January 30, 2006

"An asinine, unredeemed bore..."

No, not me! That's Alfred Hitchock's Vertigo.

Norm Geras notes this rather embarrassing (in retrospect) passage from a 1959 piece by film critic Stanley Kauffmann:

The decline of Alfred Hitchcock is no longer news. It is quite clear that the director of The Lady Vanishes and The Thirty-nine Steps is dead and that an obscene ghost is mocking him by superficially imitating him. His last film, Vertigo, was an asinine, unredeemed bore. His latest, North by Northwest, starts more promisingly but soon loses us in cliche and preposterousness... [T]he urgent, encompassing reality of his first films is missing, and without it, his antics simply look foolish.

The scene in the cornfield in which a crop-dusting plane strafes Cary Grant is probably the low point in Hitchcock's career - pure comic-book stuff...

Here's a more recent bit from Kauffmann, from his (perhaps justifiably) tepid review of Woody Allen's Match Point in last week's New Republic:

The dialogue is, at least to an American ear, authentic... British dialogue is more difficult for American writers than might be thought, and Allen comes through it all right, even to the provincial dialects of two detectives who appear near the end.
I have to say that neither I, who have spent a great deal of time in Britain, nor my wife who was born and raised there, felt the film's portrayal of British manners was very persuasive. But we have never moved among the super-rich, so maybe that's the problem. However, if Kauffmann thinks that the Metropolitan Police really go around muttering phrases like "poor schmuck," he's watching different crime dramas than we are. Posted by Dr. Frank at January 30, 2006 02:51 AM | TrackBack


I know this isn't the proper place, but I didn't know where else to turn to. In either '95 or '96, you did an acoustic set at Flipside records in Pompton Lakes, NJ. Playing with you was a band from PA called Thrid Year Freshmen. They only put out one album, and for some reason or another they had an entire episode of "My so called life" as a hidden track on their album. Pure genius. Needless to say, I've subsequently lost this CD and would forever be indebted to you if you could somehow point me in the direction of where to purchase it. Please help!

Posted by: death roe at January 30, 2006 07:07 AM

I thought Match Point was clever and suspenseful.

Incidentally, Elizabethian peasants rarely spoke in Iambic pentameter and Shakespeare would have us believe.

Posted by: josh at January 30, 2006 02:37 PM

Is that a fact, Josh? (About the Shakespeare, I mean.) Maybe Stanley Kauffmann was making a subtle point about how Woody Allen is the Shakespeare of our age.

I thoroughly enjoyed Match Point, too, but there were off-kilter elements that Kauffmann identifies in the review. Having seen this, I realized that I'd love to see Woody Allen direct the real Talented Mr. Ripley...

Posted by: Dr. Frank at January 30, 2006 03:49 PM

I can't read the review, but the idea you've sited is sort of similar to this fantastic review of Bernard Henri-Levi that I just read.


Posted by: josh at January 30, 2006 04:30 PM

Wow, Josh you're right: that is one entertaining review of a book I will never read. Favorite bit: "...as always with French writers..."

Posted by: Dr. Frank at January 30, 2006 05:03 PM