There can’t be many directors who get the opportunity to narrate the documentary about their career from beyond the grave, but Mark Cousins grants the shadowy, soft-faced auteur the privilege in My Name is Alfred Hitchcock. The film explores the recurring themes, styles, and icons of Hitchcock’s impressive filmography over the 6 decades of his career and is entirely narrated by the great man himself, or rather impressionist Alistair McGowan’s replication of the director’s rasping tones. The narration certainly takes a little getting used to, and for some it might verge too close to a comedy caricature, but there is an endearing quality to the voice, and its addresses to the audience at times makes it feel like Hitchcock is sitting in the dark cinema seat beside you.
Split into 6 chapters, each one entitled for a recurring theme in Hitchcock’s work, Cousins and Hitchcock as our narrator lead us through his impressive back catalogue in a series of film clips and live photographs. The documentary wastes little time on giving the audience any biography or personal context and instead focuses wholeheartedly on the craft of Hitchcock’s filmmaking. This might alienate viewers not already familiar with at least a healthy portion of Hitchcock’s work, but for fans—which Cousins clearly is—the loving attention given to each of the films is joyful. From the considered look at the symbolism of Notorious’s (1946) romance, to the exploration of Hitchcock’s iconic high crane and shadowplay shots, this is a documentary meticulously focused on the art of film. Even aficionados of Hitchcock’s work will find new gems to look out for on their next rewatch.
Sadly, the film’s weakness is in its pacing. The unbroken narration in ‘Hitchcock’s’ slow and dulcet tones is the sole voice in the film and apart from a handful of strangely placed interruptions from what we assume is Cousins himself, the film feels in need of a bit of variation by the third chapter. The motion photographs of Hitchcock that intersperse the chosen film clips are a nice nod to the director’s own use of still frames, but only exacerbate the slightly sedentary feeling and some of the modern videos used feel like stock footage. The handheld footage of Hitchcock’s London haunts feel refreshingly organic and offer a nice contrast to the dreamlike haze of the film clips themselves, but are perhaps too few and far between to work to their full effect.
A documentary for the lover of film detail and the Hitchcock fanatic, Cousins has made a film as meticulous as the ‘movies’ of its titular subject. The slower pace and narration gimmick won’t be to all tastes, but for anyone who has dreamed of getting a film theory lecture from Alfred Hitchcock himself, this is about as close as you can get.
Tilly Holt [she/her]
[Image Credit: Deadline.com]