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The New Yorker (2014) - Movies: In a Frenzy




Film Forum's 2014 complete Alfred Hitchcock retrospective is discussed, with a focus on the 1972 film "Frenzy" and the 1958 film "Vertigo." If "Vertigo" is dream, then "Frenzy" is reality.


In a Frenzy

Hitchcock’s forgotten masterpiece, at Film Forum.

Film Forum’s complete Hitchcock Retrospective reaches a suitable climax on its last day (March 27) with a showing of “Frenzy,” the director’s fifty-second movie. Released in 1972, “Frenzy” has been partly forgotten, put into half-shadow by the extraordinary popularity of “Psycho” (1960) and the extraordinary renown of “Vertigo” (1958), a movie that, in a recent international poll of eight hundred and fifty writers, academics, distributors, programmers, and critics, displaced “Citizen Kane” as the greatest film ever made. With its sharp-edged shower and its dried-up corpse, “Psycho” is a loony pop-gothic horror movie, and I’ve never taken it very seriously. “Vertigo” is in a different league, and it prepares us for the very real—and quite different—virtues of “Frenzy.” At the heart of “Vertigo” is the perverse longing of a middle-aged San Francisco man, Scottie (James Stewart), for the face, hair, and body of a vague, plush beauty played by Kim Novak. When she dies, he re-creates her, altering the clothes and hair of a woman he meets to turn her into a simulacrum of the first. Part of what’s so fascinatingly perverse about the film is that Scottie has a beautiful and caring chum (Barbara Bel Geddes) who adores him, and whom he never regards with even a trace of sexual interest. The entire fable suggests that men, once they are no longer green, need some sort of obsession to get aroused—that male sexual passion by its very natur...

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