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New York Times (18/Jun/1971) - Hitchcock Working on 52nd Film



Hitchcock Working on 52nd Film

He has been compared to Kafka, Dostoyevsky and Poe. "I am," says Alfred Hitchcock, "only a visual story teller."

The British-born, 71-year-old director is now in London after 20 years, preparing a suspense film, "Frenzy." His return to London, coupled with his unflagging reputation among British and French film critics, has evoked renewed interest in the director's career, style and views.

"Films are basically the same — they haven't changed as much as people say," Mr. Hitchcock observed in his suite at Claridge's. "Some of the films now are full of tricks for the sake of tricks. Some are full of cliches too — flowers in the foreground that are just a blur, things like that.

"Where cinema is concerned, I am a puritan. I believe in telling a story visually. I believe in using the medium for what it is, the medium of montage, of cutting. A lot of films are only photographs of people talking, merely extensions of the theater. To me, the visual is first and the oral is supplementary."

"Frenzy" is Mr. Hitchock's 52nd film, and he is working with Anthony Shaffer, author of "Sleuth," on the screen play.

The film, still uncast but scheduled to start shooting next month, is an adaptation of a 1967 novel, "Goodbye Picadilly, Farewell Leicester Square," by Arthur La Bern.

"The story is a series of multiple killings and the way the wrong man is picked up," said Mr. Hitchcock, director of such classics as "The 39 Steps," "The Lady Vanishes," "Lifeboat" and "Rebecca."

"What I look for in planning a film are the opportunities for suspense and involving an audience," he said, sipping a cup of coffee. "It's tremendously satisfying to be able to use cinema to achieve a mass emotion. This is what I attempt to do."

Mr. Hitchcock, whose last film made in London was "Stage Fright," speaks of current American films with only a hint of distaste. "'Love Story,' creates an old emotion," he said. "People like to have a good cry, not a bad one, and this poor girl-rich boy story is almost Victorian. It's not my genre of picture."

"'Easy Rider' is the story of two dope pushers who went in search of America," he said. "My only complaint is that they didn't go in search of America, they went in search of rednecks in the South. They chose the less attractive part of America."

"There are some directors I enjoy," Mr. Hitchcock observed. "I like some of the detail of Truffaut's autobiographical films. I like Bunuel, the Spaniard. He doesn't use the tricks, the flash forwards, the blurry flowers in the foreground."

'Don't Drip Sex'

The rotund director, whose appearances on his television series have made him a recognized celebrity, speaks casually of critics ("They don't bother me — they didn't like 'Psycho' 10 years ago and now they call it a classic"), actresses ("The women I've used, like Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint and Janet Leigh, are all vulnerable, and though attractive they don't drip sex. You discover sex in them") and Englishmen ("Our preoccupation with crime, especially murder, is concerned with the Englishman's aura of outward respectability. But underneath that immaculate exterior — that's quite another story. Heaven knows what pent-up emotions are panting to escape.")

Mr. Hitchcock said that his favorite film was the relatively little-known "The Trouble With Harry," made in 1956 witlh Shirley MacLaine and Edmund Gwenn. "It had a dry humor that I liked," he said. "It could have been a little too subtle. The humor wasn't broad enough."

The director, who was educated at a Jesuit seminary and at the University of London, recalled that his childhood dream was to become a criminal lawyer.

"What I wanted most of all was the opportunity to become a ham in court," he said with a laugh.