Why I wasn't interested in Hitchcock films until I turned 40: viewing films as entertainment

Palgrave Macmillan
Publication Type:
Entertainment Values How do we Assess Entertainment and Why does it Matter?, 2017, pp. 213 - 225
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This book is concerned with how we decide what is good entertainment. In this chapter I offer an answer to that question in aesthetic terms. The academic discipline of Film Studies has a developed over many decades a series of methods for studying films as art. But entertainment and art are different cultural forms with different aesthetic systems (McKee, 2012). As academics we know how to judge a film’s success or failure as a work of art: but how would we judge a film’s success or failure – its value - as a piece of entertainment? This question holds a particular place in my heart, and the example of Alfred Hitchcock helps to explain why. I somehow managed to miss Hitchcock’s films growing up. Born in 1970 I was too late to see his films in the cinema. I’m not sure how I managed to miss them on the television, but my first significant exposure to his work came when I went to the University of Glasgow to study Film and Television. In the course of these studies I was introduced to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, the artist. John Caughie was one of my lecturers, and we studied his germinal reader Theories of Authorship (Caughie, 1981b). This provided my introduction to the cinema d’auteurs and its theory of the value of cinema: Auteurism shares certain basic assumptions: notably, that a film, although produced collectively, is most likely to be valuable when the director dominates the proceedings; that in the presence of a director who is genuinely an artist, a film is more than likely to be the expression of his [sic] individual personality; and that this personality can be traced in a thematic and/or stylistic consistency over all (or almost all) the director’s films (Caughie, 1981a, p. 9)
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