts for Hitchcock to play with your expectations, catch you off-guard, and take you for the thrill ride of your life."
Gables Cinema presents Forever Hitchcock, a new program featuring eight digitally restored Alfred Hitchcock classics seen on the big screen like never before. The screenings begin January 2 and continue through January 8. Choose between a pass to all the films or tickets to individual films for $11.50 ($8 for members). For more information, visit gablescinema.com.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.