Speaking of Hitchcock (3/10/2013)
Recently, the Becourt Theater held an Alfred Hitchcock fest, 24 films in 23 days from the Master of Suspense. Jude had seen a couple of favorites at home, but he’d never viewed any on the big screen. So, I had to take him. Our busy schedule allowed for “Vertigo,” “Spellbound, “ and “Family Plot.” Of course, “Vertigo,” is my favorite and what many regard as the best; though I feel the latter two flicks are a bit underrated. You have to love that Salvador Dali scene in “Spellbound” and as Bob Dylan once sang about Gregory Peck, “I’ll see him in anything, I’ll stand in line.”
Anyways, Jude has a collector’s mentality, when he’s in, he’s all in, and so we’ve carried it back to our weekly pizza party movie nights. Jude’s mother also took him to see “Rebecca.” I have a feeling that while he really enjoyed the novelty of seeing the movies in the theater, but that he also loved the experience because it was something he did with both parents, albeit separately. That’s pretty rare.
Hitchcock is the master, for many reasons, among them his powers of observation, the psychology, the negative space. The great artists always know what to leave out, when to step back. In music, it’s called dynamics; in prose writing, emphasis. In Hitchcock, there are brilliant sequences where “nothing” happens, simple events leading up to what the audience expects to be the pay-off. These events add up. Faces and expressions cut back and forth to the scene unfolding, while we, as onlookers, sharpen our powers of observation and become wholly, fully, drawn in.
When Jude and I went to see “Family Plot,” it was a school night, towards the end of the series, and I didn’t have time to scout for a free parking space down the block. So, I turned into the pay lot next to the theater and went over to the machine to key in my license plate, slide in my credit card, and get my parking pass. I read the directions like the nearsighted man I am, making sure I knew which side was up, when a smooth-talking street guy jumbled up to us.
“You don’t need to do that, man”
Before I could answer, he started punching buttons with his spindly arms.
“I got da code.”
“That’s okay,” I said, “I…
A piece of paper dropped in the slot. It looked legit. Before I could say another word, he disappeared down the street.
The puzzle didn’t fit, the parts were amiss. A cold wind blew my hair back and Jude bounced patiently from foot to foot. I told him to hang on while I slid my credit card in the slot and punched in my license plate. It cost me ten bucks. We ran back and put it on the dash and into the movie we went, just as the previews were beginning to roll.
The next day, Jude and I sat down to dinner and began talking mostly about whatever popped into his head, in between large mouthfuls of macaroni and cheese. Suddenly, he stopped. “You did the honest thing,” he said, smiling.
My wheels were spinning trying to recall events of the last hour, week, or month.
“Yesterday,” he said, “in the parking lot. You did the honest thing.”
I smiled back, and I was proud, but I didn’t think it was a big deal on my end. After all, I didn’t give Jude a lecture on why we shouldn’t game the system, rig parking machines, or escape supporting our local arthouse. I didn’t talk about strangers coming up to us on the street, when to trust and when to be skeptical. I was just in the moment, doing what seemed naturally. Obviously, Jude has keen powers of observation, and as he shifted from foot to foot, he was watching carefully, filing it all away for future use. It was a good reminder, as a parent. Someone – your child – is always watching and taking it in.
Desert for Jude is a fruit cup. As he scooped, we talked about “Family Plot,” which was also Hitchcock’s final film, laden with references to previous works. One of the many twists is, in the end, you’re not sure whether Blanche is a natural, calling on her telepathic powers, or if she is once more, relying on more worldly devices. And, that’s something I could relate to.