Hitch in time
Although he provided them with some of their greatest cinema roles, Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with women was at best confused, at worst lecturing on perversion. ‘I would like to take the mom beautiful actress in the world and make her walk on high heels through sand’, he once said. But he was not a mlsogynlst, rather a man whose painful disgust at his own body was compounded by the guilt associated with his strict Jansenist Catholic upbringing.
David Ruskin describes his play ‘The Love Song of Alfred J. Hitchcock’ as a ‘fllm for radio’. The title deliberately mimics T. s. Eliot’s poem (substitute Hitchcock for Prufrock) and Ruskin means it to be a tribute: ‘All my life as an artist I’ve been trying to diagnose and analyse what’s going on in those movies. This play Is a poetic and creative response and a way of saying thank-you to a guy who’s given me a lot of wonderful experiences in the cinema.’
Brilliantly played by Richard Griffiths, Hitchcock is caught in old age, looking back at the problems and obsessions of his er. At times his voice betrays a fetishistic desire which is so disturbing that it is almost unbearable to listen on. Dream-like fantasies of strangulation crop up in the script - which is all written as if it were a screen-play, with directions to camera, long-shots and flashbacks. This apparently prurient Hitchcock comes as a shock for people who associate the man with a bumbling
amiability. But Ruskin suggests that Hitchcock’s way of dealing with his
Hitchcock: ‘took revenge in his movies’ i
: dark obsessions was to translate them ‘
a into popular cinema. ‘He’s like the
' clown who really is weeping.’
' Hitchcock was rejected by several of 1 his leading ladies, but Tippi Hedren
3 was perhaps the woman for whom he ‘felt the most frustrated desire. ‘He saw her on an ad, and, like Pygmalion, he thought “this is the clay that I’m going to make an ideal creature out of”,’ says Ruskin. ‘He tortured her in a way, when they did The Birds, which was an appalling ordeal for an
i actress. He took revenge in his movies by lashing out at what attracted him. It wasn’t misogyny, it was just a reflection of his compulsion and his pain.’
When Hedren spurned his advances on the set of Marnie, says Ruskin, Hitchcock began his slow decline. ‘He was 65 and his days were slipping. That in a sense was the end of his life.’ (Miranda France)
The love Song of Alfred J. Hitchcock is broadcast on Radio 3, Sun 14 Mar, ' 7.30pm.
:— Fame, fatal
‘Fame is the first disgrace because God knows who you are.’ So wrote Heathcote Williams in The Local Stigmatic as a scene-setter for some pretty nasty violence. in the play two young thugs decide to beat up a star they spot in the pub just because he’s famous. Heading his own warning, Williams has retreated into near- hermetic solitude in Cornwall, shunning all publicity and only occasionally emerging with his latest work. liver the last few years Williams has
primarily been known as ‘the poet laureate of animal llberation’, weaving such epic works as Whale llatlon, Falling For A Dolphin and Autogeddon - all of which were ravineg acclaimed when read by the actor Roy Hutchins at the Edinburgh festival. Every Time I Cross The Tamar I Get Into Trouble, a Without Walls special for Channel 4, probes deeper into Wllllams’s past. We learn of his paintings and pamphlets, his anarchic estate agency for squatters, his acting (Prospero in llerek Jensen’s version of The Tempest, the loony psychiatrist In Wish You Were Here), his relationship with has supermodel Jean Shrimpton, and most importantly, Al Pacino’s obsession with his plays. indeed, so
Comwall’s R aissance man. fascinated was Pacino with The Local Stigmatic that in his mid-80s wilderness years he ploughed £1 million of his own money into making a film of this never-before-seen drama. ‘Today it’s a pretty hot theme,’
plot, ‘it had a kind of foreboding about it.’
Former comedian John llowie, bent on collecting all of Williams’s various works, presents the documentary and we follow his fan’s fervour as he traces the artist’s colourful and obscure life. He manages to coax Pacino and Harold Pinter, another Williams aficionado, in front of the cameras, before setting off to Cornwall, across the River Tamar, to winkle an appearance out of the man himself. Williams does finally appear, kind of . . . A truly bizarre, fascinating story. (Craig McLean)
Without Walls: Every Time I Cross The Tamar I Get into Trouble is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tue 16.
Pacino says of the play’s star-stalking
There‘s a point where sincerely held religious convictions tip over the edge into mania, as anyone watching the reports coming out of the suitably- named Waco, Texas will testify. David Koresh‘s troubled collection of megalomaniae delusions might be occupying the loonier fringes of the God game. but you can‘t say the same about the Catholic Church. Old John Paul has quite a number of subscribers signed up for Rome worldwide. and they ain't all singing in the choir and playing for Celtic.
Which made EXS: The Magdalens (BBCl) all the more disturbing. Andrea Miller and Sarah Barclay‘s low-key and affecting film (appropriately shown on international Women‘s Day) told the remarkable story of the Magdalen laundries, homes. or rather workouses, set up originally by Irish nuns. for ‘fallen‘ women or, JUSI as often, women perceived by the parish priest to be in danger'of falling.
Using the first-hand reminiscences of former Magdalen inmates, the film built up a bizarre picture of a kind of moral prison with the nuns as warders enforcing a daily routine of guilt and expiation over their charges, with the laundry work serving as a symbolic substitute for cleansing themselves of sin. Not that it was that easy. Aileen was placed in the Magdalen at the age of 16 because her mother had given birth to her out of wedlock and Aileen was perceived to be likely to repeat the sin. From an early age it was made clear that she had to behave herself or she‘d be in the Magdalen for life, atoning for her mother‘s waywardness. Sin, in Rome‘s books, lasts seven generations. This unwavering attitude of moral superiority and judgement allowed the Magdalens to exist. although as one nun pointed out, the local people colluded as a useful way of getting rid of awkward women.
If it all sounds archaic and Dickensian then it was. but the Magdalens continued to operate into the 70s. lorded over by the likes of the grim- looking ‘Superior General‘ Marcella O'Brien. Miller and Barclay allowed the story to tell itself for the most part. with occasional moments of bleak humour. Hugh McEntee‘s mother used to run an escape team to free girls from the Magdalens, and he told us in hushed tones of the terror of breakout nights, reminiscent of Escape From
Colditz. Another inmate described how the girls were refused any reading matter. ‘except on Sundays,’ she recalled. ‘when we‘d be allowed a years-old People 's Friend with the raunchy bits cut out.’
EXS's budget is probably equivalent to what the producers of A Year In Provence (BBCI) spent on John Thaw’s lunches. You have to feel sorry for poor old Alan Yentob, don't you? The new BBCl controller came into the job knowing he already had one disastroust poor. ridiculously expensive Euro~drama on the books, bleeding the budgets dry and picking up an audience figure as small as John Birt‘s tax return. Two episodes in. he must have realised that with A Year In
‘Surely Wicked Willie would have been a sounder bet? You could have filmed it all in Shepherds Bush, got that Tony Robinson cheap to play the perky phallus, and saved a fortune on all those hairy Frog character actors.’
Provence he's got a bootiful Bernard Matthews—sized turkey that‘s even worse than the doomed Eldorado.
Perhaps the first mistake was in the concept. If you really feel you have to film a Peter Mayle book, surely Wicked Willie would have been a sounder bet? You could have recorded it all in Shepherds Bush, got that Tony Robinson cheap to play the perky phallus, and saved a fortune on all those hairy Frog character actors.
As it is A Year In Provence is like Miles Kington‘s Franglais made into criminally expensive television. sharing his ability to be long-winded. repetitive and not in the slightest bit amusing. John Thaw as Peter Mayle comes across as an embarrassing, pompous and rather sad buffoon. so at least he‘s made some effort to get into character. Lindsay Duncan as his wife is a disaster. Reduced mostly to translating the locals for the benefit of her idiot spouse. she nevertheless contrives to overract absurdly, throwing in a whole batch of signiﬁcant glances. slack- jawed stares and sobbing fits. Come to think of it. having watched an hour of this bilge. I know how she feels. (Tom Lappin)
“ The List l2 —25 March 1993