The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

“The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)



music IS cinema

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

I haven’t seen the original. Only loose bits of footage i found on the extras of this DVD.

I can only think of one reason why Hitchcock wanted to remake his own film, and that would be for the music. In the original, he didn’t have Herrmann to count on. With Herrmann, he knew he could made truly powerful scene out of the Albert Hall bits. And the scene indeed is powerful, and fully anchored on the music. You have the tension of knowing what is about to happen, or supposed to. You follow 4 lines. Doris Day, trying to avoid a crime, the potential murderer and what he is doing, James Stewart trying to get there, figuring the whole thing and most importantly, the music itself, which is actually literally filmed at some moment (the cymbal’s score, which the camera follows as the music develops). This fourth thread, of course, involves the other 3, marks the pace and itself becomes the narrative manipulator as everything happens to the sound of music. This is a very powerful concept which really is perfectly built here, and a coordinated effort of Hitch and Herrmann, one of their finest moments, and they had so many… Notice specially how the music conducts the actions of Stewart’s character even when he is no yet at the Albert Hall. How the editing helps, as we follow Stewart through the corridors, outside the concert room, and as he talks to people and tries to find his way to the murderer, we feel about him what the music allows us to feel. The whole sequence is a perfect piece of film/music adequation, and thus, a perfect piece of collective film-making. Worth watching on that alone. This is, i suppose, where Coppolla picked his powerful finale for the Godfather trilogy, though he made it even more (literally) theatrical. Well he was working with an Italian opera, of an even more artificial nature than other Italian operas.

Further more, we have another attempt at scene development through music. At the embassy, when Doris Day sings for her son to whistle, so his father can find him. We had this scene prepared from the very beginning, from the part of the film when suspense was only a promise. Probably, Day was chosen precisely because she was a singer, because she doesn’t belong to the type of actresses and physical presences that Hitchcock was electing in those days for his films. The “Que será será” bit is not half as powerful as the Albert Hall sequence, and it looses even more because it happens right after it. “Logically”, the Albert Hall could have ended the film, but i think Hitch was wanting us to live the aftermath of that sequence a little bit.

Anyway, The rest of the film builds competently the mood for the Albert Hall, if you are willing to avoid asking yourself to many questions about what doesn’t fit in the story. Except for the scene, this is just below average Hitchcock, to me. But watch it.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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