The Man Who Knew Too Much (UK, 1934)

720506_100623152538_hitchcockDirected by: Alfred Hitchcock. My lifelong pursuit to work through the Hitchcock filmography is more of a haphazard hobby, when I see a movie here or there, I try to make a point of seeing it, for its own sake. I actually rented this one about three times without seeing it before I finally got around to taking a peek. Now that I saw it, I think I can safely say that my favourite Hitchcock is not pre-war Hitch, but postwar Hitch. I haven’t seen any late Hitch, but 50’s-60’s is some fantastic shit. Between this one and The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, I have to say that they’re all just…fine. Even with Peter Lorre, this is just…fine. It’s compelling enough, and the story is interesting and everything, but at its root it’s a pretty safe story. What I mean is that, what makes Hitchcock great is that his thrillers unseat your sense of safety in the world. In Dial M for Murder, or Shadow of Doubt, there’s a trauma, an intrusion into the safety of quotidian life, but mainstream rational life can never fully account for it, and even when evil is vanquished, everything can’t just be put right. This was his power—making small dreams on film that harness the terror of waking life, the terror that comes from the adult knowledge that something broken can’t simply be un-broken, it will always bear the mark of that disruption. And in this movie, the disruption resolves into a simple cops-n-robber shoot out, where the good guys get away and the bad guys are defeated. Leslie Banks as the titular “man” does nothing for me. From the beginning of the film, the ski resort, the unspooling yarn, the shot through the glass, all of that stuff is totally great, but maybe I’m just re-investing in it after being introduced to it through the Zizek film. Regardless, after that, the film kind of goes downhill (pun gladly accepted), and with only the grinning, dashing, mainstream 1930’s male hero Leslie Banks to guide us through, it’s a bit of a slog. Now, with the knowledge of that remake starring Jimmy Stewart, I’m fully interested again. What was missing was Stewart’s ability to convey the humble everyman whose entire world is melting around him, as he does so well in Vertigo and Rear Window. So that’s on the list too.

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