If I said Christopher Nolan was robbed of a nomination this year, many would agree. ”Inception” was outrageously gorgeous, relentlessly entertaining, and intelligently romantic. It did not reinvent the wheel, it was not mind blowing. I believe it was not meant to be that. It was meant to be dazzling! That’s why I was amazed that the nod was given to Nolan’s screenwriting and not his insane visual direction.
This oversight is Nolan’s great misdirection. The movie was billed, reviewed and buzzed as a mind-bending, game-changing bramblefuck of a topsy-turvy. The blowback it received from some people complained that it wasn’t this. I never saw it as a ‘through the looking glass’ moment. Wait, it was, but not for what everybody thought. What it was was a breath of fresh air for Hollywood films. It was not the future. It was a throwback to the days when escapism did not mean “this is stupid,” and action did not mean “here’s a bunch of shit, catch!” Emotional, MacGuffin-using, time-clock-racing, effects aiding the story, don’t know how they did that visuals, twists, not forgetting to take a breath, and unforgettably grand scores.
Kinda like Hitchcock used to do. Hmm. Another guy who never got an Oscar.
I adore Nolan’s work, but I don’t think he’s a contemporary Hitchcock. What he does have is a lot of Hitchcock’s more taken for granted characteristics.
For start, the visual accumen it takes to tell a story as rich and grand as this without a lick of voice-over (he’s learned a lot since “Memento”) is a feat indeed. The simple tick-tick-tick of a Tag Heuer watch slowing down and speeding up, the relationship of speed to time, never so elegantly and mainstream-edly showcased.
I mention the brand of the watch because I believe it was not an accident.
STYLE! I don’t think I could come up with a single filmmaker working today who consistently dresses his characters within an inch of their lives. It’s style for style’s sake, and it’s a lost art. Just look:
Marion Cotillard looks like she’s a dangerous gift to cinema, time-travelling from 1949. She looks like she could have been right at home in a Hitchcock thriller. He would have loved her…if she were blond.
In fact, here’s a look at Marion playing “Marion”:
That photo is the stuff gay geeks’ dreams are made of.
Speaking of women and gays, here we have a big breaking off point between the Master and Nolan: sex. Nolan, film-wise, is completely disinterested in sex. Hitchcock’s women were famous. Not eroticized. But fantasized. Like Norman, Hitch was always watching.
The women were fascinating, mysterious, but not nothing-to-say sex objects (that’s the different between Hitchcock women and Bond girls).
But, with the exception of the elegant and perfect Ms. Cotillard, Nolan has no real fascination with the women in his films. Take a look:
That’s the most flattering photo of Maggie Gyllenhaal that I could find. And they’re usually romantically-inclined tomboy friends of the protagonist with, interestingly, less to say than the decked out Grace Kelly in “Rear Window.” It’s like all of Nolan’s female leads are “Vertigo”‘s Barbara Bel Geddes. Or that girl who ran around with Encyclopedia Brown.
As it is, Nolan’s best-dressed, most fascinating, glamorized characters are the men. Feast your eyes:
That’s not to say I think Nolan’s not into ladies. As a matter of fact, Hitchcock was probably the gayer one (probably a 3 or 4 on the Kinsey). He had a fascination with off-the-beaten-path sexualities that was more prevalent in his earlier work like “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train.” A femininity within masculinity.
Tom Hardy definitely has it going on, spurred from his teasing last summer that he used to fool around with men. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is slinky in his vest. And let’s not forget the men himself, Leo. Leo, the Disturbed Boyish one, who was the first man kind enough to tap me on the shoulder as a young lad and let me know which way the sexuality wind blew.
Is it any wonder “Inception” has garnered such Hitchcock comparisons. It isn’t necessarily “Hitchcockian.” It’s just a beautifully-construted throwback to more stylish times of some artistic consequence. Take a look at this Internet-made mash-up to see how well “Inception” melds with old-fashioned Hollywood.
Exquisite! Now let’s close this picturesque comparison with a couple discarded theme posters, always a joy.