Halloween-Hitchcock-Homage. On Seeing The Master Of Suspense In The Films Of Kurosawa And Truffaut.
I’ve taken in a number of disparate films over the last couple of days, each unrelated to one another though connected by a bit of cinematographic DNA. Filmmakers as diverse as Francois Truffaut, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Brian De Palma occupy the space of a shared legacy, one that owes a debt of gratitude to none other than Alfred Hitchcock.
In the Truffaut movie, Vivement dimanche!, aka Finally, Sunday, a witty take on the wrong man strand of Hitchcock films, the wronged man is literally placed in the background, out of sight and away from action for much of the picture. Instead, the daring doer is his secretary, her placing on a pedestal a subversion in itself, and one that recalls the cinema of the screwball. The mystery at the centre of the picture, which sees a man caught up in the death of a competitor in both business and love. It’s masterful stuff actually: I even had to do a double-take myself when the fog cleared toward the end, and rewound the film to re-examine the opening sequence.
This is a more explicit nod to Hitch than the other work in Truffaut’s oeuvre that is clearly indebted to him, such as The Soft Skin, a film which opens with a sequence that bears a striking similarity in technique to the British director’s suspense-driven set-pieces. Finally, Sunday would make for a good double bill with Hitchcock’s near-punchline of a finale, Family Plot. The soft farce of the Golden Age Of Hollywood runs through the pair, to varying degrees of success, though it would be unfair to bash either swansong.
There are numerous allusions towards the work of Hitchcock in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy too. A return to the more genre-skewed fare with which the Japanese auteur made his name, Creepy is as it name suggests; a slow-burning, slow-building tale concerned more with mood and tempo than it is cheap scares. It’s a classy, well-dressed affair, and hugely effective as a piece of horror fiction. It sits well next to the likes of David Fincher’s Seven, or David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., or David Cronenberg’s A History Of Violence. It’s an austere vision of the end of a world, the meticulous composition illustrating this story of a retired law-man dragged out in to the chase for a criminal, with curiosity proving the ultimate temptress. Hitchcock’s Vertigo is the obvious touchpoint here, with a man scarred by a previous professional situation gone-awry forced on to the hunt once again (Brian De Palma’s Body Double too treads similar territory to Vertigo, as it does a number of Hitchcock productions, but the connections between those films are well-examined at this point).
Both Creepy and Vertigo feature middle-aged protagonists, though admittedly Hideyoshi Nishijima, Creepy’s lead, looks less of an aged-idol than Jimmy Stewart’s “Scottie” Ferguson. In reality the two men were but five years apart when their respective pictures were shot, but the Kurosawa’s diligent eye doesn’t really allow for the aged or unkempt: In Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s world, even the most heinous serial killer is dressed as though straight from the catwalk.
It’s no great statement to suggest that the influence of Alfred Hitchcock remains plain and in sight, nor is it particularly illuminating to highlight just how broad said influence spreads, but it remains a sight nonetheless.