Saturday, July 18, 2009

Color and The Trouble with Harry

The Trouble with Harry is a film Alfred Hitchcock released in 1955. A strange little movie, it's a comedy of all things, a comedy about a corpse. A little boy (later Beaver Cleaver) finds a dead man in the woods, and hilarious hijinks ensue. Several people believe they have killed the man, and they proceed to bury and dig up poor Harry throughout the film. Also, look for the wonderful Shirley Maclaine in her first starring role. Her gamine haircut and sass are enough to pull the entire picture along.

As much as Hitchcock has come to be known for his careful crafting of suspense, I also have a huge appreciation for his dry, wicked wit. This black comedy is as charmingly dark as any movie that followed. According to those who knew Hitch, he told jokes so convoluted that often he was the only one who could understand them. Such a brilliant man, it seems that he spent a great deal of his life trying to keep himself amused. His movies reflect his need to share that joy, and that terror, with the audience. Corpse jokes are not an easy feat to pull off, but he does just that so well in this odd film that you will find yourself surprised to laugh at the subject matter. And that ought to be the definition of comic success right there.

This is also a film about the creation of art. John Forsythe co-stars as a burgeoning postmodern painter, whose artworks are completely indecipherable. His bright blobs and squiggles are a nonsensical mishmash to most of the folks in the small town, and, to be honest, I didn't really get them either. However, never fear. As so often happens in a Hitchcock movie, there is a happy romantic ending for our two leads.

As an artist of any kind--a painter, a photographer, a crafter--watch the movie for the colors. For as much as Forsythe's paintings are surreal, the colors in this film are fantastically vibrant and lovely. The quality of the Technicolor is brilliant and amazing, with each scene looking like it was handpainted in gorgeous oils. It's autumn in the woods and the small town, so, while we do spend the hour and a half worrying over an incovenient corpse, we also spend that time in the most stylized, idealized fall countryside that you will ever see, this side of animation. Falling leaves, vast skies, beauty.

If you need inspiration for your fall creations--your jewelry, your clothing, your art--spend an evening with this movie, studying the sets. You'll get a great, strange little laugh behind it, as well as an unusual and thrilling bouquet of rusts, golds, yellows. Droll satiric humor and an inspirational pallet of warm autumn colors. And poor Harry.
imdb link to The Trouble with Harry:

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