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The Genius Of Alfred Hitchcock Is Alive And Well At TIFF

Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation as the greatest, most influential filmmaker of all time has never really been in jeopardy, but the public’s perception of him as little more than the Master of Suspense sells him a little short. This will come as no surprise to those who have watched his films closely and/or read Hitchcock/Truffaut, the seminal 1966 book that brought him together in conversation with one of his biggest fans: French New Wave giant François Truffaut. As a tribute to both filmmakers and the book they created, critic and filmmaker Kent Jones has assembled an all-star team of auteurs for his own Hitchcock/Truffaut, a documentary that explores Hitchcock’s films and the book they inspired.

In addition to screening Jones’s documentary, TIFF is devoting much of its summer screen space to a third Hitchcock/Truffaut, a double retrospective of both directors. While Truffaut is a major—and extremely original—cinematic force in his own right, Jones’s documentary will leave you especially hungry to revisit (or discover) Hitchcock’s greatest works. Here are five of the highlights—from documentary and retrospective alike.

North by Northwest (July 7 at 6:30pm)

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Reviving the comic spirit of many early Hitchcock talkies, North by Northwest is playfully implausible. Rather than construe that as a criticism, Hitchcock expressed a philosophy that modern Hollywood too often forgets: “logic is dull.”

I Confess (July 9 at 6:30pm)

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As Martin Scorsese explains, Hitchcock’s feelings about acting were the product of an earlier era, before actors like Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Montgomery Clift liberated the form. When Hitch collaborated with Clift on I Confess, these two traditions came into conflict—with intriguing results. In Hitchcock/Truffaut’s exploration of this collaboration, you get a chance to hear one of the director’s most notorious quotes, in which he describes actors as “cattle.”

Psycho (July 19 at 6:30pm)

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One of only two films to get lengthy consideration in Hitchcock/Truffaut, Psycho gets David Fincher and Martin Scorsese talking about the vital importance of breaking audience expectations. Richard Linklater also offers some perspective on the film’s historical context, explaining that the world of 1960 was finally ready for violent, confrontational filmmaking. Of course, that didn’t stop audiences from shrieking uncontrollably, a reaction that Peter Bogdanovich imitates to hilarious effect.

The Birds (August 20 at 6:45pm)

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While Hitchcock says there were simple logistical reasons that he chose to shoot the aftermath of the gas station explosion in The Birds from an omniscient perspective in the sky, his admirers see beyond the practicalities. Martin Scorsese has a longstanding preoccupation with Hitchcock’s use of high angles—for evidence of this, look no further than Taxi Driver—and he sees that ominous shot in The Birds as downright apocalyptic.

Vertigo (September 4 at 4pm)

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In Sight & Sound’s 2012 poll of critics, Vertigo was voted the greatest film of all time. As far as David Fincher is concerned, the film’s impact is derived largely from the fact that Hitchcock tapped directly into his own subconscious, resulting in a layered masterpiece that is also incredibly “perverted.”

Hitchcock/Truffaut: Magnificent Obsessions begins tonight with a 35mm screening of Hitchcock’s 1959 spy classic, North by Northwest. Jones will also be on hand this weekend to introduce screenings of Day for Night, I Confess, and Hitchcock/Truffaut. Brace yourself for the latter’s valuable cinematic education—with the trailer below.

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