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Hitchcock and Capra: A film festival of classic noir and comedy

World’s Best Classic Movie Festival at the Siri Fort Auditorium is a must for the fans of Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra and actor James Stewart.

art and culture Updated: May 27, 2017 17:14 IST
Aparna Alluri
Aparna Alluri
Hindustan times
Film festival,Siri Fort film festival,Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock

“You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down….I’ll give you the moon, Mary!” declares a young, dashing James Stewart on a deserted street in the film, It’s A Wonderful Life.

“I’ll take it. Then what?” asks an entranced Mary, played by Donna Reed.

“You can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve see, and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much?”

Few actors could have pulled off this sort of bumbling romance with such charm. There was an earnestness, an endearing sincerity about Stewart, that allowed him to single-handedly carry this Christmas classic by Frank Capra.

But he also had an edgy side - he could just as easily play the role of debonair gentleman, troubled detective, prying neighbour or unsuspecting yet brainy professor. A slice of Stewart’s versatility will be on display at a two-day film festival this weekend. He stars in three of the four films being screened.

James Stewart is known for his films such as The Philadelphia Story, It’s a Wonderful Life and Vertigo. (HT Photo )

That, says festival director Dinesh Singh, was “just a coincidence.” Singh is the founder of Navrasa Duende, a Delhi-based arts and entertainment company that is hosting the festival. “We wanted to choose films that can appeal to a wider audience cutting across age groups, movies that are timeless,” says Singh.

The result is an unusual mix: It’s A Wonderful Life and It Happened One Night, both films of legendary Italian-American director Frank Capra; and The Man Who Knew Too Much and Vertigo, thrillers from Alfred Hitchcock, the “master of suspense”.

Singh, who picked the films, says he chose Capra and Hitchcock because both started out making silent movies and then graduated to sound films. But that’s where the similarity between the two directors ends. While Capra made memorable screwball comedies, characterised by a humorous battle between the sexes, Hitchcock catapulted to fame for his intense, psychological dramas.

That’s also why, Singh says, he chose films by both directors for this festival. “They were very, very different in terms of their cinematic attitude,” he says. “That contrast could be interesting.”

The movies couldn’t be more different. It’s A Wonderful Life is a life-affirming tale that combines fantasy and philosophy - Stewart plays a gregarious, generous and selfless George Bailey always up against the town’s proverbial villain. It Happened One Night is a wildly successful romantic comedy from 1934 starring Clark Gable as a down-on his-luck reporter and Claudette Colbert as a pampered heiress eloping to marry. They meet on a bus in New York, setting off a romance that is reminiscent of several subsequent Hollywood films from Roman Holiday to 90s rom coms.

Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is a 1956 American suspense thriller film noir. (HT Photo)

In Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Stewart and his wife, Josephine, played by singer Doris Day, are on a holiday in Morocco when their son is kidnapped, embroiling them in an international mystery. On a side note: Day’s famous song, Que Sera Sera, is featured in this film. Vertigo, also by Hitchcock, is the darkest of the four films: a psychological thriller in which a tormented private detective (Stewart), suffering from vertigo, becomes obsessed with the woman he is asked to investigate.

What makes the contrast even more startling is Stewart himself. He was 38 years old when he played the jolly do-gooder in It’s A Wonderful Life, the last of his three films with Capra. Ten years later, in The Man Who Knew Too Much, you see him transform into the worldly, unyielding doctor determined to save his son. By Vertigo, his fourth and final film with Hitchcock, he is 50 and a man haunted by his past.

Vertigo, Singh says, is his personal favourite because it’s an experiment even by today’s standards. “I would call it a biopic” he says. “It reflects the shades of Hitchcock.”

What: World’s Best Classic Movie Festival

When: May 27-28, 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm

Where: Siri Fort Auditorium, Asian Games Village Complex, August Kranti Marg. Entry free.

RSVP: for an invite

Nearest metro station: Green Park

First Published: May 26, 2017 20:48 IST