The Idyllic Torn Asunder: Hitchcock’s The Birds
“I am neither poor nor innocent”—Melanie Daniels, protagonist of Hitchcock’s The Birds
Cinema as Art
From the time I was thirteen or so, I had fallen deep in love with movies. I didn’t actually grow up watching a lot of TV shows, but I certainly loved renting movies and enjoying them in the comfort of my house, especially when my parents were out playing Bridge or doing something similar with their friends.
For me—then and now—the more intense the movie, the better, though I also loved stupid, slapstick comedies. Several of my high school friends appreciated and understood the actual art of cinema far more than I did, and I learned a great deal from them about directors, cuts, camera angles, actors, lighting. Even to this day, I can’t watch anything other than comedy without analyzing every aspect of the film.
College didn’t give me much time for movies, but two events in graduate school not only re-awoke my passion but increased it exponentially. The first, and less important of the two, was the attending of a film studies class on the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Everything my friends in high school had taught me sharped to a finely and intellectually honed blade of finest steel as the professor explained how to study a film—similar to a novel, but with a different kind of depth—walking through the film, scene by scene. I was, to put it crudely, rather blown away.
Hitchcock, His Women, and Me
Additionally, while in graduate school, two friends really shaped my view on films. The first was Craig, an apartmentmate as well as office buddy. As it turned out, Craig knew British film really well. I’d never appreciated it or PBS before, but he gave me that love of both. Second, I found out that another close friend was also a Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) fanatic. Tamzen (my great friend to this day) and I spent many hours watching and analyzing Hitchcock. These moments with Craig and Tamzen are ones I still treasure.
Like Tamzen, I considered myself a Hitchcock fanatic as well, preferring a Hitchcock film even to a science fiction one. I especially loved, in order, Rope, Vertigo, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, and North by Northwest. I never fell for Kim Novak or Vivian Leigh, but I have always thought Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren two of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. Phew. I still do, though, of course, Kelly played attractive characters while Hendren played repulsive ones. To my mind (that is, in the world of celebrities), only Morena Baccarin rivals Kelly.
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