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Posts Tagged ‘The Criterion Channel’

“In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema: they are mostly what I call ‘photographs of people talking.’ When we tell a story in cinema we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between.” 
—Alfred Hitchcock

Nothing quite ushers in the holidays like the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I’m a big fan of The Criterion Channel and this month they are running 21 Hitchcock movies. While this includes some classics (Vertigo, Rope, Lifeboat) it also includes some of his lesser known silent film work (The Lodger, Downhill).

It’s easy to look at a masterpiece like North by Northwest (1959) and miss that Hitchcock was 60 when that film was released. Like everyone else had to learn to be a filmmaker. If you look back on his early 20s you begin to see how he evolved as a filmmaker. He loved watching movies as a kid, but being a filmmaker wasn’t on his radar. He studied engineering and through his skills as a draftsman, started doing some side work title design work and art directing on two reeler silent movies.

It was while working with the Famous Players—Lasky in London where he says he learned screenwriting from ”some middle-aged ladies.” Mix that with his appreciation of the silent films by Chaplin, Keaton, and D.W. Griffith and he was prepared to start directing himself. Perhaps the real take away for the young filmmaker/content creator today watching Hitchcock’s British-era films is to see how he engineered his shot selection. Working with film and lower budgets in his early days forced him to think though where he was going to place the camera for maximum impact.

Oscar-winning writer/ director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) was greatly influenced by Hitchcock and only started his featuring film directing career after a three year study of the films by the master of suspense. Here’s what he had to say about The Man Who Knew Too Much (which is also available on The Criterion Channel this month).

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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