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Close Up (1930) - Advance Monologue




"The talkies," Alfred Hitchcock said to me, "have given most of us a past about which we need to be ashamed. Why, we used to bore a hole in an actor's head and superimpose tiny images representing his thoughts ! Sound has done away with such clumsiness. I am thinking of a sequence from Enter Sir John. A murder has been committed. There is a shot of the curious outside the villa in which the body was found; a picture with a Fleet Street look. Then, a cut to the notice-board in the greenroom of the local theatre ; attention being focussed on the fact that an understudy is playing. After that, a glimpse of the curtain rising : immediately followed by a close up of the grille opening into the cell of the condemned actress. The camera holds her face, but the voices in the theatre talk about the understudy. The woman's eyes just respond to the comments and her thoughts are pretty plain. Such touches, of course, can only be added to a good story; those who lose the significance of the finer points being satisfied with the drama alone."

"Potemkin," he continued with a twinkle in his eye, "is the only Russian film I have seen. Personally, I place a good deal of trust in my feeling for musical formulas. Blackmail, AS I PLANNED IT, began with the arrest of the felon and ended with the arrest of the girl. Two unknown detectives, in the very last shot, were to be shown talking about the girls they were going to take out to Lyons. Coda. Also, according to the disciples of the happy end, uncommercial."

"And then this quick cutting. Each cut means a new set up. Supposing I have the simple notion of following my characters with the camera on a trolley. It means taking away the ceiling (of the kind of sets I principally used in Enter Sir John) and putting down a new floor. Time is money, as you know, or, rather, as the supervisors know. Again, naturalism ! My audiences would go crazy looking at the kind of wall-paper the Russians would put in the rooms of my last film."

"I have tried to make worthwhile compromises with Enter Sir John, The plot hinges on vocal tricks exploited by the actor hero ; the voice of conscience is materialised ; and the villain is exposed by being given a play to read."

"And it was amusing," Alfred finished, "to direct the German and English artistes. For example, the English hardly like to come into the room where a murder has been committed, and the Germans are most curious about it."

It would be amusing to have all the ideas of a Hitchcock, but it would, at the same time, be something of a strain to see that they were properly carried out.

O. B.