To begin with an obvious statement. It is impossible to narrow the achievements of Hitchcock to six moments, or even to six films. This is not intended to be a primer on the cinematic genius of the man, however here I am illustrating six moments of discovery, six moment of clarity when I realised just how remarkable a director he was.
They are presented chronologically, though this is not the order in which I found them. In making my way through his body of work themes would appear and reappear, a sense of humour as black as night ever present, tales of shifting identities and men thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and always delivered with precision and invention.
These are six moments which I found called to mind easily and which demonstrate occasions when I was caught unawares by the magic of the perfect cinematic device. Nerves were shredded, blood quickened, horizons expanded. Here are my six favourite Hitchcock moments.
Though The Lodger is often singled out as classic Hitchcock I’ve always prefered Blackmail. Not only is the central struggle one of guilt and redemption but this moment here, when a guilty young woman hears an opinionated account of a murder she believes she has committed, Hitchcock toys with sound design to tremendous effect. Fading the sounds as Hitchcock focuses on the face of the frightened young woman he allows the sound of the word KNIFE (the weapon of choice) to slice through the hazy dialogue. This is Hitchcock innovating, playing with new instruments at his hand. It remains an astonishing scene.
As an early bonus here is one of my favourite Hitch moments, not as iconic, but as one of the earliest examples of a sound test this is pure gold. We see a young (but not so innocent) Hitchcock on set doing a sound test with his lead actress.