Archive for the ‘blue plaque’ Tag

Hitchcock’s Leytonstone

On my East London wanderings today I ended up in Leytonstone where I’d been meaning to go on a Sunday morning Hitchcock guided walk for months but never made it and then Corona kicked in. As I was driving into the High Street where Hitch was born (at No. 517) I spotted a mural of him on a side street and that prompted a small Hitchcock pilgrimage.

I got my very first job in the industry by attending a talk about Hitchcock’s The Birds at uni given by playwright David Rudkin – I met his friend, producer Stephen Mellor, after the talk and managed to get a runner job out of him at his company AKA in Farringdon. Director Alastair Reid was also at the talk – he’d recently completed the debut episode of a new series called Inspector Morse.

The first place I found was the site of the police station where Hitchcock was locked in a cell for a few hours at the behest of his father, William. Here’s how Hitch told the story of this formative event to François Truffaut:

“I must have been about four or five years old when my father sent me to the Police Station with a note. The Chief of Police read it and locked me in a cell for five or ten minutes, saying, ‘This is what we do to naughty boys.’ … I haven’t the faintest idea why I was punished. As a matter of fact, my father used to call me his ‘little lamb without a spot,’ so I truly cannot imagine what I did …” 

The lifelong impact of the trauma was an unwavering suspicion and fear of the police and judicial authorities reflected in his movies.

site of the Harrow Road police station (616-618 High Road)

Here’s a model of what the cop shop looked like when Hitch was a lad, made by illustrator and model-maker Sebastian Harding

Next I went in search of Hitchcock’s birthplace above his father’s greengrocery and poultry shop W. Hitchcock at 517 High Street. In 1899 when Alfred was born it looked something like this

one of the Alfred Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone Station

It was demolished in the 60s and the site is now occupied by a petrol station. Let’s just call it short-sighted.

The plaque is on the wall just to the left of the skip
Presumably he hasn’t got an English Heritage Blue Plaque here because the twats knocked down the actual building

While he has no national plaque here one was put up in in 1999 on the centenary of his birth by English Heritage at 153 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW5 0TQ in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea near his adult home. (I suspect he would have preferred Leytonstone).

In the vicinity of his birthplace there were various nods to Leytonstone’s finest son. 

Birds embedded in the pavement (though they don’t look much like gulls – the 3rd one up looks like one of the notorious London parakeets)
More un-gull-like birds in a mural beside his birthplace
complete with ‘lead pipe’ fit for murder in the billiard room
pub on the High Street

When I got home from the outing I stumbled across Vertigo on Netflix and hit play. It brought back memories of my last Hitchcock pilgrimage which was in San Francisco in August 2015.

Where Madelaine (Kim Novak) jumps into San Francisco Bay in Vertigo
Vertigo: Madeleine jumps
Coit Tower – how Madeleine finds her way back to Scottie’s apartment
Paramount Studios in Hollywood – from the same 2015 Highway 1 revisited road trip

Vertigo trivia: The opening Paramount logo is in black and white while the rest of the film, including the closing Paramount logo, is in Technicolor.

The original press book (or “showmanship manual”) for the film
A long way from the greengrocery in Leytonstone
.
Hitch’s cameo in Vertigo

(Apparently this is my 1000th post on Simple Pleasures part 4 – in August 2012 Vertigo was named the best film of all time in the BFI’s once-a-decade The 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll making it more than worthy to be the subject of this 1000th post)

The Future of Cinema as envisioned by Martin Scorsese

This open letter to his daughter was published in the Italian press at the turn of the year by Martin Scorsese. Coming from someone so steeped in the cinematic tradition it is particularly striking, not least in the way it perceives hope in digital technology. To drive home this Janus-like ability to appreciate past and future with equanimity, yesterday Scorsese unveiled a blue plaque for Powell & Pressburger on Dorset House in London with Michael Powell’s widow and his own editor, Thelma Schoonmaker. I had a memorable encounter with Michael Powell in 1985 when I set up the Cambridge University Film Society – he had been brought back into prominence then by Scorsese and other champions like Ian Christie.

English Heritage blue plaque for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Dearest Francesca,

I’m writing this letter to you about the future. I’m looking at it through the lens of my world. Through the lens of cinema, which has been at the center of that world.

For the last few years, I’ve realized that the idea of cinema that I grew up with, that’s there in the movies I’ve been showing you since you were a child, and that was thriving when I started making pictures, is coming to a close. I’m not referring to the films that have already been made. I’m referring to the ones that are to come.

I don’t mean to be despairing. I’m not writing these words in a spirit of defeat. On the contrary, I think the future is bright.

We always knew that the movies were a business, and that the art of cinema was made possible because it aligned with business conditions. None of us who started in the 60s and 70s had any illusions on that front. We knew that we would have to work hard to protect what we loved. We also knew that we might have to go through some rough periods. And I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.

I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.

And I’m also moved by the artists who are continuing to get their pictures made all over the world, in France, in South Korea, in England, in Japan, in Africa. It’s getting harder all the time, but they’re getting the films done.

But I don’t think I’m being pessimistic when I say that the art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema – moving pictures conceived by individuals – appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.

So why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.

But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make – is something else. There are no shortcuts.

If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.

This isn’t just a matter of cinema. There are no shortcuts to anything. I’m not saying that everything has to be difficult. I’m saying that the voice that sparks you is your voice – that’s the inner light, as the Quakers put it.

That’s you. That’s the truth.

All my love,

Dad

For Adam - Michael Powell Nov.17.1985

For Adam – Michael Powell Nov.17.1985

{Scorsese’s letter reproduced courtesy of L’Espresso}

%d bloggers like this: