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Retrospective to salute "master of suspense" Alfred Hitchcock

     "Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else." --- The Daily Telegraph

     Acclaimed as the "master of suspense", film director Alfred Hitchcock has made countless psychological thrillers including "Vertigo", "Notorious", "North by Northwest", "Psycho" and "The Lady Vanishes". Widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers, Hitchcock counted among his protégés American post-war directors such as Brian De Palma, and among his fans French New Wave directors like François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol.

     Twenty classics that Hitchcock directed in Britain and the United States from 1927 to 1964 will be screened from September to November to salute the master.

     Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and curated by Mr Law Waiming, the retrospective "Repertory Cinema 2010 – Alfred Hitchcock" will show a selection of his films from September 10 to November 28 at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive, the Lecture Halls of the Hong Kong Space Museum and the Hong Kong Science Museum.

     The British films to be screened include: "The Lodger" (1927), "Blackmail" (1929), "Murder!" (1930), "The 39 Steps" (1935), "Secret Agent" (1936), "Sabotage" (1936), "Young and Innocent" (1937), "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) and "Jamaica Inn" (1939). The American films to be shown are: "Rebecca" (1940), "Saboteur" (1942), "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943), "Spellbound" (1945), "Notorious" (1946), "Strangers on a Train" (1951), "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956), "Vertigo" (1958), "North by Northwest" (1959), "Psycho" (1960) and "Marnie" (1964).

    To tie in with the screenings, a seminar conducted in Cantonese is scheduled at 4.30pm on November 20 at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Space Museum. Admission is free.

    Three courses titled "How did Hitchcock make movies?", "A case for Hitchcock as the greatest director ever" and "Did Hitchcock really hate women?" will be held from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on October 23, 30 and November 6 at Function Room (AC2), Level 4, Administration Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. The courses will be conducted in Cantonese.

     Born in London in 1899, Hitchcock studied engineering and navigation in high school and art in night classes. He was captivated by film at the age of 16 and taught himself the craft of filmmaking. He believed American films were more interesting and was particularly impressed with American director D.W. Griffiths and German directors F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang.

     Hitchcock entered the film business in 1920 by designing the title-cards of a silent movie. His first directing project, "Number 13", in 1922 was never completed due to lack of funds. After three years as a writer, he made his first silent film, "The Pleasure Garden", which was very crude in all respects. It was only his third effort, "The Lodger", that he recognised as his "first" film.

     After making his name in Britain, Hitchcock was recruited by Hollywood in 1938 and thereafter made many classics. He made over 50 features in his career including some of the most influential in cinema history. In 2007, a poll conducted by The Daily Telegraph selected him as one of the greatest British directors in history. Despite Hitchcock's cinematic achievements, his five Oscar nominations for Best Director never resulted in an award - an omission for which the Academy Awards' voting system is still criticised.

     His first "Hitchcockian" movie, "The Lodger" was a taut thriller about a tenant accused of murder by a jealous detective. His first talkie "Blackmail" was also Britain's first complete sound film. The sound version will be shown in the retrospective, providing an opportunity to view Hitchcock's groundbreaking methods in using sound to forward the narrative. "The 39 Steps", an espionage thriller with spies, murder and mistaken identity, is one of the best films from his early period. The film also established his signature suspense and humour.

     "The Lady Vanishes", Truffaut's favourite Hitchcock film and one of his biggest box-office hits, is a fast-paced thriller about the search for an Englishwoman who disappears while on board a train. Director Orson Welles claimed that he had seen the film 11 times. It won Hitchcock the Best Director award at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 1939. It also captured the attention of American producers and paved the way for his American career.

     Starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, Hitchcock's first Hollywood film "Rebecca" became an instant classic and won for Best Picture and Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards in 1941. An adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's famous novel, this gothic melodrama explores the fears of a young bride who enters a great English country home and must adapt to the rules of the husband's dead wife. The film was an inspiration for Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane". Also with unexpected twists and romance, "Vertigo" is another Hitchcock masterpiece featuring a cop who must discover the truth behind the death of the woman he loves. The film ranked No.2 in the 2002 Sight and Sound Critics' Top Ten Poll.

     Hitchcock collaborated with Ernest Lehman, five-time winner of the Writers' Guild of America Award, on the comedy suspense-thriller "North by Northwest". Advertising agency executive Cary Grant is mistaken for a notorious spy and is forced to go on the run for his life. The film ranked No.7 on the American Film Institution's list of the 10 greatest films in the "mystery" genre in 2008. The classic scene of the protagonist being chased by a plane across the prairie has become standard film-school textbook material.

     "Psycho" marked a high point in Hitchcock's creativity with the audience being taken step by step into the heart of darkness. A secretary escapes with her company's money and checks in at a motel for the night but never checks out again. The structure and narrative was unprecedented for its time, with the female lead being killed halfway into the film, which broke all conventions. The shot sequence in the shower scene is still unmatched. Film critic Roger Ebert commented, "It was the most shocking film its original audience members had ever seen."
     Starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, "Notorious" is a classic tale of love and betrayal with a plot about the Nazis and uranium. While Hitchcock was conducting research on the atomic bomb with scientists for the film, the FBI suspected him of espionage and had him under surveillance for three months. Truffaut said the film was quintessential Hitchcock.

     "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is Hitchcock's remake of his 1934 British film with Doris Day singing the theme song, "Que Sera, Sera" (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) which won the Best Music, Original Song, at the Academy Awards in 1957.

     "The Lodger" is silent with English intertitles. All other films are in English with English subtitles.

     Tickets priced at $50 for screenings and courses priced at $80 per session are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Programme details can be found in the leaflets available at LCSD performing venues. Credit card booking can be made on 2111 5999 or on the Internet at For ticketing enquiries, call 2734 9009. For programme enquiries, call 2734 2900 or visit

Ends/Thursday, August 19, 2010


A film still of "Rebecca" (1940).


A film still of "Strangers on a Train" (1951).


A film still of "North by Northwest" (1959).



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