Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sir Alfred's Notorious Notations

It all began with one word; one simple word spoken softly to her baby boy; Alfred: BOO. Putting this into a certain perspective it makes perfect sense. The young startled child becomes the unchallenged “Master of Suspense” and the architect of many scares and thrills tempered with an arcane joy and sly humor. If you had only known; Mother Hitchcock; if you had only known.

The films; the films, the films…were Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest achievements. Many of his offerings being among the best ever…all worth seeing. This cinematic maestro directed and produced wonderfully entertaing and textbook examples of excellence. Dial “M” for Murder, Psycho, North by North West, Rear Window, Rebecca and on and on. His work dates back to the “Silent Era” and well into “The Talkies” "Vistavision" and "Technicolor." His influence is immeasurable and continues to this present day. His editing and visual story-telling skills are original and at best imitated and adapted by the many.  To a degree every director to follow him that includes any suspense or mystery pays tribute to Sir Alfred.

As edited into individual scenes many stand out as extravagant and compelling unto themselves. Including a few examples; the crop-dusting plane’s pursuit of Cary Grant in North by North West, the carnival carousel run amok  in Strangers on a Train and possible his “Hallmark” achievement the much admired and studied shower scene starring Janet Leigh in Psycho.

Growing up my generation had the pleasure of watching the original airings of the T.V. series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes were written by great story-tellers including the likes of Roald Dahl and Ray Bradbury. A high light of the show was Hitchcock walking his silhouette into his own line drawing caricature. This to the tune of Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette.” He had a brief interesting; abundantly clever intro and closing tailored for each broadcast that were often the best part of the black and white television shorts. After seven television seasons and eighty two feature film Hitchcock is truly the bench mark.     

Classic Promo for "The Birds"

Returning briefly to Alfred’s formative years; he was indeed blessed with two loving parents and I dare not leave out his father. He had his own unique contributions and places within the director’s psyche. Alfred Hitchcock related this story on occasion that goes something like this:  In response to some “minor” indiscretion young Alfred’s father hands him a folded note and instructed him to take it to the police station a few blocks from his home. Five year old Alfred dutifully walks to the station, enters and hands the desk officer the note. 

  The officer reads the note, shows no discernable emotional, pauses and then,  without words or ceremony takes Alfred into the back to an empty cell, places the child inside and closes the door with the finality and resonate cold, clanging thud that only an iron bared door can make. This followed with the disheartening turning of the key and the walking away of the officer again emotionless and wordless. After a brief period the officer returns to release Alfred sending him on his way, forever changed, forever fearful and full of an imaginative respect of the possibabality of future incarceration.                                                      

“The Birds” was the first Hitchcock film I was prividgled to see and it was showing at the local theater. The nation was talking about this amazing film so my friends and I had great anticipation as we walked to the theatre. This was the most recent “Hitchcock” release, the year was 1963. I was 10…just slightly younger than one of the film’s stars; Veronica Cartwright. This gave us a unique window into the happenings onscreen. We all were delightfully and sufficiently scared, thrilled, baffled and compelled to see it at least four more times during this initial release. They say the first love is the greatest and The Birds remains among my favored film treasures and memories.

Hitchcock Quotes

Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal.

Always make the audience suffer as much as possible

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.

Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.

Mystery is an intellectual process... But suspense is essentially an emotional process.

Give them pleasure - the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.

The silent pictures were the purest form of cinema

Fear isn't so difficult to understand. After all, weren't we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It's just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.

I have a feeling that inside you; somewhere, there's somebody nobody knows about, feelings, nobody knows

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Eyvind Earle a Fraternity of One

The extraordinary Eyvind Earle lived “The Artist’s Life” to its truest perfection and fulfillment. He was born to two creative nurturing parents. His mother a classical pianist and his father a painter that studied with some of the most respected artists of his time (most notably the champion Bouguereau.) It is not to say that Earle did not have set backs. As a child polio caused a life-long deformation of his mouth making it difficult for him to smile. But in spite of his affliction he became perhaps more focused and remained true to his calling in a most ambitious and dedicated way. In turn he would bring countless unconditional smiles to the many within the span of his creative journey through life.

He studied continually as he practiced his craft while traveling across country on his bicycle looking for subjects and inspiration. Earle also had the desire to make money from his work and was able to do so first with greeting cards and later to a far greater extent as a background painter for several Hollywood studios including United Artists and Disney. He was featured as the sole credited background artist for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (something no other artist of yet has achieved.) The Sleeping Beauty paintings distinctive look of detailed verticality was influenced largely from medieval paintings and tapestries. He also contributed to “Lady and the Tramp,” “The Legend of Paul Bunyan,” and others. Earle would go on to opening his own production company where he garnished a number of commercial clients; Chrysler, Kellogg, Marlboro and he even created one of Universal Studios most intriguing animated logos. 

Eyvind Earle was always able to attract attention as a commercial artist. He returned to greeting cards several times over both on his on and for hire. There are collections devoted exclusively to his greeting cards. It would be within the refinement of fine art that Earle would find his greatest achievements. He would eventually come to work exclusively as a fine artist. He had realized early on that he had the ability to sell his marvelous paintings. This he used to great advantage. As his clientele’s scope grew and the polished works of his imagination became that of a world class nature; he prospered. Earle became a man and artist of tremendous success. He was particularly admired in Japan and the Asian influence along with a personal aesthetic and sensibility were actually very Japanese. It is much evident in his late work. Earle and Hiroshige surrogate brothers in craft and spirit. 

The works of Eyvind Earl are among a select group of artists that lead the viewer to a deeper, richer view of the world, life and the self. There is clarity within his art that transcends the physical. When viewing and experiencing Earle’s work there is a true feeling of the elevation of the spirit, of the heart. There is the union of both vision and mind coming together in a way truly unique, a Zen most sublime.