Rebecca

Foreign Correspondent

After directing more than twenty feature films in Britain, Alfred Hitchcock’s big introduction to Hollywood came in the form of two films released only four months apart in 1940, both of which were nominated for that year’s Best Picture Academy Award. The gothic chamber drama Rebecca ended up taking home the Oscar, while the trans-continental wartime adventure Foreign Correspondent eventually became all but a footnote in the Hitchcock canon. While Rebecca is no doubt a complex, layered masterwork with its fair share of brilliant Hitchcockian touches (check out IndieWire’s excellent take on the film’s lesbian themes), critics and historians have contended that Rebecca was at least as much a David O. Selznick film as it was a Hitchcock entry. In fact, Hitch himself told Truffaut that he didn’t see Rebecca as a Hitchcock picture because of its lack of humor. But Foreign Correspondent (whose Criterion treatment was released this week) displays a more direct, linear relationship to what would come in Hitchcock’s subsequent career in Hollywood. If we view Foreign Correspondent as the master of suspense’s first American film “in a sense” (as James Naremore puts it in his Criterion essay), then Foreign Correspondent can be seen as mapping Hitchcock’s own trans-Atlantic trek, forming a bridge between his British intrigue and his Hollywood spectacle. And now is as good a time as any to resurrect Foreign Correspondent’s worthy status as a Hitchcock classic.

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joan fontaine rebecca

I was already in love with movies before someone showed me Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca at the tender age of nineteen, but something about it opened up a whole new world of cinema to me. You’d think it was the film’s acclaimed director or the mastery with which he brought Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic novel to the screen, but no, I can’t claim anything as respectable as that. Instead, it was the smiling woman pictured above who helped ease my way into black & white cinema. Joan Fontaine earned an Academy Award nomination, the first of three, for her performance as the second Mrs. de Winter, and she went on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her very next film, Hitchcock’s Suspicion. (She’s the only actor, male or female, to have ever won an Academy Award for one of his films.) I watched both in rapid succession before devouring several more of her films including Jane Eyre, Letter From an Unknown Woman, Ivy, and Kiss the Blood Off My Hands. More than simply her beauty and acting talent, I was enamored by the way she balanced timidness with a barely concealed inner wisdom and feistiness. The next several years saw me tracking down and checking off ever more obscure titles on her filmography until only a dozen or so remained. It wasn’t quite an obsession, but a friend did buy me a framed 8″ x 10″ b&w photo of the actress that I still have to this day. Joan Fontaine passed away […]

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Let us take this time to bemoan Hollywood’s love affair with unnecessary remakes. DreamWorks and Working Title Films are reportedly set on remaking Alfred Hitchcock‘s Academy Award-winning Rebecca because, oh, who the hell knows why? Hitchcock’s 1940 film garnered him his sole Best Picture Oscar and remains one of his finest and most beloved films. The original starred no less than Laurence Olivier as the rich Maxim de Winter, who marries the innocent Joan Fontaine, and takes her back to his mansion, where she slowly discovers the weird hold the deceased Mrs. de Winter (that’s Rebecca to you) has over the entire household. That’s just the very tip of the iceberg of Rebecca, which is twisty and twisted and smart and evocative and really a story about love. Which is why the guy who wrote Eastern Promises (and a pair of other internationally-tinged thrillers) is going to pen a new version for the screen. Of course.

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray may be coming to you a few days later than usual, but fear not, as it was worth the wait. Fox and MGM decided to drop a number of great films on me at the last minute, meaning long hours of pouring over special features, drinking heavily and ultimately turning myself into a late-1970s Woody Allen character by the end. It was all worth it, as you’re about to experience 2500 words or so of the most full edition of this column we’ve seen in a long time. Plenty of unsung heroes of 2011, classics of yesteryear and boxing robots to go around. Also, Rob Hunter stops by for some cross-column reviewing with Rebecca. 50/50 In a week that will see the release of a bevy of classics coming to Blu-ray for the very first time, it would be a crime to overlook one of 2011’s most heartfelt works, complete with some ranged performances from the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Bryce Dallas Howard. Jonathan Levine (The Wackness), working from a script by Will Reiser based on a true story, tells the tale of Adam, a 27-year old guy who gets diagnosed with spinal cancer. Dealing with his overbearing friends, his smothering mother and a relationship that hangs on the edge, Adam must find a way to not only beat cancer, but all the situational drama it’s caused between him and those he cares about most. It’s funny, touching and full of memorable performances. […]

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Criterion Files

Every week in October, Criterion Files will be bringing you a horror movie from the archives of classic cinema or the hallways of the arthouse. This week’s entry takes a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood debut, Rebecca (1940). While some would argue (and by “some” I mean Cole Abaius) that Hitchcock only made two films that could uncontestably be identified as horror – Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963) – Rebecca is an interesting point of inception for themes covered throughout the auteur’s American career and is a film that engages in literary forms of the horror genre. Especially when seen as a ghost story.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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