When it comes to cinema, there are a few names that are seemingly untouchable as the greatest filmmakers of all time. Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Andrei Tarkovsky, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock each make the unofficial list of iconic filmmakers, offering something particularly unique to the eclectic landscape of cinema. Though, if anyone can criticise these directors, it’s fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who has always believed Hitchcock had several particular downfalls.
Born at the very end of the 19th century, Alfred Hitchcock was a director stuck in the traditional sensibilities of cinema with a revolutionary ambition as to its future direction. Rising to prominence through the 1930s, it arguably wasn’t until the 1950s, where improved technologies meant the potential for a far more dynamic story when the director would reach his peak. Releasing Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Vertigo, Hitchcock had clearly hit form, ending the decade with one of his very greatest thrillers, North by Northwest.
Released in 1959, it was North by Northwest, however, that Quentin Tarantino is quoted as having the most considerable issue with, stating: “People discover North by Northwest at 22 and think it’s wonderful when actually it’s a very mediocre movie”.
Continuing, the director goes on to note that he in fact prefers the remakes of Hitchock’s classic, commenting, “I’ve always felt that Hitchcock’s acolytes took his cinematic and story ideas further. I love Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock movies. I love Richard Franklin’s and Curtis Hanson’s Hitchcock meditations. I prefer those to actual Hitchcock”.
Though this isn’t the first time Tarantino has gone after the legendary English director, commenting in a separate interview: “The 1950s held him down, Hitchcock couldn’t do what he, left to his own devices, would’ve wanted to do. By the time he could do it in the late ’60s and the early ’70s, he was a little too old”. Whether or not Tarantino’s comments are definitive (they’re not), there is certainly truth behind his opinion here. Alfred Hitchcock was a filmmaker with bold visions for his stories, often pushing the medium as far as it could possibly be pushed despite the restrictions of black and white celluloid and bulky, stiff cameras.
Such can be seen in Hitchcock’s experimental use of a tracking camera instead of montage in 1940s Rebecca, as well as the innumerable number of takes, including 180 breaks and jump-cuts, used in Psycho’s shower scene. Quentin Tarantino also notes, however, that “if he could’ve gone where he wanted to go in the early ’60s and through the ’50s, he would’ve been a different filmmaker.” Although this may be true for many classic directors eager to work with modern-day filmmaking tools, this is particularly relevant to the career of Alfred Hitchcock.
With such an innovative mind, who knows what the films of Alfred Hitchcock would have looked like if he had the freedom of contemporary filmmaking. Though often it is the restrictions put upon a filmmaker that allow them to be so creative, and for Alfred Hitchcock who made some of the greatest films of the early twentieth century, such limitations forced the filmmaker to ingeniously revolutionise.