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Arts and Entertainment

Film Series Preview: Hitchcock's Confessions

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Photo courtesy of rosa mosqueta via flickr

When considering the pioneers of fantastic film-making within the thriller genre, there is but one name that undoubtedly comes to mind first: Hitchcock. The name alone conjures up some of the most classic images of horrific suspense ever to hit the silver screen. From shadows on shower curtains to crazed black crows, he was a master in exploring the depths of psychological terror.

This week the American Cinematheque kicks off "Hitchcock's Confessions" and it all goes down at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. All screenings start at 7:30 p.m. and ticket prices range from $7.00 for Cinematheque members, to $10.00 for non-members.

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First up in the series is North by Northwest, screening on Thursday, January 22nd and starring the very debonair Cary Grant as manipulative executive, Roger Thornhill. It's a thrilling tale of mistaken identity as Roger runs from the unknown, away from the arms of his meddling mother Clara (Jesse Royce Landis) and toward those of mysterious mistress Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). North by Northwest is one of Cary Grant's better performances--if not the best--and is well worth seeing no matter how many times you may have seen it before.

The Man Who Knew Too Much and To Catch a Thief both screen on Friday, January 23rd. If you're short on time or unable to watch a double feature, The Man Who Knew Too Much is likely your better bet based on the talent alone. Starring everybody's favorite, James Stewart, as Dr. Ben McKenna, and the delightful Doris Day ("Any girl can look glamorous...just stand there and look stupid") as his wife, Jo, the story follows the couple as they track down their son who goes missing while on family vacation in Morocco. Music plays an important role in setting tone for the story and, in fact, the song "Que Sera, Sera" which Doris Day sings in the film, won an Oscar for Best Song (1956). To Catch a Thief pairs timeless beauty Grace Kelly with Cary Grant in an ironic tale of a French Riviera jewel thief turned jewel thief catcher.

Hitchcock's Rebeccaand Notoriousscreen on Saturday, January 24th. Rebecca is a chilling tale of the supernatural, set in a secluded, gothic mansion filled with secrets which a young bride (Joan Fontaine) and groom (Laurence Olivier) must face. Slightly more fast-paced and just as spine-tingling, is Notorious, in which United States government agents, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) and T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) uncover Nazi secrets hidden away in a wine cellar in Rio de Janeiro. Poison, uranium particles and passion abound in this romantically inclined thriller.

Sunday, January 25th promises to host one of the best double features of the series: Rear Window and Dial M For Murder. The first features Jimmy Stewart as a wheelchair-bound, voyeuristic photographer who takes his obsession with spying too far. Grace Kelly is effortlessly wonderful as his patient, model girlfriend who is sucked into the spy game along with him. Obsession begets regret and regret begets obsession as this roller coaster thriller builds to an impressive climax. Absolutely one of Hitchcock's finest! Dial M for Murder, starring Grace Kelly as Margot Wendice, follows the story of a love triangle between herself, her husband Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) and her secret lover Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Margot is wealthy and it seems her husband wants a piece of it. Rather than learning to live with her, he plots a way to live without her and attempts to complete the perfect murder. Unfortunately for Tony, things don't go smoothly in this twisted tale of love gone awry.

Of course, no Hitchcock review would be complete without mentioning two of his most iconic thrillers, Psycho and The Birds, both of which screen on Wednesday, January 28th. If you haven't heard of either of these films, we'd like to know what rock you've been hiding under. Needless to say, these are Hitchcock must-sees that set the standard and inspiration for thrillers in the generations that followed. Psycho tells the eerie story of mama's boy and motel keeper, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who stalks one of his hotel guests, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in an effort to retrieve her stolen stash of cash. The suspense never ends in this electrifying tale of mental disturbance that explores the psychological motivations behind murder. The Birds may not be told in the fastest fashion of all Hitchcock films, but it evokes one of the most basic elements of fear: that of the unknown. For no apparent reason, birds of all shapes and sizes suddenly begin preying upon the innocent inhabitants of a remote Northern California town. If you suffer from ornithophobia, you might want to sit this one out. However, movie maniacs can safely watch and get a good dose of cinematic inspiration. It's truly terrifying.

Interestingly enough, the series wraps up on Thursday, January 29th with two of Hitchcock's most underrated films: I Confess and Stage Fright. I Confess follows Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift) as he struggles with a confession that comes from the mouth of a murderer. His faith is put to the test when he becomes unavoidably involved in the trial surrounding the confession. Stage Fright seems like an odd choice to end the series with as it leans toward the melodramatic (not exactly meant as a compliment). Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) finds himself in trouble with the law after his mistress' husband is abruptly axed. Things get messy when he proclaims his innocence and shacks up with acquaintance Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) who takes matters into her own hands in defense of her friend. Oh, the shenanigans.

This is Hitchcock, people. You just can't go wrong! If you're not busy hiding under that aforementioned rock, you must come out and at bare minimum catch these: North By Northwest, Rear Window and The Birds. You will not be disappointed!

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