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Film Quarterly (2002) - English Hitchcock




Review of "English Hitchcock" - by Charles Barr

Hitchcock criticism, one of the largest mills in the industry, betrays many blind spots, prejudicial emphases, and wellsprings of misinformation, especially when it comes to assessing how and when Hitchcock became Hitchcock and where we should gravitate to when we study his career of more than 50 years and more than 50 films. Barr's foundational argument is that the elevation of Hitchcock's American films, championed by his most influential enthusiasts, such as the Cahiers du Cinéma critics, Peter Bogdanovich, and early Robin Wood, has been at the expense of his English films, which are often unjustifiably denigrated, neglected, or otherwise insufficiently appreciated. These latter qualities characterize not only approaches to early Hitchcock but approaches to British film history in general, an unfortunate predisposition that Barr and a new generation of scholars, including Pam Cook, Andrew Higson, Jeffrey Richards, and Sarah Street among many others, are energetically and successfully contesting in an ongoing series of books and articles. In the present book Barr returns muchneeded attention to each of Hitchcock's 23 English films, and not only brilliantly interprets and reevaluates them through a skillful combination of close reading, thematic and structural analysis, and contextual elucidation, but also convincingly demonstrates the many ways that Hitchcock's "English roots" are "a source of nourishment," rather than "a handicap that he had to struggle to overcome" (6).