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July 11 - September 28, 2013

The Hitchcock 9

In the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the British Film Institute, Alfred Hitchcock's nine earliest surviving films have been newly restored to provide today's audiences with a crisp, fresh look at the foundational works of one of the world's greatest filmmakers. Most know Hitchcock the Hollywood director and TV personality, and some are even familiar with his pre-Hollywood British melodramas, but few realize that Hitchcock's career as a cinematic innovator stretches all the way back to the silent era. From his 1925 debut The Pleasure Garden until 1929's Blackmail (which was shot as both a silent and a sound feature, bridging two cinematic eras) Hitchcock's first nine efforts are clearly the work of a master artist announcing himself to the world.

The Hitchcock 9 – the restored silent film collection – is a joint venture of the BFI, Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal, and Park Circus/ITV.

Film notes by Max Goldberg

Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks
Friday July 12 at 7pm

The Lodger

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Ivor Novello, June, Marie Ault
UK 1926, 35mm, b/w, silent, 90 min

Anchored in the Expressionist technique Hitchcock absorbed during his apprenticeship at Berlin’s UFA Studio, The Lodger casts heartthrob Ivor Novello as an ominous boarder who may or may not be responsible for a string of ghastly murders. Perceptively evoking the public fascination with serial killers like Jack the Ripper, Hitchcock envisions the tabloid readers, radio listeners, and pub gossips finally cohering into a dangerous mob. The director’s yen for imaginative camera effects is richly apparent in his use of extreme angles, superimposition, and glass floors, though in the end it’s a simple close-up – a  simultaneously terrifying and seductive image of Novello drawing near for a kiss – that is most suggestive of Hitchcock’s complex designs on the audience’s emotions. For scholar William Rothman, “The Lodger is not an apprentice work but a thesis, definitively establishing Hitchcock’s identity as an artist.”

A Park Circus Films Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, Network Releasing, and Park Circus Films. Principal restoration funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation, and by Simon W. Hessel. Additional funding provided by British Board of Film Classification, Deluxe 124, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, and Ian and Beth Mill.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks
Saturday July 13 at 7pm

Blackmail

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Anny Ondra, Sara Allgood, John Longden
UK 1929, 35mm, b/w, silent, 75 min

Released to accommodate unconverted theaters, the silent Blackmail is leaner than the sound version and all the more disquieting for its subtle shifts in perspective. A documentary-style prologue establishes the rule of law in swift, precise strokes, but culpability ultimately proves elusive after a young woman grabs for a kitchen knife to defend herself from a darkly intimated rape. No sooner has the woman’s policeman boyfriend determined to cover up her crime than a supremely confident blackmailer materializes at the family shop. Hitchcock undercuts easy moral dualities at every turn, masterfully interspersing subjective and objective views for his first sustained exploration of the transference of guilt. A most Hitchcockian climax set at the British Museum was suggested to the director by a young Michael Powell, and the film was adapted from a play by Charles Bennett, the screenwriter who would go on to pen several of Hitchcock’s most characteristic Thirties' films.

A Rialto Pictures Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with STUDIOCANAL. Principal restoration funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142, Pia Getty, Col & Karen Needham, and the Dr. Mortimer & Theresa Sackler Foundation.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Stephen Horne
Monday July 15 at 7pm

The Ring

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davies,
Ian Hunter
UK 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 108 min

Ostensibly a conventional melodrama about two fighters vying for the same woman, The Ring’s experimental visual style reveals the full extent of Hitchcock’s audacity as a young auteur. The full-scale carnival set built specifically for the opening sequences furnishes an especially intricate verisimilitude, while the ambitious deployment of the Shüfftan process—a technique first developed for Metropolis to match actors to elaborate sets—allows the climactic Albert Hall bout to be staged from a dizzying array of views. Drunken parties and near knockouts push the visual style to delirious extremes, but Hitchcock never loses sight of his central graphic motif: the “ring” of the title is reinscribed in countless scenes and symbols, with each manifestation indicating potential fissures in the realist surface. Earmarked as a turning point in Hitchcock’s early career by Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, the French critics opined that “the dazzling ideas sown through this film could be endlessly enumerated.”

A Rialto Pictures Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with STUDIOCANAL. Principal restoration funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142 and The Mohamed S. Farsi Foundation.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Robert Humphreville
Saturday July 20 at 7pm

The Pleasure Garden

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Virginia Valli, Carmelita Geraghty, Miles Mander
Germany/UK 1926, 35mm, b/w, silent, 90 min

Hitchcock establishes the dynamic tension between viewer and viewed within the first few cuts of his directorial debut, as a leggy line of dancers descends a spiral staircase to take the stage for a crowd of monocled spectators. It’s the untried dancer from the provinces who proves ruthless in The Pleasure Garden, while the veteran who offers a helping hand suffers dwindling fortunes and a cruel husband. As their paralleled lives come unglued for a haunting eruption of violence in the tropics, Hitchcock explores the stylistic possibilities of the melodrama. The production was British, the actresses American, the sets German, the air of unfulfilled desire and moral transgression pure Hitchcock.

A Park Circus Films Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and Park Circus Films. Principal restoration funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation, and by Matt Spick. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Robert Humphreville
Monday July 22 at 7pm

The Farmer's Wife

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Lillian Hall-Davies, Jameson Thomas, Maud Gill
UK 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 107 min

“I don’t remember too much about The Farmer’s Wife,” Hitchcock told Truffaut, “but I know that filming that play stimulated my wish to express myself in purely cinematic terms.” Indeed, contrary to the chatty nature of Eden Phillpotts’ bucolic romantic comedy (in its time the longest running play on the London stage), Hitchcock channels his characters’ desires and regrets with telling glances and point-of-view shots. The story of a wizened widower looking for love in all the wrong places is played for laughs, though the protagonist’s repetition complex and easily wounded pride anticipate the masochistic streaks of James Stewart’s characters in Hitchcock’s later films. Comic actor Gordon Harker introduces a welcome note of cynicism as the cranky farmhand dubious of his master’s romantic turn.

A Rialto Pictures Release. Restoration by BFI National Archive in association with STUDIOCANAL. Principal restoration funding provided by Matt Spick, with additional funding provided by Deluxe 142.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Robert Humphreville
Thursday July 25 at 7pm

Easy Virtue

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Isabel Jeans, Franklin Dyall,
Eric Bransby Williams
UK 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 70 min

Adapted from a Noël Coward play concerning an innocent woman disgraced by divorce, Easy Virtue’s most exciting passages are those in which the young Hitchcock alights upon a visual technique to speed or otherwise angle the narration. A magistrate’s blurry vision offers a witty pun on justice being blind, flashbacks turn on the magnetic presence of ordinary objects, and a key scene plays out entirely through an eavesdropping telephone operator’s reactions (an early instance of the director’s inclination to mirror the spectator). As the marked woman struggles to keep up appearances with her new husband’s moneyed family, Hitchcock maintains a cool distance to elucidate the essential theatricality of polite society.

A Park Circus Films Release. Restoration by BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and Park Circus Films. Restoration funding provided by the American Friends of the BFI, The John S. Cohen Foundation, Deluxe 142, the Idlewild Trust, and numerous film societies across the U.K. that donated to the Hitchcock 9 campaign.

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Robert Humphreville
Saturday July 27 at 7pm

The Manxman

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Carl Brisson, Malcolm Keen,
Anny Ondra
UK 1929, 35mm, b/w, silent, 100 min

“For the first time,” Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol wrote of The Manxman, “Hitchcock penetrated a domain that has since become dear to him—vertigo.” The intractability of a love triangle and the agonizing claustrophobia of false appearances are the true subjects of Hitchcock’s final silent picture. The director told Truffaut that he felt constrained by the popularity of Sir Hall Caine’s source novel, but a distressing wedding ceremony and despairing suicide attempt are unmistakably Hitchcock’s own inventions. The dynamic location photography of the battered English coast owes to cinematographer Jack Cox, the brazen sensuality to Czech actress Anny Ondra.

A Rialto Pictures Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with STUDIOCANAL. Principal restoration funding provided by Daniel and Joanna Friel and Ronald T. Shedlo. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis
Thursday August 1 at 7pm

Champagne

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Betty Balfour, Gordon Harker, Ferdinand Von Alten
UK 1928, 35mm, b/w, silent, 105 min

A screwball comedy laced with despair, Champagne conjures a fair amount of Hitchcockian suspicion in spite of its frivolous characters. Comedienne Betty Balfour stars as a spoiled heiress used to being the life of the party. Her father’s ruin sends her looking for work at a cabaret, where she experiences a decidedly Germanic fall from grace. Hitchcock films the decadent hotel with deep focus and fluid long takes, lending a cool degree of realism to the otherwise titillating atmosphere. Standing on the periphery is a mysterious and menacing gentleman who surveys the bedlam through his glass of bubbly. Among the film’s other visual concoctions are superimposed hallucinations, a mugging filmed entirely from the waist down, and the first ever freeze-frame to be used in a film.

A Rialto Pictures Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with STUDIOCANAL. Principal restoration funding provided by The Eric Anker-Petersen Charity. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142

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Live Piano Accompaniment by Donald Sosin
Saturday August 3 at 7pm

Downhill

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With Ivor Novello, Ben Webster,
Robin Irvine
UK 1927, 35mm, b/w, silent, 105 min

After being cast against type in The Lodger, Ivor Novello appears rather more suave in Downhill—unsurprising, perhaps, as the film was adapted from a play the matinee idol co-wrote with Constance Collier. Hitchcock enlivens the melodramatic story of a schoolboy’s fall from grace with a whole raft of symbols and stylistic flourishes suggestive of sexual indiscretion. The film’s most cunning twists double back on the audience’s interpretation in such a way as to suggest the fundamental unreliability of appearances: an aggrieved waitress knowingly draws false conclusions from an earlier scene’s visual details, and a dolly shot tracks out to show Novello first as a debonair gentleman, then as a waiter, and finally as an actor playing a waiter on stage—camera movement as sleight of hand. From cuckold to gigolo, Novello’s world of lost illusions leads to utter delirium, a frisson of hallucination and reality that Hitchcock would find endlessly fascinating.

A Park Circus Films Release. Restoration by the BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and Park Circus Films. Principal restoration funding provided by Simon W. Hessel. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142 and The Headley Trust

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