Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Manxman (1929)

WHO: Alfred Hitchcock directed this.

WHAT: The last film Hitchcock made before Blackmail, which was both his last film to be released as a silent film and his first to be released (in an altered version, of course) as a talkie, The Manxman is perhaps the closest the director ever came to making a Frank Borzage-style melodrama along the lines of Lucky Star or The River (both of which were released the same year as Hitchcock's film- was there something in the air?) In fact the director told François Truffaut that it was "not a Hitchcock film", in that he considered it a faithful adaptation of a popular novel by Hall Caine, and not reliant on his own imagination as Blackmail, for instance, had been.

But a close watcher of the director's films would never mistake The Manxman for being someone else's. Not only does it feature three of his favorite actors to work with in this period as the components of its class-conscious love triangle (Carl Brisson from The Ring, Malcolm Keen from The Lodger, and the above-pictured Anny Ondra, who'd return in Blackmail), but the triangle itself echoes the appearance of this structural formulation in many of his earlier films like The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, Easy Virtue, The Ring, and Champagne. Triangular constructions recur in later Hitchcock films as well, from Dial 'M' For Murder to (albeit perversely) Vertigo.  For these reasons, as well as for Jack Cox's intense, expressionist-influenced photography of the Cornwall-masquerading-as-Mannin locations, this is a must-see for any fan of Hitchcock or of good silent-era storytelling.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley at 6:15.

WHY: It's a big Hitchcock week on Frisco Bay and beyond. Tonight's The Manxman screening wrap up a 9-film addendum to the PFA's Spring series devoted to the master of suspense, making a total of 35 of his films screened there in 2013. But that's not all. The Castro is also screening a 70mm print of Vertigo all weekend, for a total of shows, and is following it Wednesday and Thursday with three films by one of Hitchcock's most famous admirers, Brian De Palma, including his particularly Hitch-inspired Dressed To Kill in 35mm.

Meanwhile in Oakland, the Grand Lake has booted The World's End from its main house in favor of a week-long double bill of Casablanca and Hitchcock's Dial 'M' For Murder in digitally-recreated 3D. I have only seen the latter in dual-projector 35mm so I feel spoiled, but I'm definitely curious to see how the digital 3D version that has replaced the film version that has seemingly become unavailable (even to a 3D festival in Hollywood) in today's DCP-loving climate.

Finally, this weekend up in Bodega Bay (normally outside of my blogging reach but too notable not to pass without mention), Tippi Hedren will be signing autographs and appearing as guest of honor at a dinner and screening of The Birds at The Inn a the Tides. Public tours of normally-inaccessible locations and other events will be held in the Sonoma County town over the weekend as well, including appearances by Hedren's child co-star Veronica Cartwright (who later starred in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Alien among her adult roles).

HOW: The Manxman screens as a DCP. Since last writing about the recently-restored Hitchcock silent films, I've learned that all nine were available to screen on 35mm in Europe (and indeed did this summer in Bologna), but that the five made for the Gainsborough studio are being distributed in the US only digitally. As I recall from watching four of the five at the Castro in June, The Manxman was one of the somewhat less-objectionable digital transfers. It will screen accompanied by Judith Rosenberg at the piano.

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