When viewing “North by Northwest” I enjoyed studying it for its elements of realism and formalism. Mixed among these two categories I also noticed some from “Classicism” or The Classic Hollywood model. Hitchcock has a multitude of techniques that cover all of the above in this film, but most I find to be very formal in nature. Immediately when the film opens I recognize the “Star Power” of Cary Grant. This is the major function of the Hollywood Model. The immediate knowledge that Cary Grant brings to the viewer before the opening credits are even done rolling: protagonist!
Hitchcock also draws to this knowledge by juxtaposing Grant in a much lighter colored suit than anyone else in the film. For me I see this as a deliberate distortion, which makes it formalistic. Under the style of formalism we see the generalizations: “polished, finished, complex, flamboyant, planned. ” I see much of this film lying in this area. Hitchcock films are all of the above plus some. In the opening scene the credits roll on an angled tilt alongside the building. It makes the film feel almost all of this in the first twenty seconds.
It literally feels polished as you watch the names roll down a bright shiny building. Although it is only the beginning you could even say, or at least I will venture to say, that you can get a sense of completeness (finished ness) from the opening. I could go on, but it would just waste space, point is the film is extremely formalistic from the get go. When juxtaposing this film’s opening alongside the “Bicycle Thief’s” (as realistic as aesthetically possible) opening you can clearly see my point. Staying within the “polished, finished…
” guideline I would like to focus on flamboyant. I find this work to be somewhat flamboyant. It’s not like Mexican fiesta flamboyant, but very subtlety flamboyant. Like the fact that Hitchcock always puts himself in his films, in this case getting on a bus in the beginning. I find that flamboyant, not to mention attention drawn to manipulation. Not through a camera angle, but simply the director (the guy behind the camera) is suddenly in front of the camera. Another scene I find flamboyant (especially do to the era in which he did it) was the use of the train as a phallic symbol.
Even more flamboyant than just the phallic train was the camera hoping from an apparent sexual encounter between Grant and the lead lady; to the two antagonist males a few cars over; then to the train entering the tunnel. My favorite shots of the film would have to be Hitchcock’s bird eye views. These shots took place during the U. N. sequence. Thus being another formalistic quality due to there expressionistic nature. Venturing towards what could be considered realistic about this film isn’t the easiest thing for me.
There aren’t any particular instances where I recall not noticing Hitchcock’s style, but also couldn’t say I noticed it the whole time. The crop duster scene I think is arguably a form of realism. It is very successful in bringing a nervous feeling over the viewer. As if the viewer feels the same inpatients that the character feels, and realism’s aim is just that. “North by Northwest” is very well rounded film that I’m sure is truly impossible to completely categorize. Through my eyes I see it as a very formalistic/Hollywood film. Without Grant it wouldn’t carry the Hollywood tag, but “Star Power” is a little hard to overlook.