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American Cinematographer (1994) - North by Northwest




North by Northwest James Naremore, editor Rutgers University Press, 230 pps., paper $15, cloth, $40

One of Alfred Hitchcock's best-liked pictures, North by Northwest h a virtual apotheosis of the chase melodramas that make up a large part of his work. The movie is given a close examination in this monograph, which maintains the high quality of its predecessors in the Rutgers "Films in Print" series. At the book's core is a shot‑by‑shot continuity script prepared from the film, similar to a cutting continuity but more readable and enhanced by frames from the film. There is an intelligent introduction by editor Naremore, an interview with Hitchcock by Jean Domarehi and Jean Douehet, an interview with screenwriter Ernest Lehman, three contemporary reviews, three commentaries, cast and credits, a Hitchcock filmography and a bibliography.

The Hitchcock interview by Domarehi and Douehet is especially revealing. By carefully avoiding questions the director had already answered in earlier interviews, such as those by Truffaut, the interviewers actually offer some fresh insight into the master's thinking. The Lehman interview by John Brady provides a look at the picture as seen by the writer, a POV generally ignored in must film studies. The reviews are a mixed bag; two of them tell us more about the critics' minds than about the movie.

As for the comments: Robin Wood, who has written perceptibly about Hitchcock for years, sees North by Northwest as something more than a light entertainment; Marian Keane seeks hidden meanings; while. Slavoj Zizek finds that everything important in Hitchcock's collected works happens in threes, and that the pictures are loaded with pathological narcissism, oedipal journeys, anal father figures and other quirks that would have astonished the phobia‑plagued director.

Overall, this book is an interesting addition to the ever‑growing body of literature on the "Master of Suspense."