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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Paris embraces Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock is the summer's big draw in Paris
France is celebrating the genius of director Alfred Hitchcock, more than a century after his birth.

The summer's big draw at the Pompidou Centre in Paris is an exhibition which attempts to answer some of the mysteries about the director's inspirations and preoccupations.


Hitchcock is the artist best able to explain to us the transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries

Dominique Paini, exhibition organiser
Hitchcock And Art: Fatal Coincidences is a very French take on a very British director, placing the master of suspense within his intellectual and artistic context.

The exhibition's curators have assembled around 200 works of art - paintings, engravings, photographs - and juxtaposed them with stills and clips from Hitchcock's films to bring out the ideas that they believe inspired him - consciously or unconsciously.

"Hitchcock is the artist best able to explain to us the transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries," said the exhibition's co-organiser Dominique Paini.

"He teaches us to understand the voyage from symbolism to surrealism."

Roots

His roots are discovered in the imagery of the late-Victorian era that Hitchcock, born in 1899, would have grown up with - such as the romanticism of the pre-Raphaelites and the Gothic darkness of the man he described as his greatest influence, Edgar Allan Poe.

Illustrations of Poe's poems by Aubrey Beardsley prefigure Hitchcock's sense of the fantastic, while works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones explore the intimacy between beauty and death.

Pompidou Centre
The Pompidou has assembled 200 Hitchcock-related works
A painting of Ophelia, for example, is placed beside the scene of Kim Novak's drowning in Vertigo.

The exhibition suggests that it was the great British murder trials - like that of Dr Crippen - that drove home the domesticity of horror, while Hitchcock's fondness for the music-hall is a foretaste of some of his great climactic film scenes, such as the theatre in The 39 Steps, and the circus in Murder.

Surrealism

The disturbing, icy sexuality of Hitchcock's women is evoked by a still from North by Northwest of James Mason touching the nape of Eva Marie Saint's sleekly coiffed head - next to surrealist artist Domenico Gnoli's obsessive treatment of female hair, Red Curls.

Another surrealist, Salvador Dali, worked on the dream sequence in Spellbound - and in a section devoted to birds, paintings by Braque and Magritte expose their long-standing relation with irrational terror.

The exhibition is lightened by archive photographs of the master, as well as some droll home-shot film showing how his sense of the macabre was the obverse of an impish good humour.

French director Jean-Luc Godard, a huge admirer of Hitchcock, once described him as: "The greatest creator of forms in the 20th century - and it is forms that finally tell us what lies at the bottom of things."

And while Paris celebrates Hitchcock, Godard was recently celebrated at London's National Film Theatre.

See also:

22 Jul 98 | Entertainment
Psycho analysed
10 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Harry's Hitchcock tribute
17 Aug 99 | Hitchcock100
Read your favourite Hitchcock moments
14 Aug 99 | Hitchcock100
A chilling moment with Hitch
13 Aug 99 | Hitchcock100
Hitchcock's spooky centenary
09 Aug 99 | Hitchcock100
Hitchcock: A life in film
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