The Films of Alfred Hitchcock

Posted by Jim on May 31st, 2017
May 31

For an overview of SAIL, see this post

The first SAIL Session was run as a pilot program. It went over two days in April 2017, with an optional half day before the two required days. Sign-ups were limited to members of the senior class. Based upon this session, future versions of SAIL may be modified. As this was a pilot program, there are a number of things that I would change if I ran this film series again. Instead of giving you a summary of how the event went, I will present this first SAIL Film Series post as an ideal situation, so it will include the optional half day and evening screenings.

Half Day
The Lodger (1927, 91 minutes)
The Lady Vanishes (1938, 97 minutes)
Evening Screening
Rebecca (1940, 130 minutes)

Day One
Notorious (1946, 101 minutes)
Rear Window (1954, 112 minutes)
Vertigo (1958, 128 minutes)
Evening Screening
Strangers on a Train (1951, 101 minutes)

Day Two
North By Northwest (1959, 136 minutes)
Psycho (1960, 106 minutes)
Evening Screening
The Birds (1963, 119 minutes)

This series will begin with an introduction to auteur theory and to some of the tropes common to Hitchcock’s films, specifically Robin Wood’s list of common plot elements from his book “Hitchcock’s Films Revisited”. Hopefully students will pay attention to these things while watching the films.

The first day will cover Hitchcock’s early films. We start with what Hitch considered his first real film, The Lodger. It was his first thriller and will represent his silent films period. This will be followed by one of his most popular films made in Britain, The Lady Vanishes. This film also represents one of his strongest female leads. The evening screening will allow all us to share Hitch’s first American film and one of his many du Maurier adaptations, Rebecca.

The first complete day offers a full schedule of films. Notorious will showcase his use of the MacGuffin and display how Hitch’s political films are really about the people involved, not the politics themselves. Rear Window gives students exposure to the films within a restricted settings (such as Lifeboat and Rope). I find this film the most effective example of this setting device, which is why I selected it. Lastly, we will screen what is arguably Hitchcock’s greatest film, Vertigo. We will examine the use of color and how the double is represented. The evening screening will allow us to share one of Hitchcock’s more famous plot devices, the murder exchange in Strangers on a Train.

The final day of screenings begins with Hitchcock’s longest film, North By Northwest. Again, we will examine the role of the MacGuffin in the plot. We will also look at how the gender roles in this film compare to Notorious, and how the outcomes differ when the victim is a man instead of a woman. The official screenings will conclude with the horror masterpiece Psycho. As this is Hitchcock’s most popular film, some students may have seen it before, but I feel it is important to include it in any overview of his work. The evening screening will be The Birds, another horror masterpiece, but one a little less accessible than Psycho. It is a film I would like to show during the daytime screenings, but I had to move it to the evening due to time constraints.

SAIL Film Series Overview

Posted by Jim on May 31st, 2017
May 31

The high school where I work has piloted a new alternative education series named SAIL, which is an acronym for Student Adventures In Learning. What appeals to me about this program is that non-educators are encouraged to lead sessions. That means a systems administrator like me can share my love of film in an educational setting without a teaching degree! [I’ll let the admins and union reps work out how people like me teaching students for a few days works with the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.]

My plan for the SAIL sessions is to share with students a thematic collection of films that we can watch together and then discuss, much like a book group would do with the printed word. Currently, SAIL takes place over two and a half days. I’ve created a ridiculous number of possible screening lists—many more than I could ever hope to actually put on. So, I’ve decided to share them here on my blog.

The opening half day is about three hours long, but in a few cases I’ve selected films that run a little longer than that. The two full days need to include a lunch break. The current HS schedule can be split between two three hour sessions, or one four hour block and one two hour block. I alternate between these two schedules depending on the lengths of the films I’ve chosen. Most series also include a selection of films to be screened in the evenings, allowing students optional additional exposure to some films I find important and/or relevant. It also allows me to greatly expand my number of selections.

I will begin posting these theoretical film schedules, along with any notes about the films I have and my reasoning behind the selections.