Since film is fundamentally a visual medium, it is imperative that every shot in a film tells some sort of story. Whether encompassing the patient visual style of a Yasujiro Ozu picture or the cranked-up intensity of Martin Scorsese, a film’s visual language is an essential component of its durability and success. In this regard, the close-up remains one of the more effective and direct techniques in a director’s arsenal. There is nowhere to hide —the camera is the all-seeing eye and the close-up plunges the viewer right into the dark heart of cinema. By forcing us to focus solely on one person’s face, or one distinct image or prop, the director is drawing an emotional through-line between himself and the audience.
Alfred Hitchcock understood this concept better than few others. Even Hitch’s minor films feel like miracles of craftsmanship: they are immediate without being messy and to-the-point without being blunt. Like many great directors before and after him, he was also fond of the close-up as a way of putting his audiences right in his character’s headspace. A new supercut titled “Alfred Hitchcock’s Close Ups” looks at the Hitchcock canon across the spectrum, from “Rebecca” to “Frenzy” and everything in between, thus illuminating the madness behind the legendary director’s method and also how his fondness for the close-up served his very particular vision.
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There’s some choice selections in the video, including Kim Novak tossing her bundle of flowers one by one into the waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in “Vertigo,” the pair of cracked eyeglasses that illuminate the most gruesome scene in “Strangers on a Train,” and, of course the nightmarish prelude to the shower sequence in “Psycho.” What is apparent in all these clips is Hitch’s undeniable mastery of his craft: it’s there in the spot-on color schemes, the note-perfect composition, the tactile precision with which he staged some of the most harrowing and suspenseful scenes ever committed to celluloid. No element of his films are too small: every microscopic detail adds up. Hitch was a true-blue master of the close-up, and if you didn’t believe that before, have a look at the video below so you can see for yourself.