Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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Of all of Hitchcock's films, this is my least favorite. I like birds. The Cardinals are my favorite baseball team; the Crows and Magpies are my favorite Aussie Rules football teams. Why does he have to pick on birds? And why, especially, did he have to be such a petulant SOB with women?
Demonstrating Hitchcock's mastery at building suspense rather than delivering all-out thrills, The Birds has maybe not held up as well as some of the director's other works, in part to due to special effects limitations. Some shots are kept noticeably short and it's easy to see why. A lot of blatantly obvious green screening is used, and some shots of birds attacking are used multiple times. But what makes the film work is its use of identifiable characters and tangible threats. Birds are something that we see everyday and give little thought to, so its frightening to imagine what those creatures would do if they turned hostile, and how powerless we would be to fight them off. The film does drag in places, and much like the ending of Psycho, some conversations do go on for far too long. But Hitchcock knew what he was doing, and what he could use to scare the audience, going as far as to blare bird noises from a speaker following the UK premier. For me it didn't have the same impact or suspense as something like Psycho or Rear Window, but it still works well because of how effectively the threat is portrayed, and how well fleshed out the characters become. It might not be Hitch's best, but it's certainly one of his most iconic.
Filmed in Hitchcock's signature style of camerawork, and another build-up to the suspense, the Birds shows how villains can be made out of anything. A more violent movie from the early 60s, and with a good supporting performance from Suzanne Pleshette, the Birds fails horribly in one thing: making a good ending. It just ends; without logic, reason, or an explanation. But if you look past that, it is a chilling, suspenseful triumph that any Hitchcock fan will be hooting for.
The title pretty much says it all in this distinctly Hitchcockian mix of petty social gamesmanship and an abrupt, all-encompassing existential threat. That being the killer birds, obviously, which dive in from nowhere to ruthlessly head-hunt the poor denizens of a sleepy marine village in northern California.
It sounds like an odd mix, but it in practice... well, okay, it is an odd mix. The film's sudden about-face, from a slow moving game of flirty pranks to a breakneck avian assault, is disruptive and awkward, its pace a whiplashed tug-of-war between monotonous waits and unannounced bursts of frenzy. I like the metaphorical idea behind it, a pontification on natural catastrophes and how quickly they lead polite society to break down, but didn't enjoy much of the experience itself.
In many ways, it's a precursor to the glut of disaster movies that flooded cinemas in the following decade: one central menace, easy enough to boil down to a single word, which sends everybody scurrying in a desperate, improvised bid for survival. The effects are glaringly bad, too, bad enough to, more than once, completely pull me out of the moment with a snicker or a snort. The last big scare scene, however, is all sound and tension, and works so much better for its restraint and subtlety, putting the more garish, visceral preceding shots to shame by leaning on a few wild-eyed close-ups. I can see what Hitchcock was shooting for, but I don't think he got there.
Hitchcock spends quite a while introducing us to the characters and making us care for them, while at the same time, meticulously revealing the horror about to rear its ugly head. That is what makes Hitchcock such a legend, he knows how to scare us. With excellent film-making and great performances all around, The Birds is a horror masterpiece that is surprisingly still terrifying.
A Haunting Fairytale.
Fairytales, even those for kids, are seldom serene and innocent. Think of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, full of mysterious and haunting characters imbued with evil.
The Birds, released three years after Psycho, a gap relatively long for Hitchcock but explained also by the technical challenges of the production, contains all the trademarks typical of both his cinema style and the fairytales.
The blond and beautiful leading lady, much stronger and determined than the appearances suggest, the light initial tone, almost a comedy with the witty bickering of the main characters, the unmissable Hitch's cameo, the long and winding coastal road, the ingenious quotes of his previous movies, here The 39 steps and To Catch a Thief amongst others, are intertwined with the inexplicable evil and the helplessness of the darkest fairytales' personas.
But The Birds, loosely based on a short story published in 1952 by Daphne du Maurier, an author that the English master had already used as a source for Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, is also deeply experimental and has a philosophical sophistication unrivalled by any of Hitchcock's movies.
Since the opening credits, evoking the optical expressionist illusions of Escher's birds, the film is imbued with a haunting introspection that is ultimately only enhanced by the lively beginning of the movie, when Mitch, an anonymous Rod Taylor, meets and squabbles with Melanie, Tippi Hedren on her cinema debut.
The director's choice of giving up a musical soundtrack, with the only music briefly played by Melanie on the piano and the nursery rhyme sang by the school children, skipping the end credits and a real, defined ending, the sophisticated special effects engineered for the birds' attacks, that all in all have well survived time and digitalisation, the dilution of time and pace challenging and almost mocking the viewer, like in the emblematic scene of the crows perched on the jungle gym, the unpredictable and random behaviour of the birds, the roles' reverse, with the humans forced by attacks and fear to look for protection into the cages, either houses, cars, bars, phone boots, coinciding with the mental cages built by the terror generated by the distortion of the natural order that everybody is used to and expects, make The Birds an overwhelming complex movie to watch and understand, difficult to define, in between horrors and thrillers and that in fact was not very much appreciated by both the critics and the public when released.
Only recently the first Hitchcock movie produced and distributed by Universal has been heralded as one of his bests and most likely his last masterpiece, as well as a trailblazer on the analyses of the sickness and inner demons of the human psyche.
The Birds is a movie that leaves a long-lasting impression in the discerning viewer, notwithstanding the mediocrity of the actors, with the exceptions on an intense Jessica Tandy as Mitch's mother and a convincing Suzanne Pleshette as Annie, the sacrificial lamb of both Mitch and the birds.
Regrettably, the few films Alfred Hitchcock directed after The Birds, however well-crafted and a pleasure to watch, will not add anything to the film body of one of the most important filmmakers of the XX Century.
A perfect showcase of the effectiveness of building tension and haunting atmosphere, an also shows unlikely but iconic horror figures.
I do not really have much to say about the birds. the ending was not the best. Im not going to give away any spoilers but I think that when you have wathed it you can agree that they could have added some tiny improvements
Slow moving, but once it kicks in it's terrifying. Thematic brilliance.
The visual effects of the birds are really fantastic and innovative for that decade