Friday, April 13, 2012

Classic Movie: Frenzy

So I somehow have not watched any even slightly new movies in the last week, though I'm going to see two new releases this weekend. Which means this week's review will be about what I did watch, Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy.

To be honest with you, I only ended up getting the film from Netflix because I had forgot to reorganize my queue and it made it randomly to the top. I had added it years ago when we first studied it in a film class during my time in grad school. It was a film that came up three or four times, so I had actually seen several of the pivotal moments already.

Frenzy is famous for a very long tracking shot mid-way through the film, which is both technologically brilliant but also was very symbolic. I'm actually not going to tell you much about the scene, because I first saw it when I knew nothing about the film or the scene and I thought it was probably better that way. But suffice it to say that even in the full context of the film, that scene works.

I have a weird sort of relationship with Hitchcock, which probably comes as a surprise to any film students or film enthusiasts reading this. He's one of those directors that it's sacrilegious to speak against and that everyone seems to think is an infallible genius.

Sometimes, I agree with that stance. I grew up watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents on late night tv and I loved it. I love Psycho as much as everybody else and I think Rear Window is probably one of my favorite films of all time. I have a soft spot for The Birds even though I think it seems like the early equivalent of a SyFy Pictures monster movie of the week. For a movie about birds that randomly attack people for no reason, it's really well done.

But there are a few of his classics that I didn't enjoy, and I was a little worried that Frenzy would be one of them. It seems like the more filmmakers and film professors rave about a Hitchcock film, the less I actually enjoy it personally. Frenzy was definitely one that had been praised repeatedly.

Which is a lot of build up for me to explain that my personal reaction to the film was basically, "Huh, that wasn't bad." It was a very well done murder "mystery"/thriller. It's a "mystery" with quote marks because you know from very early in the film who the killer is and what's going on, which actually makes it that much better. It's a story about mistaken identity where an innocent man is being framed, and it works very well on that level.

The film shines the most with the characters, especially the supporting cast. There isn't a single forgettable person in the film, from the detective and his wife to the main suspect's boss (played by a personal favorite actor, Wilfred Mott). In fact the suspect, Richard Blaney, is probably the least interesting character in the film. It's much more fun to track the coincidences that start building a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him.

The film is a bit dated, unfortunately. I don't know that the average modern American would enjoy it. But if you enjoy classic movies at all, it's absolutely worth a rent.

I will warn that it contains a rape/murder scene that some people would find troubling. It's meant to make you uncomfortable, and it's intentionally disturbing. But not because it's overly graphic or stylized like similar scenes in modern films. I think it's possibly because it's not slick and stylized, it has a sense of realism that makes it very difficult to watch.