Sunday 27 June 2021

Streaming on Netflix - Janice Tong reviews AND TOMORROW THE WORLD (UND MORGEN DIE GANZE WELT, Julia von Heinz, Germany, 2020)

Luisa (Mala Emde) with her best friend
Batte (Luisa-Celine Gaffron)

Julia von Heinz’s film poses serious moral questions for a world that has left its guiding principles behind.

Von Heinz and her husband John Quester (who co-wrote the script with her) actually met when they were in the Antifa group together in the 1990s, when they were the same age as the protagonists. This film has been a labour of love for them, and whilst it took 20 years to make, Von Heinz said that this deeply personal film puts forward a message that is even more urgent and important today. 

Collectively it is up to us, the generations who are currently contributing to and living in society, who need to learn our history, our civil rights and constitutional laws regarding the scope and limits of our sovereign agency. If there is a time to think through what is the right way to act; that time is now. 


This is not so much a call to disregard or fight against the limitations of law - the law is in place to serve the greater good and to set boundaries; but when the abolition of laws and introduction of bills that serve a singular interest occurs, it is our right to question.


The film explores the Antifa movement through a coming of age story. We are drawn into the life of the lead Luisa, wonderfully portrayed by Mala Emde (you might have seen her in the Season 3 of Charité), who was introduced to the activist commune by her best friend, Batte (played by Luisa-Céline Gaffron, whom I last saw in the TV sci-fi mini-series 8 Days). 


Luisa has had a privileged background (something of a gentry) though I would say she’s not of the upper-class, but of the ‘old’ world, where game hunting is a tradition rather than a wealthy person’s sport. You learn that she’s a good shot (her dad tells us this) and we can see that she certainly doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty gutting and skinning their kill - and with practiced and skillful motions - she’s done it all her life. But the rub here is that she’s a vegetarian, she corrects her dad who wrongly said she’s a vegan. Just from this banter, you get a sense that Luisa has a strong sense of what defining boundaries mean, a line is drawn and when you cross that line, you do this knowingly.


We learn that Luisa is also a first year law student (as is Batte), and it’s important to note that the film starts with a quote from Art.20, Par.4 of Germany’s Constitution, stating “The Federal Republic of Germany is a social and democratic state. All Germans have the right to resist anyone who seeks to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available.” The filmic insert in between this epigraph (broken out into its two sentences) is of Luisa throwing away her hunting rifle in a barren field, the no-man’s land of an underpass; and a flash forward in the film. The whole narrative comes full circle when the quote is repeated to us again, this time in Luisa’s voice at the end of the film, amidst the violence of the riot police who came to raid on their commune. The ensuing images of their clash is played out to the mournful aria of Verdi’s opera - La forza del destino, or The Force of Destiny, Act IV, the denouement.


Alfa (Noah Saavedra) and Luisa, finding each other,
and navigating their way in the world

But I’m ahead of myself. At the collective, Luisa desperately wanted to ‘belong’. They were young, peaceful and inclusive, they had a cause they cared about, a system of sharing clothes and bedding, they were making music and vegetarian meals, all seemed to be a great communal lifestyle. But after she was assaulted by a neo-Fascist during a rally, Luisa soon thought differently. She was traumatised by the event. Daniela Knapp’s handheld camera work is fantastic, and bears down on her face as we hear her sharp breaths and her constant fight to keep fear at bay. The way he filmed the action sequences too, also situates the viewer in the midst of it all.


Peaceful demonstration turns violent

After the assault, Luisa begins to be drawn in by a few of the collective’s more active members, including the charismatic Alfa whom she falls for. He is wonderfully portrayed by Noah Saavedra (I last saw him in the fantastic Netflix TV series Freud). He strikes a well-modulated role, sometimes the hot headed ‘alpha male’ inciting violence in the group’s fight against fascism; sometimes he’s more thoughtful and grounded. There are some beautiful moments of him and Luisa together. I’d like to think of his name as meaning ‘the beginning of something’ rather than as ‘might over right’. And ultimately, he is a flawed character, as we all are, in the process of figuring out right from wrong.


Alfa, his tech friend Lenor (played by Tonio Schneider) and Luisa form an unlikely trio who started to take matters into their own hands; and much to the disagreement with some of the groups’ leading members. This trio is further guided by an old revolutionary, Dietmar played by Andreas Lust, who acts as their moral compass and calming agent - they literally come through the battlefield to his home as ‘base camp’.


Lenor (Tonio Schneider), Luisa and Alfa
form an unlikely trio 

This very thought-provoking film, and it’s interesting to note that Von Heinz is also its producer, through Kings & Queens Filmproduktion which she founded with her husband, Quester, and Seven Elephants production company which she founded in 2018 with German directors David Wnendt and Erik Schmitt and producer Fabian Gasmia. She and Quester are very committed to tell this story.


Throughout the film, Von Heinz continually poses moral questions: when is violence justified or even deemed as necessary? Are we able to recognise the turning point, when peace ends and violence begins? The title of the film ‘and tomorrow the entire world’ is actually a line taken from the official song of Hitler Youth. I shuddered when I learnt of this fact. But I believe that to recall this line, is to not turn our backs to the wrongs of history, but to understand and accept its wrongfulness, in order to make new meaning and relevance for our future. 


This is a film that does not shy away from asking questions that may not have an easy or definitive answer: what does it mean to be a part of a social movement? Does the fight for freedom and democracy justify violence? But it sure as hell gets you thinking long after the credit roll.


Janice Tong is a Sydney cinephile. Other films she has written about recently include The AuditionMalmkrog,Burning GhostLast Year at Marienbad,Wings of Desire,The Mystery of Henri PickWITTGENSTEIN PLAYS CHESS WITH DUCHAMP OR HOW NOT TO DO PHILOSOPHYStroszek and The Art of Wong Kar-wai. Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Iranian Film Festival - Barrie Pattison enjoys CINEMA CITY/CINEMA SHAHR-E GHESEH (Aliakbar Heydari & Keivan Alimohammadi)

Aliakbar Heydari & Keivan Alimohammadi’s  Cinema Shahr-E Gheseh/Cinema City featuring a referencing of Persian film history looked the most likely of the entries in the 9th Iranian Film Festival just past.

In this one we follow Afshin Hashemi as Davoud, the projector repairman being pressured by his comic parents to start a family. He becomes smitten by a herbalist’s daughter when she interrupts her phone call long enough to prompt him that it’s lavender he’s come to the shop to buy.


The road to romance is bumpy as her father regards movies as sinful. There’s also the matter of marrying off the older sister before our hero’s intended becomes available. It leads to comic misunderstanding between the two families until Davoud’s chum takes the girl on, winning the father over by scrubbing his back in the steam room.


Despite their differences, the central couple produce a baby. The lead’s been rejected for military service for flat feet but he gets to do a cinema maintenance visit to the front line in the Iran-Iraq war and there's the business of reconciling both father and daughter to our hero’s outlook. Its all punctuated by montages mainly of close-ups from old Academy frame Farsi films which precede our knowledge of Iranian Cinema.


The victorious 1979 Islamic Revolution against the Shah forbids film showings and decrees the destruction of cinemas. Our hero aids the storage of clandestine print holdings, becoming part of a network doing secret backyard shows. These were apparently a significant feature of Iranian life.


There’s one scene which drew gasps from the Dendy audience. One collection of rare film prints is emptied out of their cans into a mound of spilled celluloid and set on fire. They have to add digital flames because cellulose acetate doesn’t burn that way. Film makers are bad at staging movie fires – think of The Artist.


Now if this sound like a coherent plot line and narrative development, that’s misleading. Outside viewers have to prize the information out of abrupt transitions, the unaccounted appearance, aging and vanishing of characters and a setting which gives minimal reference to any time scale.


We do get a few glimpses of Iranian life - cockfighting, the sister’s wedding, the bath house or an unconvincing Islamic street market with photos of Ayatollah Khomeini and headscarves for sale. The lead couple ride pillion on his motorbike. The herbalist finds running a tea cafe where men play cards more profitable than his old trade. The war with Sadam Hussein does unite the population. 


Embedded in all this is a quite perceptive take on the place of cinema in society. The lead only has screen romance as a reference for his courting. He is an admirer of Bollywood while his intended is a Sohrab Shahid-Saless (Still Life) fan. Shahid-Saless and Abbas Kiarostami become points of reference. It looks like the leads having a child will depend on Davoud staying awake during one of the master’s films. Neither of the couple can relate to the mindless then-new contemporary Iranian TV and movies while her father considers the process itself and its application inherently evil.


It’s not hard to find similar attitudes and divisions among people around us here.


Though the film making is rough and its attempts at character development crude, for an outsider, Cinema City does remain an interesting take on Iranian life.

Friday 25 June 2021

Streaming - John Baxter previews the coming tournament with a look back at WIMBLEDON (Richard Loncraine, UK, 2004)

...playing without balls...


            American romantic comedy has the screwball tradition; men behaving badly and love thriving on eccentricity, duplicity, even criminality. In Europe, tricksters dazzle and charm the opposite sex;  intelligence and audacity rule.  Almost alone, Britain celebrates the loser lover.  From The Importance of Being Earnest  and Kind Hearts and Coronets  to Notting Hill,  its stories are of romantic failure bravely borne.  

            True to type, Richard Loncraine’s Wimbledon (2004), a rare example of a romcom with a setting in sports, places its love story in the very heart of competitive Britain, the world of professional tennis, and makes its main character an accident about to happen.

            “Put three Germans together,” joked that vigorous proponent of European union, Hermann Göring, “and you have a war. Three Russians, and you have a revolution. Three Englishmen, and you have... a club!” – an object, it should be remembered, once defined as “a dull, heavy thing, with no point.”

            In Wimbledon, the entity in question is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which manages the world’s pre-eminent grass-court tournament. With the 2021 event about to engulf us in a tsunami of physical excellence, hype, ego, greed and rain-outs, garnished with strawberries and cream, the film is given new relevance by Naomi Osaka’s recent cri de coeur  against the post-event pressures of the big-time game, and in particular its journalists.  

Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) faces failure

            Failing British champ Peter Colt (Paul Bettany), once eleventh-best in the world, is about to play in what he expects to be his final tournament before being put out to grass (though more like stood at stud) as resident pro in an up-market country club, fresh meat for its rapacious matrons. However, a “wild card” invitation to participate in the tournament, combined with meeting and sleeping with rising American star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), catapults him into a dazzling example of what time-and-motion experts call the End Spurt.  

            Richard Loncraine’s films are so various that he was a natural choice for so unconventional a tale. A former sculptor, he set his modern dress Richard III  in a Britain between the wars, ingeniously exploiting the Brutalism of London’s industrial architecture, but was equally at home in the fussiness of Victorian England for The Missionary, a ribald comedy with Michael Palin as the innocent divine sent to save the souls of London’s prostitutes.  

            There’s neither Brutalism nor ribaldry in Wimbledon, nor, for that matter, any hint of Naomi Osaka’s anguish.  The press are subdued, respectful, and no more than customarily intrusive, appropriate to the film’s discreet setting in the Home Counties, and to the fancied gentility of the sport.  Colt’s parents (Eleanor Bron and Bernard Hill) inhabit a ramshackle country mansion, while he drives an albeit battered  Porsche and keeps a convincingly untidy apartment on the front at Brighton. Nor does the film fail to exploit a tradition that competitors stay at the luxury Dorchester Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park. In British romcoms, snobbery comes with the territory.

             Since it’s implicit that, as Oscar Wilde remarked,  “the very essence of romance is uncertainty,”  various impediments to the affair must be overcome, among them Lizzie’s father (Sam Neill), fixated on her winning, and Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols), her boorish former lover and Peter’s most formidable opponent on the court, not to mention Peter’s parents, long inured to his under-achievement, and a younger brother (James McAvoy) who finds his losses a reliable source of income at the betting shop. 

James McAvoy

            Chris Evert and John McEnroe, playing themselves as commentators, further contribute to his expectation of failure by unhelpfully reviewing Britain’s dismal history of would-be champions who pulled up lame, as they confidently expect Colt to do.  (Screenwriters Adam Brooks, and husband and wife team Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin obviously drew on Evert’s marriage to British star John Lloyd, just as Jake Hammond shares some characteristics with her former lover, the belligerent Jimmy Connors.)

            True to type, Colt is as fumbling in the bedroom as on the court, walking in on Lizzie in the shower, climbing into her window at night and waking the house, spiriting her away to the seaside, only to have his brother blow their whereabouts to the press. When she blames him for her own loss in the tournament, he revives their relationship with a glum TV interview in which he apologises for having in some unspecified way “let her down”. Never mind that he hasn’t done anything wrong. His abasement charms her, as Julia Roberts is charmed in Notting Hill  by Hugh Grant’s appearance at her press conference. 

In Brighton (Paul Bettany, Kirsten Dunst)

            Fortunately, Paul Bettany is well supplied with charm. This saves the day, as it does in most British comedies, and diminishes, without entirely neutralising the wince factor of many scenes, particularly a contrived envoi with Peter, Lizzie and their kids as the First Family of Tennis. 

            Unfortunately, he and Dunst share no chemistry at all. As with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, the sex is Understood. (Think of the spark between Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. In comparison, she and Grant barely raise a glimmer.) We are asked to take on trust thatpassion flared during soft-focus walks in the rain and post-coital suppers of fish and chips eaten out of newspaper on the balcony of London’s most exclusive hotel. That’s the difference between romcoms and real life. All we get is wet feet and grease spots.  Incidentally, for greater ease of acting, the film’s tennis matches were played without balls. I think this speaks for itself.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Hitchcock's THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY - Ken Mogg considers the master's dark and droll humour


The Trouble With Harry (1955)  begins 

The dead face of the dead man had given him the inspiration he needed.  [It] held the millions and millions of dead faces of all the centuries.  In that dead face lay all dead humanity; all cold history; all the odd attitudes and mistakes.

-      Jack Trevor Story, ‘The Trouble With Harry’ (1949)

The infantile conflict between actual impotence and dreams of omnipotence is also the basic theme of the universal history of mankind.(1)

  Norman O. Brown, ‘Life Against Death’ (1959)

[Shirley MacLaine] was kooky before that word came into vogue, impish, off-beat, disconnected and beautiful in her own way.

-      Ken Wlaschin


IT’S ALL HOKUM OF course – a tall story about a body that won’t stay buried and about the several people who each have reason to think that they may have killed him. Also involved is the voice of reasonableness, artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), and an ‘enforcer’ character, the repressive Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano) whose name is suggestive of both do-nothing, ‘Silent Cal’ Coolidge (30th President of the United States) and of the theologian John Calvin (never a favourite of Catholics).  Others in the cast of characters include Calvin’s mother, the widowed Mrs Wiggs (Mildred Dunnock), who runs the local general store and is given at times to blunt speaking; and the story’s main deus ex machina figure, the absent-minded Dr Greenbow (Dwight Marfield) whose final diagnosis that the titular Harry died of natural causes is to be believed – or not!(2)  A second such facilitator of the plot is the Millionaire, played by Parker Fennelly, who declares that Sam is a genius and who buys all of his paintings.

And then there’s four-year-old Arnie Rogers (Jerry Mathers, pictured top, who would later become the juvenile star of the TV series Leave It to Beaver) who discovers Harry’s fully-clothed body lying on a Vermont hillside and hurries home to tell his mother Jennifer about it. (Jennifer is played by Shirley MacLaine.)  The film constantly skirts questions like, ‘okay, how did Harry really die?’, and, ‘so they constantly dressed and undressed him, did they?’  It’s all part of the fun – Hitchcock reputedly was tickled by what he characterised as the film’s humorous ‘English’ understatement, and was hugely disappointed when his film failed at the box office – except in sophisticated Paris, where it ran for six months.  Obviously, Harry isn’t exactly a film for puritans, and possibly Hitchcock misjudged how two-faced most audiences still were in the 1950s about their ‘unofficial’ thoughts.  He may have expected a more mature response than most viewers brought to his film back then.  Alerted, he would set about educating them with the dark and/or droll humour that he and writer James Allardyce brought to ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ each week.  Its first episode aired on 2 October, 1955.

Shirley MacLaine


Speaking of getting educated about humour … The best theoretical lesson that I received about comedy and the comedy principle was one I got from a schoolteacher in an English class.  (No doubt she was following Henri Bergson.)  ‘Comedy’, she told us, ‘always involves something that is incongruous.’  She pointed out that if you or I slip on a banana skin, it isn’t particularly funny.  But if a self-important gentleman in a top hat slips on a banana skin, that is funny (especially if the context permits us to laugh: for example, if we’re watching a movie, and don’t have a personal tie to the person).  The Trouble With Harry, like the much-translated novel of that name, is built on the two principles of incongruity and impersonality (or objectivity).  We can laugh at the dead Harry’s indignities of being buried and dug up multiple times just because he is only the corpse of a person we never knew (although in life he sounds to have been a lily-livered heel …) and because all of this takes place in ‘Arcadia’, namely, rural Vermont in the Fall, with its autumnal colours underlined by the gloriously mellifluous and variegated music of Bernard Herrmann.  Our attitude to Harry is epitomised by Jennifer, who had been briefly married to him – her big mistake – when she tells Sam Marlowe what he can do with Harry: ‘You can stuff him and put him in a glass case, for all I care … only, I suggest frosted glass!’  And Harry’s unfitness to be here in Arcadia is pointed out by Sam when he refers to ‘City people … people with hats on … little people’.  Arcadia, then, is not congruous with the City!

In other Hitchcock films, though, Hitchcock shows affection for city people, such as the apartment-dwellers in Rear Window.  Each of his films is a subjective world of its own, and not the worse for it.  I was shocked to read that Thelma Ritter, who played the sharp-tongued Stella in Rear Window, actually turned down the part of Miss Graveley in Harry (ultimately given to Mildred Natwick) because she considered the latter film ‘immoral’.  Her actual words, in a letter to her husband, were: ‘I must not have much vision but this one scares me.  It’s lewd, immoral, and for anyone without a real nasty off beat sense of humour, in very bad taste.’  Nonsense, Thelma!  You are confusing immorality with sheer comic amorality, which may simply be more honest than other moralities, let’s face it! Accordingly, in a Hitchcock film, nothing is finally determinate.

Mildred Dunnock. Mildred Natwick, John Forysthe

Life versus death, and vice versa

Nothing, that is, except the film itself.  I mean, it would seem undeniable that Harry is about life versus death, and vice versa.  The ‘life’ is there for all to see – from young Arnie to the trees reaching above him in their autumnal colours (the leaves may be dying but the trees live on: cf the ‘evergreen, ever-living’ sequoias in Vertigo, which are ‘two thousand years [old], or more’) to the admittedly aging characters like Miss Graveley and Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn, in his fourth Hitchcock film).  Whereas, the dead Harry - effectively the film’s MacGuffin - is mostly there for counterpoint!  Critic Ed Sikov wrote in 1994: ‘The Trouble With Harry is a far richer, more complicated film than even Hitchcock’s most ardent defenders have so far been willing to acknowledge.’  But Sam in particular is a facilitator of ‘the ongoing life-force’.  What Hitchcock also shows us is how love brings with it a new lease of life, whether the love of Jennifer for Sam or the love of spinster Miss Gravely for the bachelor Captain Wiles.  Rightly seen, Harry is a feel-good movie.   

Of course, it needs a villain, and it’s not hard to see who that is: Calvin, with his puritanical outlook and policeman’s mentality.  (Nothing surprising there, this being a Hitchcock film – although, as usual, you can find exceptions to Hitchcock’s seeming dislike of the police: for example, the sympathetic character Inspector Oxford in Frenzy.(3))  Mrs Wiggs is very astute when she describes the nature of her son’s work and interests.  Referring to his interest in restoring old cars, she calls them ‘mechanical antiques’; and she says that his job as Deputy Sheriff involves ‘piece-work’. In short, there’s something non-organic and isolated about Calvin.  The contrast is with Sam and Jennifer and the older couple (I call them collectively ‘the conspirators’) whose combined energies are marshalled by Sam.  As he cuts Ivy Graveley’s hair in a charming scene inside the Wiggs Emporium, he foresees that ‘the true Miss Graveley’ will be ‘timeless with love and understanding’.  Not coincidentally, Dr Greenbow is given to reading from Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet with its key line ‘Love’s not Time’s fool’ and its conclusion:

    Love alters not with its brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.


The grim reality which love girds its possessors against (implicit in Shakespeare’s lines) is never gainsaid by Harry; on the contrary, that reality is implicit in the very passing of the seasons.(4)  (At one point, after Captain Wiles has rowed Miss Gravely across his lake, he reminds her that winter is coming and that ‘they’ll be cutting ice here then’.) Henri Bergson was not just a theorist about comedy but also of the essential transitoriness of things, and ways to live with it.  There is a Bergsonian thrust to Harry.

Edmund Gwenn


Someone has suggested that most of us, in our lifetimes, move from a state of innocence to one of innocence-lost to one of innocence-regained.  Young Arnie still dwells in his original innocence, but may have already begun to lose that innocence after his encounter with Harry, the film’s MacGuffin and symbol.  Arnie is just at the age where the Oedipal crisis sets in, and where the child learns that, for all of the world’s bountiful nature, it requires decisions that will limit (or delimit) him.  You have to admire his direct answer when asked about the rabbit he has found (presumably shot by Captain Wiles).  To the well-meaning but condescending adult’s question from Miss Graveley, ‘What do you call it?’, Arnie answers bluntly, ‘Dead!’(5)  (He could of course have answered with a name like ‘Roger’, which would have been what Ivy expected to hear.)  That same bluntness is what Hitchcock’s comedy is offering us, and thereby, perhaps, pointing our own consciousness towards innocence-regained.  Full marks to Hitchcock, the artist, who seems to have already attained that enviable state of mind, and its state of awareness.

Harry is indeed the feel-good movie I have claimed.  Captain Wiles, starting to fall in love (possibly for the first time in his life), tells Miss Gravely, ‘Nobody could not like us today!’  This, in spite of his penchant for killing – he calls his hunting rifle ‘Old Faithful’ (indicating a misplaced faith, surely) – plus his self-protective dissembling, as when he describes Harry’s death as ‘an unavoidable accident’.  But thereby lies one of the film’s subtleties.  Harry opens with a shot of a church and the sound of its bell ringing out across the peaceful countryside, yet nobody during the film seemingly pays any attention to it.  They are all too preoccupied with their own interests! Nonetheless, that opening shot has made its statement, which is to the effect that we are all being watched over, whether we acknowledge it or not.  These are pleasant-enough people, even perhaps including Calvin, who has found his niche as Deputy Sheriff and cultivated his hobby of restoring antique cars. As a writer like Norman O. Brown showed us repeatedly, we inhabit a Lost Paradise which we can only do our collective best to recover: the Arcadia of Harry is a definite start, but many people – predominately ambitious ‘City people’ – are constantly endangering our progress towards it, a narrative which constitutes what Brown calls ‘the universal history of mankind’.(6)  Harry, who put his head where it wasn’t wanted, is arguably its symbol.

Shirley MacLaine, Royal Dano


‘The director of a fiction film must play God’, Hitchcock once said.  Accordingly, he watches over the characters of Harry with a forgiving eye – that is, for their venial sins.  The characters are clearly worthy of that forgiveness, being without excessive ‘attitude’ and simply pleasant and human.  They’re opportunists, of course, from the youngest upwards (Arnie exchanges the dead rabbit for a live frog in a paper bag, then takes the rabbit back and proceeds to trade it for two blueberry muffins!).  The frog will prove a godsend of its own to the conspirators when later Calvin comes calling.  Arnie nearly gives the show away when – referring to Harry – he asks loudly, ‘Hey, what’s he doing in our bathtub?’  Luckily, the quick-thinking Sam covers up by saying matter-of-factly, ‘That’s where frogs belong, Arnie.’  And Arnie simply says, ‘Oh!’  So Calvin is fooled!  The ingenuity of the screenplay from moment to moment is one of its marvels.

A further instance.  The church in the film’s opening shot is like an equivalent for the novel’s elaborate ‘Blakeian’ dimension (suitably, William Blake was both an artist and poet).  When the novel’s Sam first comes into view, he is singing the song ‘Jerusalem’ whose words are taken from a famous Blake poem: ‘And did those feet in ancient time/ Walk upon England’s mountains green ….’  These lines both establish a ‘pastoral’ (or Arcadian) mood and imply an allegory about Christ.  On the whole, though, the allegory is played down in favour of the mood – and Hitchcock follows suit.  The ‘look’ of Harry with its autumnal russets and golds is what what most people bring away from it, albeit we subliminally associate that look, and that mood, with the ‘blessing’ Harry’s characters – and, by extension, its audience - are being given.  Like a parent, Hitchcock is happy to tease us, knowing that reminders of our vulnerability will only engage us the more.  The film’s running gag about the yawning closet door in Jennifer’s house as the conspirators hurry to dress Harry for his final burial works like that, even as it offers a refinement to the allegory: seen aright, there is literally nothing to fear.(7)                        

The Trouble With Harry can be seen as a companion-piece to Rear Window, filmed a year earlier.  Although Harry is virtually a one-joke film about a body, its charming qualities are multiple.  It has a people-ness that is relatively rare in Hitchcock - at least with the breadth of ‘types’ (who are also individuals) seen here. See it in a suitable frame of mind, and you’ll come away both chortling and mouthing your gratitude: ‘Thanks, Hitch!’ 

"...its autumnal russets and golds..."


1.    Norman O. Brown’s ‘Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History’ continues: ‘And … the stakes are the meaning of love.’  Harry’s young Arnie, with his gun, represents what Brown calls ‘infantile conflict’; the elderly Captain Wiles with his frustrated dreams of being a merchant sailor (he’d been a tugboat captain who ‘never got more than twenty miles offshore’) also dreams.  Mercifully, the film offers its couples love …  


2.    Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail was based on a play with the final revelation that its dead man had indeed died of natural causes.

3.   Hitchcock seems to have had what the poet Keats called ‘negative capability’: ‘[the capacity to be] in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’.

4.   Such imagery of the passing and recurring seasons figures prominently in scholar and poet David Holbrook’s book ‘The Quest for Love’ (1964) which argues for a relationship between the growth of a sense of reality and the capacity to love. He cites the exemplary work of such literary figures as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats, and D.H. Lawrence.

5.   So Arnie - besides taking after his frank-spoken mother - joins forces with other blunt speakers in Harry like Wiggy and Sam.  Sam’s delightful bluntness to Jennifer is heard when he tells her, ‘I would like to paint you nude!’

6.    Brown dwells on such things as our universal restlessness - St Augustine’s cor irrequietum- and our aversion to boredom, which is constantly leading us astray (a very Hitchcockian motif …).

7.   If memory serves, Strindberg’s relatively benign A Dream Play (1907), one of his late works, offers a similar image.  At the end of the play, the mysterious door is opened, and there is nothing there!         


The Trouble with Harry is now over.’

The author of this essay would like to dedicate it to two of his fellow-sharers of Harry’s delights over the years, Dr Adrian Schober and Dr Ina Bertrand.  KM 

 A good quality copy of The Trouble With Harry is on YouTube


Editor's Note: This is the tenth essay by Hitchcock scholar Ken Mogg to have been published on Film Alert 101.

The other essays can be found if you click on these links.

Under Capricorn 

The Man Who Knew Too Much


Vertigo's Cinema Sources

Hitchcock's Methods

I Confess

About the author

Ken Mogg has published widely on Hitchcock; his The Alfred Hitchcock Story(1999, revised 2008) covers every film 'in loving detail'  (Bill Krohn, Cahiers du Cinéma). His recent writing includes a chapter on Topaz and (the script of) The Short Night in Hitchcock and the Cold War (Pace University Press, 2018), a chapter on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in Children, Youth, and American Television (Routledge, 2018), a chapter on "Hitchcock's Literary Influences" for A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock(Wiley Blackwell 2011, pb 2014), and an essay on "The Cutting Room" in 39 Steps to the Genius of Alfred Hitchcock (BFI, 2012). Ken has also written "Psycho Considerations" (2020), on the hitchcockmaster website if you click here    

Ken Mogg's email address is