The BFI’s huge Alfred Hitchcock retrospective clicks into gear in August, with a three-month survey of virtually everything every made by “the most influential and iconic British film director of all time.”
Born in Leytonstone in 1899, Hitchcock was barely older than cinema itself, yet became one of its most skilled and influential practitioners. The BFI season covers every surviving Hitchcock film, from his early silent efforts to the hugely successful Hollywood pictures he directed during the 1950s and 60s. Of particular note is the inclusion of the ‘Hitchcock 9‘, early silent works that have been painstakingly restored by the BFI over the past few years.
With over 50 films on offer, only the most dedicated cinephile is likely to see every one, so we have a few recommendations. Londoners who enjoy the sight of their home on the silver screen might want to check out early silent The Lodger (1926), Blackmail (1929) which has a fantastic climax filmed in the British Museum, while Frenzy (1972), is largely set around Covent Garden when it was still an operational fruit and veg market. If you haven’t seen the likes of Rebecca (1940), Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1958) or The Birds (1963) on the big screen (or at all, for shame) now’s your chance. Less well known works, like Torn Curtain (1966), Strangers On A Train (1951) and To Catch A Thief (1955) and Dial ‘M’ For Murder (1953) — the latter an early experiment in 3D, requiring twin projectors — are also worth a viewing.
Then there’s Vertigo (1956). Newly crowned the greatest film ever made in Sight & Sound’s decennial poll of cinema’s masterpieces (knocking the not-inconsiderable Citizen Kane from the top spot), the tale of Jimmy Stewart’s lovelorn detective and the woman who isn’t who she seems remains, 54 years after it was made, a mesmerising film, one that rewards repeat viewings.
In addition, the season encompasses a few special events and talks, highlights of which include an appearance by Tippi Hedren (star of both The Birds and Marnie), a deconstruction of some of Hitchcock’s most famous murders and a discussion about the role of women in the director’s work by Camille Paglia.
The Genius of Hitchcock runs from 1 August until October at BFI Southbank.