28 November 2013


Much as I would have loved to be having a turkey dinner, I had to settle for seeing a restored version of Hitchcock's 1929 silent film Blackmail, accompanied by live (improvised) piano music. I'll feast tomorrow with friends.

For the first ten minutes of the movie, I thought oh boy, I forgot how hard it is to understand what's happening in silent films. The narrative can be really confusing when you don't have any dialogue to help you make sense of it. But then it shifted, and everything became perfectly clear, and remained so for the rest of the film. What was most amazing about the movie was how on the one hand, it was told like a silent film, ie, very exaggerated and expressive faces, and a kind of condensed feeling, where ideas are expressed in a very economical way. But on the other hand, it is so very recognizable as a Hitchcock film. Certain trademark visual stylings, but also something about the narrative, double crosses and paranoia and reversals of fortune. It was so neat to see how his way of storytelling worked in a somewhat different mode, and in some ways even seemed more appropriate to it. Now I want to rewatch his later films and think about whether they bear traces of techniques honed in an earlier time.

The music was neat -- although improvised on the spot, it was quite suited to the film, which is to say that I frequently forgot that it wasn't simply a part of it. Except for one moment, where the pianist played a few snatches of "A Woman is a Sometimes Thing," which kind of yanked me out of the story.

In any case, unsurprisingly, it's an excellent film. Definitely see it if you have the chance.

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