“Just carve them up like regular chickens…”

Dialogue from ERASERHEAD, complimentary image from FRENZY. Does this make you feel festive, much? What an old Grinch I have become. Still, I did watch FRENZY this week with an amenable bunch of my students, thus welcoming the younger generation in to Hitchcock Year at the eleventh hour. So that’s something to look forward to on Wednesday.

Nabokov said, or I think Martin Amis said he did, that it’s impossible to read books, only to re-read them. Without the overall view that you get from finishing the text the first time, you can’t absorb most of what the author has placed before you. And Verlyn Klinkenborg, quoted by the Self-Styled Siren,  make the opposite point: it’s impossible to re-read books, because when you re-experience a book you’re a different person from the last time you looked. As Heraclitus says, you can’t jump in the same river twice.

All of which wild quotation and quotation of quotation leads me to the fact that seeing FRENZY again was a very different experience, and I have  a perhaps more tolerant or forgiving attitude to the movie, maybe based on the looong journey I’ve been on with Hitch this year. So that’s something I look forward to sharing with you.

While on the subject of Hitch, I must pause to mourn the passing of Robin Wood, one of the first English-language critics to give serious consideration to the Master as an artist, and while on that melancholy subject, a tip of the Shadowplay hat to Jennifer Jones and Dan O’Bannon, who have likewise departed this mortal coil for parts unknown.

17 Responses to ““Just carve them up like regular chickens…””

  1. david wingrove Says:

    My earliest memory of any Hitchcock film is watching the ‘gourmet dinner’ scene in FRENZY with a group of friends…and going “EW-W-W! YE-U-UCH” in chorus every time the henpecked policeman’s ghastly wife put another indigestible morsel on his plate.

    OK, we were kids in the suburbs in Canada, so a grilled cheese sandwich was about as gourmet as we got in those days, but even so…YEU-CH-CH!”

  2. david wingrove Says:

    Oh my God…I’ve just read the last paragraph! Jennifer Jones is dead?! I’m truly devastated. What a phenomenal actress she was. Not sure she could even ‘act’ at all in the technical sense – but everything she did on screen was truly mesmerising, and she could break your heart with one lift of an eyebrow.

    You really do start to wonder who is left. Joan? Olivia? (And they still weren’t speaking, when last I heard.) At least Luise Rainer looks all set to celebrate her 100th birthday. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  3. They’re still not speaking. I think that’s what’s keeping them alive — fear that the death of one will give the other The Last Word.

    Robin Wood was an occasionally interesting critic, and a real piece of work as an individual.

    I know it’s “impolite” to speak ill of the dead, but there are so few pleasures in life as it is.

  4. Once chatted, decades back, with a Canadian who was deeply saddened that their “top critic” (Wood) had no time for their “top director” (Cronenberg). It seemed a funny thing to be bothered about. Wood said he found Cronenberg’s films “joyless,” which I guess is fair enough, and Cronenberg replied that it struck him as odd to judge a film by the amount of joy it either contains or inspires. I’d agree — it’s one criterion, but hardly the only one possible.

    Cluny Brown remains my favourite Jones film, although at this time of year Portrait of Jennie extends a beckoning finger. And I have a copy of Angel Angel Down We Go if I’m feeling brave.

  5. Their top director is Michael Snow.

  6. A nice audio-visual in memory of Jenniifer Jones:

    And Robin Wood gone too. I was very fond of his Hitchcock book.

  7. His Hawks book is likewise very fine.

  8. Robin Wood said in one of his essays as a critic that he disliked nationalist approaches to cinema. Being British didn’t mean he liked England especially and when he shifted to Canada he didn’t feel it necessary to have an opinion on Canadian cinema just because he lived there. Many people would disagree though I must say that I can sympathize with that since I have so very little time for what passes for cinema in India these days and feel very little need to have an opinion on them just because I live here. I have always liked the essays I have read of his even if I don’t necessarily agree with him always. Still any man who says, “I am going to be provocative, if you don’t like Marnie you don’t like Hitchcock…I’ll go further, if you don’t love Marnie, you don’t love cinema!” is a friend of mine and will be missed.

    I’ve written on Self-Styled Siren’s page about my feelings for La Jones’ work, her relationship with David O. Selznick. All I can say is I really want to see Cluny Brown which I haven’t done so yet.

  9. Christopher Says:

    “Where I come from nobody knows.
    Where I’m going everything goes..RIP jenny jones..shes gone back..

  10. Great stills, Christopher. Arthur, I ought to send you a copy of Cluny Brown as soon as possible!

  11. As Popeye the Sailor-Man would say, “Axe me another!”

  12. By the way, the new banner is probably the best in Shadowplay’s history.

  13. Thanks! But is it two profiles or a really badly made vase?

  14. Well the profiles are assymetrical in the first place…so I doubt it was intended as a vase of any kind. More like two shadowpuppets.

    The Futura sans-serif font is also part of what makes it great.

  15. Robin Woods final top ten:

    I’m guessing he meant Make Way for Tomorrow over The Ruggles of Red Gap, judging by his top ten for Criterion a while back;

    David, have you seen Ruggles?

  16. Yes, but not for ages. Wanted to see it again after reading Edward Dmytryk on the edit (in a nice book called On Film Editing), cutting to protect Laughton’s performance and remove anything too over-the-top.

    Make Way For Tomorrow is the one I absolutely must get around to watching. Along with Good Sam.

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