Sight and Sound (1998) - Private View: Beauty and the Beasts: Camille Paglia on Nature and Civilisation in Hitchcock's "The Birds"
- article: Private View: Beauty and the Beasts: Camille Paglia on Nature and Civilisation in Hitchcock's "The Birds"
- author(s): Camille Paglia
- journal: Sight and Sound (01/Oct/1998)
- issue: volume 8, issue 10, page 65
- journal ISSN: 0037-4806
- publisher: British Film Institute
- keywords: Actors, Alfred Hitchcock, Camille Paglia, Feature films, Film (USA), Film directors, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Leslie Felperin, North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), Salvador Dalí, The Birds (1963), Thrillers, Tippi Hedren
Beauty and the beasts
Camille Paglia on nature and civilisation in Hitchcock's "The Birds"
I first saw The Birds when I was in high school, and it had a profound effect on me. Its view of nature fascinated me, and Tippi Hedren's performance impressed me. I was not old enough to have been influenced by Grace Kelly or Ingrid Bergman in Hitchcock's films, so I didn't come to The Birds with any preconceptions that made me feel Hedren hadn't met the standards of a slightly older generation of actresses. For me, Hedren is the ultimate Hitchcock heroine.
The Birds is respected for its technical achievements, which were cutting edge at that time, but there's always a backbiting about Hedren. So in my book on The Birds I wanted to show why her performance is wonderful and why the audience loves the film, and loves her. Critics don't like her because as Melanie Daniels she comes across as too fashionable, too chic, and there's an animosity towards chic, fashionable women among academic film critics. They believe fashion is a capitalist conspiracy by heterosexist imperialists, to keep women down and give them low self-esteem!
In my film criticism I take the position of the fan. I look at film from the point of view of appreciation. I believe it's the critic's function to open the work further to the audience, not to demean the work, to attack it, to find all the racism, sexism or homophobia in it.
I love the beauty and glamour of the great Hollywood studio era. So I'm perfectly positioned to appreciate the high-fashion style that Mel...
Camille Paglia was talking to Leslie Felperin. 'The Birds' is available on CIC Video; Camille Paglia's BFI Film Classic on 'The Birds' is available from all good bookshops