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The Paradigm Case

The Cinema of Hitchcock and the Contemporary Visual Arts


Bernard McCarron

With the migration of cinema into the art gallery, artists have been turning, with remarkable regularity and ingenuity, to Alfred Hitchcock-related images, sequences and iconography. The world of Hitchcock’s cinema – a classical cinema of formal unities and narrative coherence – represents more than the spectre of a supposedly dead art form: it transcends its own filmic and institutional contexts, becoming an important audio-visual lexicon of desire, loss, mystery and suspense.
Through a detailed study of the Hitchcock-related work of artist-filmmakers Matthias Müller and Christoph Girardet, Johan Grimonprez, Pierre Huyghe, Douglas Gordon and Atom Egoyan, this book facilitates a dialogue between the creative appropriation of Hitchcock’s films and the cinematic practices that increasingly inform the wider field of the contemporary visual arts. Each chapter is structured around a consideration of how the artwork in question has reconfigured or ‘remade’ key Hitchcockian expressive elements and motifs – in particular, the relationship between mise en scène and the mechanics of suspense, time, memory, history and death. In a career that extended across silent and sound eras as well as the British, European and Hollywood industries, Hitchcock’s film œuvre can be seen as a history of the cinema itself. As the work of these contemporary artist-filmmakers shows, it was also a history of the future, a paradigm case par excellence.
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Chapter 1: Mapping the Field of Hitchcockian Appropriation


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Mapping the Field of Hitchcockian Appropriation

In the last few years there have been a number of films that have depicted the personality or persona of Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, Fox, 2012, 98 mins), was based on the making of Psycho, with Anthony Hopkins playing the part of Alfred Hitchcock and Scarlett Johansson in the role of Janet Leigh. The Girl (Julian Jarrold, Warner Bros./HBO, 2012), released slightly earlier and for television only, examines the relationship between Hitchcock (Toby Jones) and Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller). Tippi Hedren has also generated publicity for The Girl, talking about her contributions to the film in a series of televised interviews, and in conversation with Adrian Wooton at BFI Southbank.1

Hitchcock’s Rear Window (Universal, 1954, 112 mins) also received a 3D release in 2013. A visual effects laboratory re-mastered the film after archivists at Warner Bros. recently discovered the files of Hitchcock’s cameraman, Robert Burks, indicating the film was originally planned as a 3D production.2 The industry’s loss of interest in 3D after the release of Dial M For Murder (Warner Bros., 1953, 105 mins) meant the 3D version of Rear Window was never realised, despite the obvious impression of depth in its shots, which, as Burks’s files suggest, were to be later augmented with 3D rendering. Clarence Joseph, the producer of the new 3D version of Rear Window, claims: ‘What we realized as we looked through this material was that...

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