Shadow of a DoubtDir — Alfred Hitchcock
As per the announcement I made last week in CineTV discord server, I streamed Hitchcock's Shadow of a doubt on this Sunday. My intention was to watch a film in real time in a communal spirit and discuss on it. Alas, not many showed up. However, I kind of expected that. I used to hold such "watch parties" on Facebook and the results were similar, even though I had access to an enormous number of members.
Albeit, the timing could be a bit off too. If I hold another watch party in future, I'll have to research more on time zone and what time will suit for mose hive users.
Alright, rant is done. Let me now ramble on the film a bit.
Shadow of a doubt is not a minor Hitchcock, actually, it was hailed as a masterpiece immediately upon it's release. But it is lesser known to the modern audience. That is the reason I picked this one to stream.
Hitchcock reportedly said in numerous interviews that it was his favorite films of all the ones he made. He did deny the claim later on but there are more iterations where he confirms it. Why did the master of suspense like this film so much?
Shadow of a doubt starts with a dark room, a man lying on bed, brooding. His presence chills the air. The man introduces himself as "Uncle Charlie" and soon it becomes clear that he's on the run. Uncle Charlie or Charles Oakley runs to his sister's homestead, in Santa Rosa, California. Where his sister, his eldest niece, the young Chalie, named after her uncle, and the rest of the family are overjoyed to see estranged part of the family so many years later. However, young charlie starts to realize soon, her uncle is no longer the same person she used to know as a kid. And when a government agent, in order to elicit her help, suggests that her uncle might be a serial killer the whole nation is hunting desperately, her whole world is shaken. Doubts come creeping and make home in her mind. And the shadow they cast, is monstrous, humongous, not to be lifted.
The filmmaker's usual editing techniques are there. Hitchcockian suspense is dubiously present, underneath the family drama it builds itself upon. This is subtle, unlike many Hitchcock films. Perhaps that's the reason of his fondness.
The vicious psychological battle between uncle and young charlie is nerve wrecking, the crumbling of innocence, blind devotion soiled by cruel megalomania, self-righteous evil. This is the most enjoyable aspect of the film to me.
His portrayal of an american average family did not elude me. The gayish everyday work habits, jolly, happy dinner tables, small talks, exuberance of contentedness. I can't think when Hitchcock points at a perfectly average family with their perfectly average members, he's not being actually sarcastic. The remarks made by the two detectives disguised as survey agents, and the family agreeing to them seem like crude jokes.
Now, while Hitchcock himself liked it the most and it was regarded highly throughout history, it doesn't pop into my mind when I think 'Hitchcock' and 'profundity' at the same time. Rather it reveals itself to me as a recession after the genius of Rebecca. There are some minor hitchcocks in between, and I thought Saboteur, Foreign Correspondent were quite enjoyable.
Shadow of a doubt seemed lesser than hitchcocks greater works such as Vertigo, Birds, Rear Window etc because he seemed to be too focused on the conflict of will between the main two characters and ignored the actual crime and the realistic conflict it would incur. The detectives on the case are there to fuel merely the suspense we're already submerged in, but they don't bring any new dimension to it. For detectives, they lack perceptiveness and agility you'd expect to see in trained agents. Young Charlie's admiration for her uncle seem like infatuation and a bit sexual in nature, which should have been more like worshipping of an idol.
Also I couldn't appreciate passing around motives for murders as mere different perspectives. Deus Ex Machina or Divine Justice is a mockery after all. However this is something I don't hold against the film, my moral standpoints are mine only.
Uncle Charlie is played by the adept actor Joseph Cotten. He gives the character a deserving ominous aura. That was expected, this wasn't his first rodeo. His performance in Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons by the great Orson Welles were noteworthy.
You can read more of my film and literature related articles on my hive blog page.