In any large American bookstore, it is possible to purchase some volumes of the unique series SHAKESPEARE MADE EASY, edited by John Durband and published by Barron's: a "bilingual" edition of Shakespeare's plays, with the original archaic English on the left page and the translation into common contemporary English on the right page. The obscene satisfaction provided by reading these volumes resides in how what purports to be a mere translation into contemporary English turns out to be much more: as a rule, Durband tries to formulate directly, in everyday locution, (what he considers to be) the thought expressed in Shakespeare's metaphoric idiom - say, "To be or not to be, that is the question" becomes something like: "What's bothering me now is: Shall I kill myself or not?" And my idea is, of course, that the standard remakes of Hitchcock's films are precisely something like HITCHCOCK MADE EASY: although the narrative is the same, the "substance," the flair that accounts for Hitchcock's uniqueness evaporates. Here, however, one should avoid the jargon-laden talk on Hitchcock's unique touch, etc., and approach the difficult task of specifying what gives Hitchcock's films their unique flair.

Or - what if this uniqueness is a myth, the result of our (spectators) transference, elevation of Hitchcock into the Subject Supposed to Know. What I have in mind is the attitude of overinterpretation: everything in a Hitchcock film has to have a meaning, there are no contingencies, so that when something doesn't fit, it's not his fault, but ours - we didn't really get it. While watching Psycho for the 20th time, I noticed a strange detail during the final psychiatrist's explanation: Lilah (Vera Miles) listens to him enraptured and nods two times with a deep satisfaction, instead of being shaken by the final confirmation of her sister's meaningless death - was this a pure contingency, or did Hitchcock want to suggest a strange libidinal ambiguity and rivalry between the two sisters? Or the scene of Marion driving in the night on her escape from Phoenix: just before reaching the Bates motel, when she listens to the imagined voices of her boss and the millionaire who bought the house, furious at her deception, her expression is no longer angiushed - what we perceive is a strange manic smile of a deeply perverse satisfaction, an expression which uncannily resembles the very last shot of Norman-mother, just before it dissolves into the skull and then the car appearing out of the swamp. So, in a way, even before actually meeting him, Marion already becomes Norman: a further feature that confirms this point is that her expression emerges when she is listening to the voices in her head, exactly like Norman in his last shot… Or - the supreme example - the scene when Marion checks in at the Bates motel: while Norman has his back turned against her, inspecting the row of keys to the rooms, she furtively looks around to get an idea which city to put down as her residence, sees the words "Los Angeles" as part of a newspaper headline and writes them down. We have here two hesitations coinciding: while Marion hesitates as to which town to write (which lie to tell), Norman hesitates as to in which unit to put her (if it's 1, this means that he will be able to observe her secretly through the peephole). When, after some hesitation, she tells him "Los Angeles," Norman picks up and gives her the key of the number 1 unit. Is his hesitation a simple sign that he was considering her sexual attraction and then finally opted to pursue her, or is it that, at a more refined level, he detected in her hesitation that she is about to tell him a lie, and then countered her lie with an illegal act of his own, finding in her small crime the justification for his own? (Or is it rather that, upon hearing that she is from LA, he thinks that the girl from such a decadent town can be an easy pick?) Although Joseph Stefano, who wrote the scenario, claims1 the creators had in mind only the growing sexual attraction that Norman felt for Marion, there remains the shadow of a doubt that the coincidence of two hesitations cannot be purely contingent… This is called true love in theory. So, out of this true love, I claim that there IS a unique Hitchcockian dimension.


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