Sex: Film Noir: Hitchcock
The attraction to the French cinema’s coined phrase Film Noir is a mixture of sex, melancholy and alienation. The main character is an anti-hero, whose deeds are not easily categorized under the black and white labels of good and evil, but rather the more primal sense of a self-possessed morality that is beyond the dutiful moral recall of society: that is to say that the anti-hero is bound to do some disgusting things which the audience will not agree with such as have an affair, but in the end it is this anti-hero who saves the morally attune virgin, little girl, or wife that is completely whole.
North by Northwest is a movie about mistaken identity. In the plot the main character Thornhill played by Cary Grant is mistaken for a man named Kaplan, as well as mistaken for a man who kills Townsend in the restaurant scene in the film. Thus, the protagonist if forced to clear his name(s) and in order to do this he must masquerade as his mistaken identity as he travels around America trying to find his assailants, the government agents, and his love interest.
The film ends in a denouement of the protagonist clearing his name, getting the girl he loves and going on a honeymoon but not until he sees his would be killer shot by the police. Dial “M” for Murder is based off a stage play with the same title by playwright Frederick Knott and was made into a film by Hitchcock in 1953-1954. Since the movie was adapted from a play the scene selection is limited and in fact there are just three settings for the entire film: the Wendices’ living room in London, a restaurant, and a courtroom.
The attention to detail which Hitchcock allows for the main characters is amazing, he details the murder plot with his camera just as Windice plots the actual murder; thus, it feels as though the camera is an accomplice to the murder throughout the film since it is the revealing factor in transferring the objects of the crime to the audience.
These actions and objects are Wendice slowly saving up £1,000 in used and therefore untraceable notes in order to hire a contract killer, in Wendice’s blackmailing his wife for a love letter written to her by her ex-lover Mark Halliday, and even in the voyeuristic scene in which Wendice watches the couple’s good-bye dinner before Mark leaves for America.
In each of these scenes Hitchcock reveals to the audience these details of the murder and this is one of Hitchcock’s mis-en-scenes is the way in which he makes the audience feel just as voyeuristic as the would-be murderer; the camera is so close the characters, their actions and reactions, the plot, that each revelation is revealed to the audience via the camera as some secret.
The camera angles throughout the film, and especially the lighting Hitchcock uses all up to this voyeuristic and sexual feel in Dial “M” for Murder. Hitchcock uses the mother in Psycho for this revelation of character sexuality in that Bates dresses up as his mother, uses his mother, and her voice in a mis-in-scene in order to persuade characters in believing a lie instead of the truth; the truth being that he dresses up as his dead mother and kills women whom he could potentially have a relationship with, or whom he likes.
Thus, the sexuality in Hitchcock’s Psycho is a twisted character deferment in which sex is equivalent to death. It is with these elements that the movie audience can have that voyeuristic sense of discovery of the character’s intentions and plot development that Hitchcock creates and progresses the thriller movie genre.