Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Preview : The Genius of Hitchcock

With blockbuster exhibitions taking place at practically every major cultural institution in London throughout 2012, this morning saw the big guns come out at BFI Southbank as they launched their comprehensive Alfred Hitchcock retrospective, set to take place from June through to October.

With every existing feature due to be screened theatrically, the five months of upcoming events represents the biggest project the BFI have ever undertaken, kicking off at the end of June with the World Premiere of The Pleasure Garden (1926), the first in a series of Hitchcock’s newly restored silent films, all with specially commissioned scores and playing in venues across the capital synonymous with the director’s East London heritage.

Whilst tickets for The Pleasure Garden at Wilton’s Music Hall were quick to sell out, tickets remain available for the remaining silent events, the culmination of a 3 year BFI National Archive restoration project, Rescue the Hitchcock 9. The Centrepiece Gala will take place on July 6th in the forecourt of the British Museum, where Neil Brand’s new score for the terrific thriller Blackmail (1929) will screen in the same location its barnstorming final set-piece was originally shot, a first for the British Museum and an opportunity not to be missed.

Other events in the silent series include a screening of The Lodger : A Story of the London Fog (1926) with a score by Nitin Sawhney, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on July 21st as well a chance to catch the rarely seen Champagne (1928) at BFI Southbank on September 27th, complete with new commission by experimental electronic composer Mira Calix. Perhaps most intriguingly however, is the chance to see The Ring (1927) at Hackney Empire on July 13th with saxophone and hip-hop sensation Soweto Kinch on composition duty. I’ve seen Kinch live a few times now (not counting his impromptu performance at the launch this morning) and he’s a dazzling live artist, in charge of an event that could well prove a highlight of the season.

August sees the start of the retrospective proper at BFI Southbank, a season set to continue until the end of October that will include extended runs of The Lodger and his 1958 masterpiece Vertigo. Grouped in ‘steps’, it’s a thematic rather than chronological approach that ties in with new BFI publication, 39 Steps to The Genius of Hitchcock, a series of essays by critics, curators and historians that will also feature in part on a specially dedicated new section of the BFI website.

The season promises on-stage interviews with the likes of Tippi Hedren (The Birds, Marnie) and Bruce Dern (Family Plot, Marnie) as well as American cultural critic Camille Paglia, who’ll be discussing the recurring theme of beauty with Hitch’s films, whilst in the Mediatheque, new collection The Shaping of Alfred Hitchcock will serve up a selection of surviving material from before his directorial debut, including a portion of The White Shadow (1924), recently discovered in New Zealand. An exhibition in the Mezzanine (and also the title of one of the ‘steps’ in  the retrospective), Hitchcock’s Britain, will display production designs for the likes of The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent, as well as censors reports, rare publicity material and a host of photographs from the BFI archive.

More information can be found at www.bfi.org.uk/hitchcock, but with almost sixty features playing from June to October, it seems I’ve finally found a reason to be grateful for the Olympics.

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