Art & Neon

DATELINE:  Hitch Loved Neon

 Neon Novak Novak in Neon!

An Australian film, Neon may seem like a subject hardly worthy of excitement. When some of the interviewees talk about the colored gas lights, you begin to think they need to get a life.

Neon, of course, defines American business, urban life, and a change in American perspective. Once you realize that the invention and adoption of neon lights in American business altered the landscape of the nation, you begin to recognize how special it is.

Not surprisingly, once again Nikola Tesla enters the picture as one of the prime inventors of neon light, but he never patented it, nor made a nickel off the product. Patent fights centered over a Frenchman who produced lights first stunning Paris.

Though the United States featured several World Fairs with cities of lights in the 19th century, the notion of neon changed the life of urban America when it seemed to debut and spread over Broadway and Manhattan in the 1920s.

Neon’s bright and jazzy colors and motion brought forth a new nocturnal culture. And, it was immediately picked up as a motif in movies, first in musicals and as a flashy jazz parallel. Only later did it turn dark with film noir—and then color noir.

Neon captivated movies. Indeed, Hitchcock loved to use neon—in his great movies like Psycho (that alluring Bates Motel) and as the garish green ghost of Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Las Vegas is where the light-scale went bonkers in the years after World War II. Nothing could compare to the garish, commercial call. Yet, the images of flashing logos became landmarks, not just sales gimmicks.

The film presents an array of magnificent shots of glowing neon signs and streets across the world.

Only when neon began its inevitable fade to black did artists and museums realize it needed preservation. As an expensive means of communication, it now seems to be finding homes in art refugee centers. However, mammoth chunks of 90 feet of neon is not conducive to indoor display.

The film turns elegiac when neon starts to lose the battle with time and timeliness. At least a movie like this will allow future viewers to see what magnificence it truly inspired.

 

 

Making of a Shower Scene: 78/52

DATELINE:  Psycho Freshly Showered

78:52

A documentary about one of the most influential films of the 20th century may be simple and surprising. After all, how much can you say about about 2 minutes of a shower scene in Psycho? There were 78 set ups and 52 cuts, making for the title.

The title numbers refer to the numbers Alfred Hitchcock needed to create the horror of a notorious film murder.

You will be definitely surprised at what you learn here. Out of the entire movie, the impact can be boiled down to Hitchcock’s brilliant construction of this scene that brought a culture to a turning point, created a slasher genre, and has become endemic to horror and fate.

The film gathers together a group of interested parties who seem to be at some seedy hotel, their comments filmed in black and white, appropriately enough.

Oh, there are enough clips of Hitchcock speaking for himself: but the film also finds the body double of Janet Leigh, now an old lady, who for seven days, endured the shower scene’s filming. Marli Renfro also was a Playboy bunny cover girl.

Also gathered are various film editors, sound editors, and directors to comment on the script, storyboard, and constraints offered by Hitch.

The film also interviews Osgood Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins, and Jamie Leigh Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh. As a bonus, there is a montage of the many satiric and homage film clips to the most infamous shower scene in movie history.

You will be impressed by the details that the Master of Suspense considered while making this sequence, down to the selection of the painting over the Peeping Tom hole made by Norman Bates to watch Marion Crane.

For those interested in history and art, this film is quintessential Hitchcock to be added to your knowledge and collection.

 

Be sure to read ebook Hitchcock Freshly Showered for a study of the complete oeuvre of Hitch. For smart readers on Amazon.

Hitchcock/Truffaut Testimonials &/or Chitchat

 DATELINE: Directors & Stars

directors-or-stars

The two late filmmakers met for a book in the early 1960s. At the time the French movie director Francois Truffaut was hotter than Hollywood, and Hitch was thought to be a TV star who made entertaining fluff.

Truffaut saw more and wanted to interview Hitchcock about each of his films. For a week they recorded the audio of their chat, through a translator, and began a lifelong friendship.

A book emerged in 1966, but a film record of their insightful movie self-critiques only comes in 2016, fifty years later!

For those who know only the dark humor of a TV host and his Psycho movie Doppleganger, the revelation may be how many contemporary film directors owe him everything. The smart ones study him, and the dumb ones try to copy him.

That means Brian DePalma is not consulted—though David Fincher and Martin Scorcese are in on the documentary. Put aside the two weird Hitchcock docudramas that featured Anthony Hopkins and Toby Jones.

There is much discussion over the visual impact of Hitch’s images throughout his career from silent to the 1970s era when he was thought to be old hat.

The film boasts two closing sequences of some length that show the utter genius behind Vertigo and Psycho. Only obliquely do we find psychoanalysis of the Master of Suspense. Interestingly enough he demands Truffaut turn off the tape recorder when he wants to discuss Jesuit influence on his philosophy of crime and punishment—and more surprisingly when he discusses the notion of directing scenes when expects the heroes (Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant) are having erections over their blonde leading ladies.

This is a fascinating movie for aficionados of Hitchcock—or those with more than a passing interest in great movie making.