Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Eisenstein and Hitchcock

Hitch clearly drank deeply from the Russian film theory well -- however he aqcuired the taste,
whether it was through the London Film Society or other less formal connections.

Interestingly, John Russell Taylor's biography (page 40) tells us that during his time at Famous Players-Lasky (approximately 1919 through the early 1920s) Alfred Hitchcock began experimenting with rearranging identical pieces of film to convey alternatively comedy or drama; he found that by using these techniques you could manipulate the audience into doing the work of interpreting the film and that actors were "merely counters in this game of chess" -- all "some three years before Kuleshov began carrying out his famous experiments." Although the work he did at that time was not artistically great, I wonder if he began catching the Russians' attention even at that early time. In his essay "Color and Meaning," Eisenstein describes a memory savant similar to "Mr. Memory in Hitchcock's THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS," (thus giving Hitch the respect of possessory credit in 1942, even as Hitch was himself jockeying to secure that for himself in his film's title credits).

Hitch played a big hand in exporting German expressionism and Russian montage to western audiences. And it's against this background that I'd be curious to know what the Russians, particularly Eisenstein, who aspired to master both theoretical knowledge and commercial success, had to say about H and vice-versa.

Joel Gunz

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