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gabryant

Other directors in the mode of Hitchcock?

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By way of introducing my question, I have boiled Hitchcock down to two basic ingredients:

 

1. The much discussed Hitchcock "touch" - which means all of the characteristics we have looked at over the weeks that define the "touch."

2. Hitchcock was at heart always a commercial filmmaker. His films were routinely made to make a return on their production investment.

 

As I have gone through this course, I keep coming back to this question - were / are there other directors who made films in this mode?

 

For starters, in current day film-making, there are few if no filmmakers who fit both of these ingredients. There are directors who are routinely commercial, but have no particular "touch" (IMHO). There are probably directors who have a "touch," but whose films are not generally commercial.

 

There are potentially historical filmmakers whose work might include these two ingredients - that they had a "touch" of their own, regardless of the genre's that they worked in, and that they also made commercial films.

 

What are your opinions - were there directors like this, and if so, who were they?

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If you just mean directors with a touch who are also commercial in orientation, as opposed to using Hitch's touch. I'd say the following for working today:

 

Steven Spielberg

Christopher Nolan

Michael Bay (you can hate his movies, but they're very recognizable and aimed at making $$$)

maybe Paul Greengrass

James Cameron

possibly David Fincher (I say possibility because he's made a distinction between movies and films and varies his projects), to some degree Tarantino might fit into this as well, but I'd leave him out because of movies like Death Proof and Jackie Brown)

 

in terms of older generations, I'd throw out John Ford and Stanley Kubrick just immediately. Kubrick is a very challenging filmmaker, but I do think it's clear he was looking to make money at the box office, as evidenced by hw he reacted to BARRY LYNDON's failure. Granted, I don't think he was looking to maximize profits. I'd have to think a lot more for more names here, but many older filmmakers who we'd consider auteurs probably fall into that vein, depending on how you define commericial, because the movie studio system was so much more restricted then, so many filmmakers had to concern themselves with being commercial. If anything, I think Hitchcock himself began to push back as the studio system declined some by making a movie as challenging as FRENZY.

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If you just mean directors with a touch who are also commercial in orientation, as opposed to using Hitch's touch. I'd say the following for working today:

 

Yes, I meant their own personal touch, developed through years of filmmaking, as Hitchcock developed his own personal touch.

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Tarantino might fit into this as well, but I'd leave him out because of movies like Death Proof and Jackie Brown)

 

Yes, I would definitely leave Tarantino out, unless you consider plagiarism (as in everything in his movies he's borrowed from some other movie) a "touch." 

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Possibly the first director known for his touch was Ernst Lubitsch - the "Lubitsch Touch" was a Hollywood compliment to his way with romantic comedies like NINOTCHKA, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, and TO BE OR NOT TO BE'. The director Billy Wilder was a great admirer of Lubitsch and Wilder's wry style is on full display in such classics as SOME LIKE IT HOT. Frank Capra's celebrations of the common man and devotion to American ideals, as in classics like MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON earned his body of work the appellation of "Capra corn" by those hard bitten critics who pretended not to be affected by his stories. Preston Sturges had a golden period perhaps at it's finest in SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS(one of my choices for the pantheon of best ever movies.) As mentioned elsewhere, John Ford's prodigious output bore the stamp of his personality and featured  his repertory company of among others, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Maureen O'Hara and Victor McLaglen. But these mentions just scratch the surface of directors whose name in the opening credits portended expectations of what was coming as their movies unspooled on the big screen.

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Yes, I would definitely leave Tarantino out, unless you consider plagiarism (as in everything in his movies he's borrowed from some other movie) a "touch." 

 

I think Tarantino usually is free from those charges. Homage and plagiarism are a delicate balance, but I think he's usually done enough, but, regardless, certainly his movies are quite identifiable with trademark themes and looks. Scorsese also borrows heavily, but his films are clearly identifiable and usually have a touch. Scorsese's camera moves, for instance, I can almost always see as his. But I wouldn't say Scorsese is usually a commercial filmmaker, which is one thing that makes him different than Hitchcock. Scorsese also stresses character more than suspense and other POVs. How he shot the double chase/roof sequence in the Departed involving Martin Sheen's captain, for instance, is quite different from how Hitchcock probably would've tackled that scene. 

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Possibly the first director known for his touch was Ernst Lubitsch - the "Lubitsch Touch" was a Hollywood compliment to his way with romantic comedies like NINOTCHKA, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, and TO BE OR NOT TO BE'. The director Billy Wilder was a great admirer of Lubitsch and Wilder's wry style is on full display in such classics as SOME LIKE IT HOT. Frank Capra's celebrations of the common man and devotion to American ideals, as in classics like MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON earned his body of work the appellation of "Capra corn" by those hard bitten critics who pretended not to be affected by his stories. Preston Sturges had a golden period perhaps at it's finest in SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS(one of my choices for the pantheon of best ever movies.) As mentioned elsewhere, John Ford's prodigious output bore the stamp of his personality and featured  his repertory company of among others, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Maureen O'Hara and Victor McLaglen. But these mentions just scratch the surface of directors whose name in the opening credits portended expectations of what was coming as their movies unspooled on the big screen.

 

 

You hit on several that I was thinking of - definitely Preston Sturges, and I've seen enough of his films to see him working in a particular genre utilizing a consistent "style." I would guess Lubitsch as well, but I've only seen the three films you mentioned - so I don't have enough information to make any sort of pronouncement. Capra and Ford most definitely.

 

As I tried to think of more people, I kept coming back to novelists and composers. Stephen King as an author, also Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. Out of composers, I get Beethoven, Mozart, Aaron Copland, and a great many others, both historical and contemporary (well contemporary for my age - I know about zero about musicians currently working / performing).

 

But of course, these suggestions stray outside of filmmaking.

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Brian De Palma would fit the bill here, though many regard him as copying Hitchcock WAY too closely.  In fact, I would say that myself, though to be fair I have not seen anything by De Palma in quite a long time. 

 

As far as being commercial is concerned, De Palma maintained popularity for a considerably shorter period of time than Hitch.

 

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Joel and Ethan Coen, brothers, have a special flair in their movies

Actually, I like most of the choices mentioned so far

with the exception of James Cameron

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Fritz Lang--a darker version of Hitchcock.  Most notable films:

 

"Metropolis" (1926).

 

"M" (1931)--The police and Berlin's underworld unofficially team up to find a serial killer.

 

"Fury" (1936)--Lang's first American film, this is an indictment of lynch mob mentality.

 

"Ministry of Fear" (1944)--Very Hitchcockian, down to the MacGuffin.  Sugary ending hurts film somewhat.

 

"The Woman In The Window" (1944)--Tale of innocent involved in murder.  To say more would risk spoiling film.

 

"The Big Heat" (1953)--Classic noir with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.

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Brian De Palma would fit the bill here, though many regard him as copying Hitchcock WAY too closely.  In fact, I would say that myself, though to be fair I have not seen anything by De Palma in quite a long time. 

 

As far as being commercial is concerned, De Palma maintained popularity for a considerably shorter period of time than Hitch.

 

I always get irritated when DePalma's name comes up in relation to Hitchcock. (No offense to you.) Which was why I was bound to start a thread on it eventually. ;)

 

Early on, some critic (please don't let it be Roger Ebert) made the first comparisons of DePalma to Hitchcock.This was probably around the time of Sisters and Obsession. (I can't help but wonder that this sort of statement was advanced in party by DePalma using Bernard Herrmann for the music.) While I would agree that Obsession was "Hitchcockian," there all comparisons end. A lot of people fell in love with Dressed to Kill. Me I found it an ugly film full of extreme sexualized violence. Then DePalma descended permanently into hackdom with 1983's Scarface. Another film of extreme violence, endless language and racially stereotyped characters.

 

I think that I have seen one DePalma film in all of the intervening years, Mission to Mars. This film wasn't half bad, but I attribute that more to the screenwriters than to DePalma.

 

We had a couple of early comparisons and suddenly DePalma was the heir to the Hitchcock throne. But his subsequent "product" over the years proves much the opposite.

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Fritz Lang--a darker version of Hitchcock.  Most notable films:

 

"Metropolis" (1926)

 

"M" (1931)--The police and Berlin's underworld unofficially team up to find a serial killer.

 

"Fury" (1936)--Lang's first American film, this is an indictment of lynch mob mentality.

 

"Ministry of Fear" (1944)--Very Hitchcockian, down to the MacGuffin.  Sugary ending hurts film somewhat.

 

"The Woman In The Window" (1944)--Tale of innocent involved in murder.  To say more would risk spoiling film.

 

"The Big Heat" (1953)--Classic noir with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.

 

 

Lang fits very well. And I was surprised (as all first time viewers must be) by Woman in the Window.

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John Ford definitely seems underrated if we're talking auteurs. Or at least not as wildly recognized and discussed. Although I didn't mention his name because I was trying to go modern period, he definitely fits imo and I'm glad he's being recognized, here.

 

I always get irritated when DePalma's name comes up in relation to Hitchcock. (No offense to you.) Which was why I was bound to start a thread on it eventually. ;)

Early on, some critic (please don't let it be Roger Ebert) made the first comparisons of DePalma to Hitchcock.This was probably around the time of Sisters and Obsession. While I would agree that Obsession was "Hitchcockian," there all comparisons end. A lot of people fell in love with Dressed to Kill. Me I found it an ugly film full of extreme sexualized violence. Then DePalma descended permanently into hackdom with 1983's Scarface. Another film of extreme violence, endless language and racially stereotyped characters.

I think that I have seen one DePalma film in all of the intervening years, Mission to Mars. This film wasn't half bad, but I attribute that more to the screenwriters than to DePalma.

We had a couple of early comparisons and suddenly DePalma was the heir to the Hitchcock throne. But his subsequent "product" over the years proves much the opposite.

 

Sexualized violence? As opposed to Hitchcock's efforts in a movie like Frenzy? Or, arguably, Marnie and Psycho? You could debate it, but given how arguably more perverse and depraved Hitchcock's subjects and depictions became over his career arc, I think to some extent he's a natural heir, even if he pushed beyond what Hitchcock likely would've done.

 

I wouldn't say De Palma is nearly as great a director as Hitchcock. But he definitely has a voice and tried to be commercial (e.g. although a bomb Bonfire of the Vanites was clearly meant as a box office type movie, Mission Impossible, Scarface (commercial in aim), the Untouchables), and though inconsistent he has a number of strong movies. He also has continued to be  experimental with his approach, despite a long career.

 

If you haven't seen Blow Out (1981), I'd recommend it. That's probably one of his stronger directorial efforts for merging genres with themes and his own interests. Body Double is also quite interesting, though it's definitely seedy and it gets kind of off the rails by the end, but it's heavily Hitchcock, at least for a solid stretch.

 

i

 

Joel and Ethan Coen, brothers, have a special flair in their movies
Actually, I like most of the choices mentioned so far
with the exception of James Cameron

 

I don't think the Coen brothers are commercial at all the vast majority of the time in their choices. There's a lot of filmmakers you could put on, if that criteria. excluded. Otherwise, I'd agree practically all the names listed in this thread would count. I'll throw out Martin Scorsese as well, since I see he wasn't mentioned (again commercial is really debatable). Along with Michael Powell (PEEPING TOM is an interesting comparison to PSYCHO and some of Hitch's other peeping/voyeurism movies).

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Sexualized violence? As opposed to Hitchcock's efforts in a movie like Frenzy? Or, arguably, Marnie and Psycho? You could debate it, but given how arguably more perverse and depraved Hitchcock's subjects and depictions became over his career arc, I think to some extent he's a natural heir, even if he pushed beyond what Hitchcock likely would've done.

 

With the ugly bloody violence of Dressed to Kill (Violent sex in the shower, the razor slashings), or Body Double (with the huge drill), DePalma descends more into a prurient sort of violence porn. No class at all there, as Hitchcock always had.

 

And do I even need to mention the chainsaw in Scarface?

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With the ugly bloody violence of Dressed to Kill (Violent sex in the shower, the razor slashings), or Body Double (with the huge drill), DePalma descends more into a prurient sort of violence porn. No class at all there, as Hitchcock always had.

 

And do I even need to mention the chainsaw in Scarface?

 

Is that Hitchcock or is that the audience expectations/readiness of the time and censorship?

 

I think it's an open question considering how gungho Hitchcock went in FRENZY, which is well before the dawn of the major slasher era, and how Hitch was always pushing with expectations, censors, and subtlety. 

 

I don't see much "class" in the MARNIE rape scene, or those violent killings and rapes in FRENZY (especially the after the killing with the tongue out and the score beat to go with the cut). And if you want to tie Hitchcock's authorship with censorship choices, how about how all these women that get murdered and butchered have done such terrible things as having extramartial sex (e.g. Janet Leigh in PSYCHO, the women in THE LODGER, Guy's wife in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, etc). Hitchcock's prurient interest is out there in a lot of his movies, and arguably, gets only bolder and bolder as censorship norms weakened.

 

What exactly is "classy" about the shower sequence in PSYCHO? (I'll point out that the chainsaw in SCARFACE also takes place in the shower, and there are either none or very few frames of the chainsaw cutting up the body, as also goes for PSYCHO._

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Is that Hitchcock or is that the audience expectations/readiness of the time and censorship?

 

I think it's an open question considering how gungho Hitchcock went in FRENZY, which is well before the dawn of the major slasher era, and how Hitch was always pushing with expectations, censors, and subtlety. 

 

I don't see much "class" in the MARNIE rape scene, or those violent killings and rapes in FRENZY (especially the after the killing with the tongue out and the score beat to go with the cut). And if you want to tie Hitchcock's authorship with censorship choices, how about how all these women that get murdered and butchered have done such terrible things as having extramartial sex (e.g. Janet Leigh in PSYCHO, the women in THE LODGER, Guy's wife in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, etc). Hitchcock's prurient interest is out there in a lot of his movies, and arguably, gets only bolder and bolder as censorship norms weakened.

 

What exactly is "classy" about the shower sequence in PSYCHO? (I'll point out that the chainsaw in SCARFACE also takes place in the shower, and there are either none or very few frames of the chainsaw cutting up the body, as also goes for PSYCHO._

 

Maybe the word that I am looking for is "gratuitous." Defined: "uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted."

 

Applied to DePalma, of course. I don't think that I've ever found anything gratuitous in Hitchcock's films.

 

Also, please remember that "Frenzy" was one film where the end of the Production Code and the advent of the ratings system allowed Hitchcock do what he did. Even Psycho occurred as it did because of the loosening of the Production Code. Nowadays Psycho receives an "R" rating, but prior to being re-rated for a re-release was still shown uncut on TV.

 

Throughout the entirety of Hitchcock's career, the Production Code forced Hitchcock to be subtle in his depictions.

 

There's nothing and has never been anything subtle about DePalma.

 

 

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 please remember that "Frenzy" was one film where the end of the Production Code and the advent of the ratings system allowed Hitchcock do what he did.

 

 

With regards to the NON enforcement of the Code,  isn't it more accurate to say this  'allowed Hitchcock to do what he wanted to do',  instead of 'what he did'?

 

AND that if Production Code wasn't enforced when he made films in the 50s,  it is logical to speculate that we would see scenes like we see in Frenzy in those Hitchcock films?

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