Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1943: Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock)
For a while, it was hard for critics to think of Hitchcock as an artist. He was the “Master of Suspense” and a wonderful entertainer, but it wasn’t clear that his movies aimed for anything higher or more profound than that. I’m not sure they always did but for some reason, in Hitchcock’s case, I have no problem with it.
What was it? Was it Hitchcock’s sense of humor? Was it the way he would keep us guessing, depriving us of knowing for sure how the story would turn out? Or was it simply the pure visceral thrills that he seemed to so easily provide? Really, I’m not sure of the exact answer. But whatever it was, at times Hitchcock could entertain in a way that would completely satisfy me, without ever seeming to directly address my more intellectual side.
Shadow of a Doubt is a perfect example of the above for me. It’s fun, entertaining from beginning to end, creepy and darkly humorous, but it never really forces me to question anything above and beyond the story. All right, maybe it’s just good moviemaking. The story is extremely well-written, perfectly cast (particularly regarding Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright), full of some fantastic set pieces and demonstrates Hitch’s understanding and mastery of suspense as well as any film he ever made.
It’s Hitchcock as I like him most. He’s distilled down to his role as master entertainer. And it would be years before the French New Wave guys let him in on a little secret: He might also be an artist.
What moviemakers can learn: As directors we can make the audience think, make them feel, make them happy, and make them sad. But let’s make sure we remember (as Hitch always did), that we should also entertain them.
Other contenders for 1943: As with other years, I still have some things to see. These include Jean Renoir’s This Land Is Mine, Raoul Walsh’s Northern Pursuit, Robert Bresson’s Les anges du péché, and Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw. From this year, I really like Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath and William Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident. I love Mark Robson’s The Seventh Victim and Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione. The latter, a pivotal neorealist film that I somehow missed until recently, seems like such an influence on the loook and sound of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. But my closest runner-up is Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. It takes its time and gives us an unusually well-rounded look at the life of one man. I’ve only seen it once, many years ago, but I remember it being human, epic, and very moving. But, alas, I gave the year to Hitch as this is one of his films that I’ve always loved the most.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.