Jun 12, 2020

The Birds




While I have never particularly cared for monster movies one way or another (and I find most killer animals films to be rather retarded), I think it is safe to say that Alfred Hitchcock was taking a big quasi-artistic risk when he decided to make a horror flick about birds as they are, at least to my mind, the most benignly beautiful of god’s creatures and hardly beings that inspire feelings of fear and terror. After all, unless you are someone that suffers from the acute aesthetic aliment of liking Troma trash like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006), there is not another single decent killer bird flick aside from Hitch’s The Birds (1963), but of course the film has much more to offer than the seemingly goofy thrill of uniquely unlucky humans suffering the less than dignified fate of being liquidated by fierce feathered flocks as the film’s title—a clear reference to British slang for women—surely hints. Indeed, the film seems like what might happen if anti-feminist Jewess Esther Vilar’s classic anti-vag quasi-manifesto The Manipulated Man (1971) aka Der Dressierte Mann was used as the philosophical inspiration for the anti-monster film par excellence as a curiously quirky yet strangely sexually cruel cinematic work where the viewer roots for the killer birds, especially when they attack obnoxious human birds and the dumb easily manipulated men that love them. In fact, the real ‘monster’ of the film is women and femininity as an oftentimes cleverly cryptic cinematic work that reveals womankind without its figurative makeup, not unlike Norman Bates’ mummified mommy's face in Hitch’s arguable magnum opus Psycho (1960). Speaking of Psycho, the film also certainly does not leave the less fairer sex off the hook as the dubious dating habits of a nearly-middle-aged momma’s boy ultimately leads to the doom of no less than two hot dames in the film. In short, The Birds is a masterwork in mainstream movie misanthropy where the real monster is humanity to the point where one does not really question why the birds want to wipe humans out despite it being an obviously absurdly silly premise, hence the understatedly eccentric brilliance of the film; or so I learned during a recent re-watching of the film for the first time since I was a young kid.


One of the things that I find particularly annoying about Hitchcock’s films in general is that, aside from their glaring artificiality, I rarely ever find myself identifying with any aspect of them, but on my recent re-watching of the famously bloated British auteur’s feathery flick I was bombarded with seagulls, which I am certainly familiar with. Indeed, as someone that has the luxury of living at the beach, I have also had the luxury of regularly encountering gulls—a seabird that is so unsavory that is known to engage in kleptoparasitism—and can certainly say they are the ideal bird type when it comes to apocalyptic feathered dinosaur flicks. Aside from seagulls crashing into my car windshield at least a couple times, I have personally witnessed these parasitic winged creatures eat cigarette butts, shit on small children at the local boardwalk, and steal french-fries right out of the hands of unsuspecting vacationers. In short, gulls—or ‘mews’ as they were once called—are a bird of an oftentimes stunning natural beauty that is betrayed by their grotesquely aggressive behavior, which Hitch’s flick really underscores. Of course, the main characters of the film make these killer birds—whether they be seagull or otherwise—seem like totally angelic beasts by comparison as it is a stylishly savage cinematic work where much of the frivolousness that defines civilization is both literally and figuratively ripped to shreds by seemingly god-ordained creatures that force said main characters to confront nature in all its unsentimental brutality for what is probably the first time in their entire exceedingly sheltered lives.  While it is well known that character development is not exactly key when it comes to creature features, The Birds largely works because Hitchcock goes to great pains to teach the viewer to hate the main characters in all their agonizingly all-too-human glory. Seemingly at least partly fueled by hatred and resentment for the sort of hot blonde bitch that Hitch—a sexually dubious dude that infamously obsessed over his leading ladies and personal secretaries in rather creepy ways—could never get despite his great fame and fortune, the film is also a great example as to why Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto went so far as in tome The Dark Side Of Genius: The Life Of Alfred Hitchcock (1983) to describe his cinematic works as, “astonishingly personal documents.”



 In fact, Spoto makes it very clear at the beginning of his extensive biography that Hitchcock was a highly secretive chap that, despite his fame and intelligence, left very little behind in the way of journals and letters, as if he was deathly paranoid that someone might glean some special insight in regard to his psyche and/or personal life, among other things. In that sense, Hitchcock’s films can be somewhat fun to analyze in an auteurist sense as they are indubitably the works of a pervert, misogynist, misanthrope, and sadist, albeit one that seemingly lacked the gall and balls to truly practice such tendencies in real-life to any serious degree (for example, as Spoto also notes, Hitch's wife more or less wore the pants in the marriage). Notably, as Spoto mentions in his bio, Hitch actually dared to offer some rare thematic insight in regard to The Birds when he stated, “The girl represents complacency. The mother panics because she stars off being so strong, but she is not strong, it is a facade: she has been substituting her son for her husband. She is the weak character in the story. But the girl shows that people can be strong when they face up to the situations. . . . But as a group they were the victims of Judgment Day. . . . I felt that after PSYCHO people would expect something to top it.”

In the film, the almost insufferably sassy socialite heroine Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren)—a rich bitch that loves playing practical jokes who becomes the unwitting butt of the joke in the end—travels about an hour-away over the weekend to see and ultimately attempt to ensnare a vaguely hunky lawyer named Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) that she barely knows, only to discover he is the son of an obscenely overprotective widowed bitch named Lydia (Jessica Tandy) who seems intent on forever carrying her grownup baby boy’s balls in her purse (of course, as Norman Bates insightfully states in Psycho, “A son is a poor substitute for a lover.”). Luckily, Hitchcock uses the killer birds to ruthlessly murder the romantic melodrama and, in the process, puts these pretty yet putrid people in their place in an almost therapeutically apocalyptic scenario where the petty problems and plotlines of pretty prosaic people are deemed irrelevant as a peroxide blonde cutie goes from being insufferably comfortably smug and confidant to catatonic in a single scenic weekend. In that sense, Hitch exposes himself as a sort of spiritual (proto)incel, though his observations in regard to the so-called fairer sex seem very close to that of a bitchy gay man à la Rainer Werner Fassbinder or even Andy Milligan (who, of course, also utilized horror genre conventions to express misanthropic and misogynistic sentiments) than some virginal heterosexual gamer. Needless to say, I do not think it would be a stretch to describe Hitchcock as the real monster of The Birds, but he is such a marvelous monster that he thankfully trades in tired genre tropes for sexual terror.  Also proving that he did not need Bernard Herrmann or a traditional musical score in general to make a great cinematic work, the film is also notable for its exquisitely eerie electronic proto-synthesizer Trautonium anti-soundtrack as composed by kooky krauts Oskar Sala and Remi Gassmann. In that sense, the film goes back to Hitch's early cinematic roots as a student of German Expressionism which is fitting since it was a movement that imbued the horror genre with artistic merit.



While Hitchcock certainly took a frisky, if not downright fierce (albeit somewhat covert), approach when depicting those of the feminine persuasion, The Birds is arguably his most ruthlessly ‘gyno-ambivalent’ flick in both the covert and overt sense. For example, as Camille Paglia argued in her magnum opus Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), “The Harpies are servants of the Furies. They are ‘the Snatchers’ (from harpazo, ‘snatch’), airborne pirates, befouling men with their droppings. They represent the aspect of femaleness that clutches and kills in order to feed itself. The archetypal power of Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, comes from its reactivation of the Harpy myth, shown as both bird and woman.” While Paglia might be committing puffery and giving too much credit to an oftentimes goofy horror flick (indeed, compare Hitch's flick to Belgian auteur Raoul Servais' delectably disturbing animated short Harpya (1979)), her BFI Film Classics book The Birds (1998) provide a number of positively penetrating insights about the monstrous tendencies of the so-called fairer sex.  Indeed, while I have to agree with Woody Allen of all people when he stated in a Sight and Sound Hitchcock tribute, “I delighted in about five of Hitchcock’s movies and enjoyed a few others pretty much, but there are many I have no interest in, including some revered ones. They are all very light entertainment, fun like airport books or, as he referred to them, ‘slices of cake,’” it is ironically The Birds—a film with a premise that is so patently absurd and seemingly silly that is screams excremental exploitation trash—of all films where Hitch arguably reveals the most about his own personal Weltanschauung in terms of both elegantly and intricately expressing his great contempt for humanity and especially the opposite sex.

A monster movie for people that do not necessarily give a shit about monster movies, the film is mostly worthy of Paglia’s praise of the film as “a perverse ode to woman’s sexual glamour, which Hitchcock shows in all its seductive phases, from brittle artifice to melting vulnerability.” Of course, Paglia is a fiery guidette carpet-muncher and while I agree with her that Tippi Hedren is indubitably the greatest and most beauteous of the haute Hitch hoes, I think it would be more accurate to describe the film as a delightfully devastating deconstruction of the intricate perennial lie that is woman’s sexual glamour, which Hitchcock soaks in blood and bird shit in what is ultimately a rather ruthless film where a hot twat ‘peroxide blonde’ faces struggle for the first time in her putridly privileged San Francisco socialite life and naturally completely mentally deteriorates in the process, thereupon exposing both the innate frivolity and fragility of femininity. In short, The Birds demonstrates that it is a man’s world and the veneer of civilization, which is completely demolished in Hitch’s film, is the only thing keeping people from remembering that simple fact, hence the lack of so-called feminism among primitive peoples. After all, it is only the hocus pocus of feminine glamour, which is clearly and cleverly depicted in the film, that causes man to yield his power as most women would have very little if it was not handed to them by a dumb horny men that have foolishly fallen under their spell.



While it is impossible to completely hate her, blonde bombshell bon vivant Melanie Daniels—a vapid San Francisco vamp that lives a life of luxury due to her father owning a successful newspaper—immediately announces her sickening sense of self-absorption at the beginning of the film when a little boy whistles at her and she responds by proudly smiling, as if she thrives completely on male attention, including even that of a cheeky kid that is clearly old enough to be her son. While she never verbally expresses it, Melanie is clearly husband-shopping as she is getting pretty old for a debutante and she even immediately begins attempting to capture her prey upon meeting a young bachelor named Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) while shopping for Indian mynah birds at a local pet store. Despite (or, probably more accurately, because of) the fact that Mitch makes a total moron of her by pretending to think she is a store employee and letting her perform an entire bullshit seduction routine, Melanie is immediately enamored with the young hunk who, as a lawyer, recognized her from court in regard to a case he describes to her as, “one of your practical jokes that resulted in the smashing of a plate-glass window.” When Mitch states things like, “Back in your gilded cage, Melanie Daniels” and “The judge should have put you behind bars,” you can practically imagine the heroine getting her panties soaked at the sense of stern male authority and her subsequent actions certainly hint at such a reaction as she utilizes her father’s newspaper power to find out who the hunk is simply by writing down his license plate. Determined to entangle Mitch in her virtual bourgeois femme fatale web, Melanie symbolically buys him lovebirds, but she only learns later from a neighbor that, despite being a hardly-young professional, the young bachelor curiously spends his weekends at his mother’s house in Bodega Bay.  Despite being about 60 miles away from SF and Mitch expressing no serious desire to be with her, Melanie absurdly decides to head to Bodega Bay with the lovebirds in what ultimately proves to be the worst mistake of her entire life. While she does seem to achieve her objective of ensnaring Mitch the oedipally curious bitch, she will never be the same woman again as a poor little rich girl that now has bird-induced PTSD.



Although heroine Melanie Daniels is, to a certain degree, vaguely likeable, Hitch makes it quite clear that she is a half-crazed spoiled cunt that, among other things, engages in stalking, emotional blackmail, lying and deception, and various forms of deleterious tomfoolery. Of course, such is to be expected of a pretty peroxide blonde and as Paglia noted in regard to the character in the context of Hitchcockian cinema, “As a bottle blonde herself, she seems to gain strength from the peroxide, which operates on her like a transfusion of plasma. They dye theme appears in Hitchcock as early as THE LODGER […] Hitchcock treats blonde as a beautiful, false color, symbolizing women’s lack of fidelity and trustworthiness.” Despite being riddled with a good percentage of negative female stereotypes, Melanie also expresses absurd pretenses towards (proto)feminist folly, or as Paglia noted, “Miffed at Lydia’s frostiness, Melanie digs in her heels and refuses to let Mitch pick her up for dinner: ‘I can find my own way,’ she says, in what could stand as a manifesto of feminist independence.” Needless to say, Melanie is not the only insufferable chick in the flick, as Mitch’s widowed mother Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy)—a woman that, not coincidentally, bears a striking resemblance to the heroine, albeit a couple decades older—is every young debutante’s worst nightmare as a stuck-up old bitch that treats her son as if he were her hubby. Despite the fact she looks borderline elderly, Lydia has a banally conformist adolescent daughter named Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) who Melanie strategically buys lovebirds for as a birthday gift even though said birds are really clearly a symbolic gift to Mitch who she plans to capture via her feminine wiles.

Out of all the main female characters in the film, a young single schoolteacher named Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette)—a buxom brunette of the subtly bitchy yet rather sexy sort—is probably the most tolerable yet ultimately most tragic. An old flame of Mitch’s who actually relocated to Bodega Bay because of him, Annie was no match for the momma boy Mitch’s momma Lydia yet she still cannot get over him, hence why she has stayed in the area. Luckily for Melanie, the titular feathered terrors take care of the competition as the heroine and Mitch eventually suffering the shock of finding the ravaged remains of still-beauteous Annie's bloody bird-brutalized body. Arguably more ravishing and certainly strangely sexier than Melanie, Annie is assuredly one of the most interesting of the Hitchcock chicks and as Paglia noted in regard to the character, “Suzanne Pleshette, with her savvy Jewish Freudianism, puts all the right shadings into her marvelous depiction of the articulate, hyperconscious, but slightly depressive Annie.” In fact, Annie goes as far as arguably hinting that her ex-lover is gay when she states, “Maybe there’s never been anything between Mitch and any girl.” Needless to say, when Annie states in regard to San Francisco—the virtual cocksucker capital of the world—“I guess that’s where everyone meets Mitch,” one cannot help but feel that is once again hinting at his dubious sexuality (notably, in her new foreword to the 2nd edition of her BFI Film Classics book The Birds, Paglia would even describe a neighbor of Mitch’s portrayed by Richard Deacon as “a waspish, fashion-savvy gay connoisseur who recognizes the supreme sexual power of a woman as cult object without yielding to it”).



While The Birds undoubtedly portrays leading lady Melanie Daniels as an inordinately manipulative and exceedingly entitled bitch that is used to getting what she wants whenever she because she realizes that she has a pricey pussy and is more intrinsically important—both in terms of class and genetics—than most of humanity, her female inferiors, which includes women of all ages (but certainly not coincidentally, especially older women), actually prove to be the greater monsters to the point where they irrationally accuse her of causing the virtual bird apocalypse after all hell breaks loose. Indeed, one hyper hysterical mother portrayed by Doreen Lang even dares to scream in Melanie’s face at a diner, “Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here, the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you're the cause of all this. I think you're evil! EVIL!” Of course, in stereotypical negative female fashion, this sensually sapless bitch just seems to be utilizing the situation to unload her (potentially subconscious) sexual jealously onto a feisty Fräulein that is both much younger and more beautiful than she is, yet Hitchcock makes sure it is almost impossible not to feel a certain schadenfreude at Melanie’s expense as it is about time that the preternaturally pretty heroine be smacked in the face with reality and learn what it means to truly suffer. Additionally, Melanie has something metaphysically (fe)malefic about her and as Paglia noted in regard to the diner scene with Doreen Lang, “The shrill mother, like a witch-baiter in THE CRUCIBLE, advances on Melanie, whose point of view is taken by the camera and therefore us […] Melanie, having had quite enough of impossible mothers, smacks her solidly in the face—which breaks the spell, but there is still no movement to Melanie’s side. While the woman’s charges are too irrational and sensational to accept in naturalistic terms, they have a mythic power that cannot be shaken off: on some level, Melanie really is a kind of vampire attuned to nature’s occult messages.”


 Undoubtedly, until she is brutalized by the birds, Melanie wears a perennial smile of self-satisfaction as if there is no doubt in her mind that the world is her oyster, which is in stark contrast to Mitch’s constantly moody and broody bitch mom Lydia who immediately expresses a guarded glacial demeanor to the heroine that only begins to dissipate as the feathered apocalypse begins to get fierce. In that sense, Paglia makes an interesting argument when she mentions, “Crisscross (the theme of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN): literally from the moment Melanie crosses her legs, the bird attack begins. Has Lydia’s witchy malice evoked it? […] Lydia ‘panics,’ Hitchcock told Bogdanovich, because ‘she is not strong, it is a façade’: so architecturally, she is crumbling.” In short, female strength comes with a sunny smile as opposed to a fierce frown as exemplified by the stark contrast between the young and fertile Melanie and old and postmenopausal widow Lydia (who is so desperate for a man that she has succumbed to covert incest and has irrationally attempted to shield her son from a female mate so that she can perversely keep him for herself). Indeed, one can sense that Lydia innately understands (but, due to very personal reasons, does not want to accept) that her son has found a most apt sexual mate when she states to Melanie, “I feel as if I don’t understand you at all, and I want so much to understand. Because my son seems to be very fond of you, and I don’t quite know how I feel about it. I don’t even know if I like you or not […] Mitch is important to me. I want to like whatever girl he chooses.”  Needless to say, were it not for the beaked holocaust and Melanie's behavior during said beaked holocaust, it is dubious as to whether or not Lydia would have ever embraced the heroine as the almost quasi-biblical experience seems to force the fiercely frigid old hag to finally come out of her shell.

Notably, the film concludes with Lydia caressing a catatonic Melanie as the lead characters escape Bodega Bay in a car driven by Mitch and one can only assume that the older woman’s display of compassion is somewhat deceptive as it can be rightly assumed that the widow no longer feels threatened that her much beloved substitute husband—her own son—will be  taken away from her, at least not completely. For example, as Paglia argued, “At the end of THE BIRDS, who wields the claw? I agree with Margret M. Horwitz’s view that Lydia certainly appears ‘victorious’ and that she and the birds have ‘achieved dominance.’ Melanie is now damaged goods, which Madonna Lydia prefers for her pieta,” but, of course, part of the brilliance of the film is Hitchcock’s quite intentional ambiguity. After all, the film would have probably not been such a big hit, especially among chicks, if it was made completely unequivocal that woman are obscenely opportunistic, cold, calculating, callous and craven creatures that only get all the more so with age. Of course, the great irony of the filmmaker’s understated misogynistic brilliance is that his film is as coldly covert and cryptic as the monstrous women it portrays and in that sense, Hitch is the real monster of The Birds.



Whether intentional or not (I certainly believe the former), it is certainly fitting that, not unlike Jacques Tourneur/Val Letwon with Cat People (1942) and Paul Schrader with his 1982 remake, The Birds connects horror with the primordial horror of femininity, which makes perfect sense when considers the closer link that the fairer sex has with nature. Indeed, as Otto Weininger—a virtually blacklisted philosopher that, not unlike with Oswald Spengler, Paglia certainly borrowed a thing or two from—argued in his magnum opus Sex and Character: An Investigation of Fundamental Principles (1903), “Women are closer to nature in their unconscious than man. The flowers are their sisters, and they are less far removed from animals than Man, as is proved by the fact that they are surely more strongly inclined to bestiality than he is (remember the myths of Leda and Pasiphae; and women’s relationship with their lapdog is also much more sensual than is general believed).” And, of course, what better symbol of femininity than the angelic parasite known as the seagull and its flying sisters?! While The Birds heroine is constantly conspiring and plotting her next move, her main goal is clearly completely instinctual and that is to find a man and procreate, which she literally dedicates all her efforts to in her absurd pursuit of momma’s boy Mitch. After all, as Weininger once wrote (and Hitchcock would surely agree with), “Woman seeks her fulfillment as an object. She is the chattel, either of the man or of the child, and all she wants to be taken for is a chattel, despite all her attempts to hide this. There is no surer way to misunderstand what Woman really wants than by being interested in what goes on inside her and sympathizing with her emotions and her hopes, her experiences and her inner nature. Woman does not want to be treated as a subject. All she ever wants—and that is what makes her Woman—is to remain passive and to feel a will directed toward her. She does not want to be treated either timidly or gently. Nor does she want to be respected. Rather, she needs to be desired merely as a body and to be the sole possession of another. Just as a mere sensation only assumes reality when it becomes a concept—that is, an object—so Woman only acquires her existence, and a sense of her existence, when she is elevated by a man or a child—a subject—to his object, and thus has an existence bestowed on her.” Of course, this is explains why Melanie is totally turned on by Mitch’s initial rather arrogant insults (and why women in general are totally disgusted by ostensible ‘nice guy’ types) to the point where she fabricates an entire journey to be with him (despite knowing next to nil about him). Indeed, as far as nature is concerned, Melanie’s only real mistake is being attracted to a momma’s boy, which is probably the deleterious subconscious result of having a troubled relationship with her own estranged mother who abandoned her. Ironically, in the end, Melanie does acquire a surrogate mother of sorts but it is dubious at best that she, Mitch, and mommy Lydia will live ‘happy ever after’ in the end, especially since she has already made the unforgivable mistake of exposing weakness to the old lady. After all, as Hitch knew, trust no birds/bitches.



 Just the other day, I saw a redneck truck plow down two seagulls on the main road in my hometown and there was a certain ironical poetry to these bright white bird bodies as these dead winged parasites still demonstrated more beauty than all the humans around them despite dying such undignified deaths. Indeed, while I am not particularly fond of gulls, they are undoubtedly less obnoxious and purer than the mostly putrid people that have turned their habitat—a resort town—into a hedonistic wasteland where (sub)humans come to bask in booze at the beach and other senseless shit that has less intrinsic value than bird shit. In short, the people I regularly encounter in real-life are certainly more worthy of a bird apocalypse than the characters in The Birds, which says a lot since I feel hardly sympathetic towards the characters of Hitch’s flick. Needless to say, a sequel exists but the made-for-TV turd The Birds II: Land's End (1994) directed by Hebraic Halloween sequel hack Rick Rosenthal is even worse than one might presume despite also featuring Tippi Hedren (who, rather curiously, does not reprise her Melanie Daniels character). Indeed, as much as I like seaside horror cinema, The Birds II provides less entertainment than staring at seagull roadkill for 90 minutes or so. Instead, Jean Renoir’s The Woman on the Beach (1947), Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (1961), Ken Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves (1977), Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (1979), John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980), and Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987), among a couple other examples, make for a nice companion to Hitchcock’s classic if you enjoy fun horror in the sun this summer. In that sense, The Birds might be, for me, Hitch’s most enjoyable film. As for Robert Eggers' latest The Lighthouse (2019)—a film that feels like what the mongrelized mutant offspring of H.P. Lovecraft and F.W. Murnau might make if attempting to take a grotesquely gynophobic approach to Harrington’s Night Tide and The Birds—it is probably the greatest killer seagull flick since Hitch's classic, which of course does not say all that much but I can certainly recommend it.

Notably, during his pre-The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) years, British auteur Peter Greenaway paid tribute to both Hitchcock and The Birds in various experimental collage-like films. In fact, Greenaway's absurdly ambitious first feature The Falls (1980)—an eccentrically and oftentimes esoterically epic 195-minute avant-garde docucomedy of sorts—can be seen, in part, as a sort of absurdist (anti)sequel to The Birds that, aside from being set in a post-apocalyptic realm where characters have bird-like mutations and are obsessed with birds and flights, makes numerous references to the classic Hitch flick.  For example, a film character named Obsian Fallicutt—a fanatical film editor that, not unlike Greenaway, becomes obsessed with films with ornithological themes—is described as believing that Hitch faked the mysterious apocalyptic scenario that is central to the film.  Indeed, as the film's narrator states, “Obsian Fallicutt had a theory that the V.U.E. [Violent Unknown Event] was an expensive, elaborate hoax perpetrated by A.J. Hitchcock to give some credibility to the unsettling and unsatisfactory ending of his film THE BIRDS.”  Needless to say, The Falls is mandatory-viewing for anyone with an acute autistic obsession with birds and/or The Birds.



Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes The Birds so inordinately enjoyable and artistically singular, especially in the context of Hitch’s overall oeuvre, is its strangely foreboding ambiguity. Indeed, as Robin Wood notes in his classic text Hitchcock's Films Revisited (1989) in regard to the conclusion of the film, “A bleak enough message; and in the last sequence of the film—the departure by car through the massed, waiting birds—the effect of bleakness is intensified by the uncertainties. For uncertainty is the keynote of the film: Hitchcock allows himself and us no easy comfort. Under this sense of judgment, of intense scrutiny, every action becomes ambiguous. The carrying of the lovebirds out to the ca: is it a touching gesture (through the child) of continuing faith, despite all, in the goodness of nature and the possibility of order, or an absurd clinging to a sentimental view of life, a refusal still to face reality? The mother’s cradling of Melanie in her arms and the shot of their interlocking hands: is it a gesture of acceptance (hence creative and fertile) or a new manifestation of maternal possessiveness? Melanie’s broken condition: does it represent the possibility of development into true womanhood, or a final relapse into infantile dependence? All these questions are left open: if we demand a resolution of them we have missed the whole tone and temper of the film. We can say, at best, that there is a suggestion of a new depth, a new fertility in the relationships—Lydia has become the mother Melanie never had. The point about the ending is that the degree of optimism or pessimism it is felt to contain must depend on ourselves: what Hitchcock gives us is the questions.” Of course, as a proud (cultural) pessimist, I can only interpret the film’s conclusion as being nothing more than a sort of figurative ‘calm before the storm’ where the main characters receive a temporary reprieve before the misery commences. As to whether it is the birds or their own self-destructive behavior and/or dysfunctional relationships that destroys them, it remains to be seen.  In that sense, one must at least give credit to Rick Rosenthal for not reprising the original characters in his steaming celluloid seagull shit The Birds II as it would have surely contributed to the destruction of the mystique of the original film, hence the true unmitigated horror of most horror sequels.



Probably the greatest compliment I can pay to The Birds is that its greatest scenes resemble a sort of goofy warped take on a landscape painting by great Swiss Symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin who Weininger once described as “one feels that mountains are dead and is mightily attracted only to the sea with its eternal motion.” Of course, as from its eternal motion, the sea represents a sort of escape from humanity as an unconquerable realm that virtually separates worlds, hence the genius of using birds as an apocalyptic catalyst as not even water can offer a chance of escape.  Naturally, it is also extremely fitting that it was also directed by the man behind the idiosyncratic anti-nazi propaganda piece Lifeboat (1944) where the sea become a sort of perennial psychodramatic prison where man's sanity and civilization are put to the ultimate test. Surely, The Birds—a film that has aged somewhat gracefully over nearly 60 years—can be seen as a sort of allegorical cinematic ‘canary in a coal mine’ in regard to a sort of sexual apocalypse that has afflicted the Occident for sometime but certainly went into overdrive during the dreaded 1960s.

Indeed, as Weininger—a Viennese Jew whose somewhat predictable suicide Spengler once poetically described as death, “in a spiritual struggle of essentially Magian experience is one of the noblest spectacles ever presented by a Late religiousness”—foresaw over a century ago, “Our age is not only the most Jewish, but also the most effeminate of all ages; an age in which art only provides a sudarium for its moods and which has derived the artistic urge in humans from the games played by animals; an age of the most credulous anarchism, an age without any appreciation of the state and law, an age of species ethic, an age of the shallowest of all imaginable interpretations of history (historical materialism), an age of capitalism and Marxism, an age for which history, life, science, everything, has become nothing but economics and technology: an age that has declared genius to be a form of madness, but which no longer has one great artist or one great philosopher, an age that is most devoid of originality, but which chases most frantically after originality; an age that has replaced the idea of virginity with the cult of the demivierge. This age also has the distinction of being the first to have not only affirmed and worshiped sexual intercourse, but to have practically made it a duty, not as a way of achieving oblivion, as the Romans or Greeks did in their bacchanals, but in order to find itself and to give its own dreariness a meaning.”  Despite Hitchcock's Roman Catholic background and formative Jesuit education that he once described to mischling Peter Bogdanovich as being so highly influential in the sense that, “The Jesuits taught me organization, control and, to some degree, analysis,” there is no question of the Freudian factor of his oeuvre and his various crucial collaborations with Hebrews that include Ealing Studios head Michael Balcon, composer Bernard Herrmann, businessman Sidney Bernstein, screenwriters Arthur Laurents and Ben Hecht, and graphic designer Saul Bass, among countless others, reveals that the filmmaker is—for better or worse—a glaring product/symptom of Judaic modernity.



Undoubtedly, to various degrees, Hitch’s films absolutely epitomize this spiritually necrotic disease, but at least The Birds arguably recognizes it on a sort of ambiguous subtextual level as a flick where a scheming debutante, momma’s boy lawyer, and covertly incestuous mother seem to get their just deserts; or at least they are forced to pull their heads out of the asses for the first time in their entire pathetic lives due to the curious circumstance of a wonderfully nonsensical Neornithes nightmare. Of course, in the end, flocks of fatally fierce feathered friends attacking people seems less patently absurd than the petty and patently prosaic concerns of the pretty plastic people of The Birds who are forced by a sort of goofy Armageddon to, at least temporarily, end their innate inertia. As guido gore maestro Lucio Fulci's The Exorcist rip-off Manhattan Baby (1982)—a film that manages to pay tribute to both Hitch’s Psycho and The Birds in a single scene in its depiction of stuffed birds coming alive and killing their master—surely demonstrates, killer winged beasts are not interesting enough to make a film worthwhile but they make a nice backdrop to a film marinated in misanthropy and ostensible misogyny where one cannot help but root for the birds, including seagulls.

While I hardly would describe most of Hitch's film as art and find very little to admire about the life and work of Pablo Picasso, I think the Spanish artist could have certainly been talking about The Birds when he once stated, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” as it is a film that gives a soul to the soulless and takes a pleasantly preposterous approach to giving a sort of human vulnerability to the only superficially human.  Indeed, the film might make Hitchcock seem rather unflattering in that it seems like his savagely sadistic reaction to a lifetime of being rejected by premium grade pussy, but he does somewhat paradoxically demonstrate that pretty peroxide blondes also have feelings (or whatever), which the filmmaker took to even further extremes with lead Tippi Hedren in his underrated subsequent film Marnie (1964).  After all, Hitchcock—a lifelong sadistic practical joker—seemed to most enjoy cinematically abusing female birds and he apparently even acted like a monster to Hedren in real-life, so it is only natural that a high-point in his career would involve literal birds brutalizing people in what is arguably the most playfully pernicious cinematic pun in cinema history.  Of course, in a seemingly apocalyptic age that is increasingly decadent and feminine where relationships between the sexes have reached an all-time high in terms of dysfunction to the point where the birth rate is dropping rapidly in the West and divorce is the norm and marriage is considered a joke, The Birds—a film where it takes a literal bird apocalypse for the heroine to become more passive and her male love interest to take real action and act like a man—is certainly more relevant today than when it was first released and thus more pleasantly punishing than Psycho.  After all, we need a world with more pretty birds and less men in dresses.



-Ty E

No comments: