Double identities, psychopaths, suspense and people laughing in the face of death may all be found at the Centro Cultural Matucana 100 every Sunday during the Alfred Hitchcock cycle all year long.
The event will run for over a year and show a different film every Sunday, starting with the American director’s first critically successful film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927). The cycle proceeds through his great oeuvre, demonstrating the evolution of his films within different time periods.
Hitchcock may be one of the best candidates for a cycle such as this one, having directed more than 50 feature films from the 1920s to the late ‘70s. Not only was he a pioneer of many of the techniques used to create suspense, but he may be the only director who could make birds seem scary.
The films he made are the type of films that make a person's fists clench while screaming "Don't go upstairs by yourself!" at the television screen. This scenario is precisely what happens when watching the classic The Birds (1963), as heroin Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedren, spends a weekend unexpectedly evading thousands of birds that for some reason have a desire to attack and kill humans. Near the end of the film she hears the sound of fluttering wings somewhere in the boarded up house. Predictably, she goes upstairs by herself, flashlight in hand (the birds managed to disconnect the home´s electricity) to discover if any killer birds are lurking in the attic.
The same kind of suspense is also shown in Rear Window (1954), which may be one of Hitchcock's most famous films after Psycho of 1960, thanks to the murder in the shower. Here photographer L.B. Jefferies, played by James Stewart, is stuck in his house with a broken leg. He occupies his time by looking out of his rear window and spying on his neighbors. He begins to think that one of his neighbors, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), has murdered his bedridden wife, and Jeffries starts to obsess over discovering the truth with the help of his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter). With the same kind of tension employed in The Birds, Lisa sneaks into the neighbor’s house when he leaves to try to find evidence and Jeffries then can only watch helplessly as Thorwald returns to his home and slowly discovers Lisa.
The tension Hitchcock creates from the very beginning of a film is so strong that nothing could be happening in a scene and the viewer would still be on the edge of his seat. In a particular scene in North by Northwest, a bus drops off protagonist Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere--a flat, dusty countryside with only a small patch of corn and a little airplane "dusting crops where there ain't no crops."
By this point in the film, Thornhill has already been mistaken for someone else and consequently kidnapped, almost killed, framed for murder and deceived by a beautiful young woman named Eve Kendall (Eva Maire Saint), who is actually the villain’s lover.
Thornhill proceeds to wait for the person he was initially mistaken for and who can, therefore, supposedly help to remedy the situation. For an entire six minutes, nothing of importance happens. Cars pass and Thornhill looks at them expectantly. Then a little car appears from behind the corn crop and drives straight towards him. A farmer gets out of the car and stands across the street from him and they speak briefly and then the farmer gets on a bus. Despite a lack of anything happening, there is still no single opportunity for the viewer to not be completely gripped by the sequence because of all of the tension that was built up so masterfully.
There are two good reasons to attend this film cycle: Not only is it a rare opportunity to view such fine classics in a theater, but Grace Kelly may be one of the most aesthetically pleasing people to see on a big screen.