How to Read a Film: Four lectures by Mark Schenker on classic films by Alfred Hitchcock

Mark Schenker discussing the historical context for the "Downton Abbey" series at a lecture in the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2014.

Mark Schenker discussing the historical context for the “Downton Abbey” series at a lecture in the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2014.

Mark Schenker, Dean of Academic Affairs in Yale College and frequent lecturer on film and literature topics at venues throughout Connecticut, presents four lectures on the films of Alfred Hitchcock on successive Sunday afternoons in January. The series starts on Sunday, Jan. 4, and concludes on Sunday, Jan. 25. Each lecture begins at 2 PM. The cost is $7 per lecture or $25 for the entire series.

Dean Schenker’s talks are both informative and fun, as attendees of his August lecture at Best Video on the historical context of the “Downton Abbey” TV series can attest.

Dean Schenker will discuss the four movies in chronological order of their release:

Sun., Jan. 4: “Notorious” (1946), with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in what is perhaps the director’s most fully realized love story.

Sun., Jan. 11: “Strangers on a Train” (1951), with Robert Walker as one of Hitchcock’s most impressive villains.

Sun., Jan. 18: “Rear Window” (1954), with James Stewart and Grace Kelly in a voyeuristic thriller.

Sun., Jan. 25: “North by Northwest” (1959), with Cary Grant as another of Hitchcock’s innocent men on the run in a movie that is a sophisticated blend of thriller, romance, and comedy.

The lectures will address aspects of the individual works, characteristics of Hitchcock’s art, and ways that participants can be better “readers” of film—more adept at what to look for and see in considering movies as work of art at no cost to their ability to entertain and enthrall us. Clips from each of the films will accompany the lectures.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

• Friday, Jan. 2. INDIE ROCK: THE SAWTELLES, HAPPY ENDING DUO (BEST VIDEO’S OWN HANK HOFFMAN & RICHARD BROWN)

• Sunday, Jan. 4. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NOTORIOUS”

• Wednesday, Jan. 7. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: CRISTINA HARRIS, PATRICK DALTON

• Thursday, Jan. 8. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Friday, Jan. 9. MUSIC FROM “TWIN PEAKS”: DR. CATERWAUL’S CADRE OF CLAIRVOYANT CLAPTRAPS

• Sunday, Jan. 11. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “STRANGERS ON A TRAIN”

• Wednesday, Jan. 14. JAZZ: JEFF FULLER & FRIENDS

• Thursday, Jan. 15. SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR: ROBERT MESSORE

• Friday, Jan. 16: INDIE ROCK: MERCY CHOIR

• Sunday, Jan. 18. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “REAR WINDOW”

• Wednesday, Jan. 21. SONGWRITERS’ CIRCLE: MARK MIRANDO, DICK NEAL, REX FOWLER

• Thursday, Jan. 22. ALT-COUNTRY: HEATHER FAY

• Sunday, Jan. 25. MARK SCHENKER: HOW TO READ A FILM—FOUR BY HITCHCOCK: “NORTH BY NORTHWEST”

• Friday., Jan. 30. JAZZ: URI SHAHAM

• Friday, Feb. 6. AVANT-GARDE: RIVENER, LIGHT UPON BLIGHT

• Friday, Mar. 6. JAZZ: NICK DiMARIA WiRED

• Friday, April 3. AVANT-GARDE: ZERO DOLLAR

• Friday, April 17. WPKN BENEFIT

• Friday, May 1. FILM FEST: “A DARK ROOM”

Hank’s recommendations 03/12/13

hank_paperHITCHCOCK — Murder is so much fun in Hitchcock!

The only suspense in this thoroughly delightful, well-written and acted, film is how the aging Hitchcock, fresh off his success in NORTH BY NORTHWEST in 1959, seeks to prove he still has what it takes to be, well, Hitchcock. The vehicle he chooses to confirm his continued worth and, in fact, be fresh and current and different, is adapted from a then-current gruesome horror novel about the serial killer Ed Gein. The bestseller is called PSYCHO, displaying graphic subject matter that cause both his agent and longtime studio to avert their eyes from supporting it, forcing the Hitchcocks to mortgage their beloved Hollywood home in order to finance the film themselves. Talk about a scarily suspenseful adventure!

This movie has all the elements that make, not a perfect “Hitchcock film,” but a perfect film about Hitchcock and the making of Psycho: the advisory phantom of Ed Gein himself, backstabbing studio politics, Hitchcock’s eccentrically brilliant directorial craft, the famous shower scene, his trademark Hitchcock TV show, his infatuation with his blonde leading ladies, his less than earnest battle with corpulence, and, above all, his longstanding marriage to Alma Revel who was his confidante, advisor, editor and supporter in every film—right through Psycho—since their early days making British silent films together. The question of whether Hitchcock’s might finally acknowledge her irreplaceable role is another fine element of suspense.

The two actors—Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren—are expectantly excellent, especially Hopkins. One would think no one could convincingly portray the unique, inimitable Hitchcock, but you soon forget you’re watching anyone but the famous director himself.

All the dry wit and acerbic perceptions, the sense of fun and surprise you associate with Hitchcock are in this well-written movie.

The last three lines are the perfect capstone:

“You know, Alma, I will never be able to find a Hitchcock blonde as beautiful as you.”

“I’ve waited thirty years to hear you say that.”

“And that, my dear, is why they call me…the Master of Suspense.”

THE FLAT — A 98 year old grandmother dies in Tel Aviv. Her daughter, in her 70s, and her own older children and grandchildren go to clean out the apartment.

Among the old German furniture and bric-a-brac are discovered a huge and surprising cache of letters, photo albums and mementos harkening back to a pre-war Berlin where the grandmother and her traffic judge husband led a privileged life. Among the aging relics is a prominent Nazi newspaper from the late 30s whose banner headline announces the couple’s trip abroad to Palestine in the company of a high Nazi official.

The mother claims she never knew anything about that. Her parents never talked about their past life nor did she ever ask any questions. She herself lives only for the here and now. Her own apartment in Tel Aviv is neat as a pin: no clutter, everything in its place, not a thing that’s reminiscent of the past.

But the son evinces surprise and curiosity. The video he happens to be recording of the apartment cleaning becomes the movie we are watching as he decides to pursue that curiosity. What he discovers as he travels across Israel and to Germany to uncover his grandparents’ hitherto unrevealed life defies belief, leading to personal confrontations that will dispel complacency, reveal hard truths and alter lives on both continents.

This profound and haunting family mystery raises unfathomable questions and goes to places you couldn’t expect. It will have its intended effect if you don’t first read the spoilers on the back of the DVD cover.