Monday, January 17, 2011

Recalling Rossellini on movement and emotion i

It's mathematical:
change a rhythm, 
immediately you have
an emotion.

It follows ineluctably: change content without movement, and you have non sequitur, a species of shock. With this simple technique, a fine and "soldiering" performance by Judith Anderson was intensified in Rebecca (1938), manipulating audiences toward greater empathy with the heroine and discernibly closer to each other in their seats. This motion picture, cited in one's profile as a favourite, adopted Rossellini's law before it was even drafted.

Mrs Danvers was almost never seen walking and was rarely shown in mo-tion. If she entered a room in which the heroine was, what happened is that the girl suddenly heard a sound and there was the ever-present Mrs Danvers, standing per-fectly still by her side. To have shown Mrs Danvers walking would have been to humanize her. 

Hitchcock tells us this in a finer study of his films than we have the right to expect, in which several days of the director's inter-views with François Truffaut in 1962 were transcribed, published and subsequently revised. The cruelest director of women, interviewed by one of their very best. Truffaut proves himself to be a master of analytical interrogation, with Hitchcock only too glad to confess. 

It was one's pleasure to study their works simultaneously and repeatedly, in 16mm reels shipped to one's college eating club by two clubmates majoring in French. We would screen them in the library on weekends, party or no party. Everybody I knew, admired Hitchcock without reservation. But we loved François Truffaut. If static Danny Danvers stands extremely well for the manipula-tions of Alfred Hitchcock, then Truffaut's directing of himself, directing "Julie's" folding of her hands on a balcony, reveals layers in manipulation which few have ever touched.

Alfred Hitchcock, director
Selznick Studio, 1940©
United Artists

François Truffaut
  Helen G. Scott, translation
Éditions Ramsay [and]
Simon & Schuster, 1983©

François Truffaut, director, co-writer, producer
Day For Night [and]
La nuit américaine
Les Filmes du Carrosse, 1973©

François Truffaut
  Sam Flores, translation
Day for Night
  The Complete Script of the Film 
Grove Press, 1975©


  1. Mrs. Danvers haunts my dreams.

    I'd've loved to be in this club you speak of.

  2. Oh, but I thought you were, D-H - at least for the Lubitsch flicks!

  3. The very interesting thing about Rebecca is that we are never told the new Mrs. De-Winter's christian name!

  4. I certainly agree, Dink; it's part of why I've been so deferential to yours. This tactic - as all things are, with Hitchcock - is an important increment of her subjugation throughout the picture, to one character of inhumane behaviour or another - even in the condescensions of Crawley and her sister-in-law. Jasper comes around, but then he's better bred than the lot of them. :)

  5. Besides, does anyone understand being "well-bred" these days and what it entails. as you say Jasper was more well bred than any of them in more ways than just the canine angle.