Friday, October 21, 2011

The Birds

(1963) ****

This movie was screening at a local theater in Berkeley for only five bucks, so what better to do on a Thursday night than catch a film fave with other awesome folks? I've been a fan of Hitchcock since I learned my multiplication tables, and The Birds has always been a classic one to watch.
The action occurs in the small town of Bodega Bay, California (near my hometown of Sebastopol) and focuses on the developing relationship between Melanie Daniels and Dashing Lawyer-Man Mitchell Brenner. They meet in a San Francisco pet store where they both are looking for birds as gifts -- she for a mutual friend and he for his 11 year-old sister. Their on-screen chemistry is strange and unconventional as she pretends to be a store clerk and he plays along, revealing his identity and how he knows her real name. As a prank she follows him to Bodega Bay but gets attacked by a seagull while crossing the bay in a motorized row boat.

This movie follows a traditional formula of damsel-in-distress and hero in high-waisted pants. The variable is that birds are attacking and killing people.
"Excuse me -- are you a lady in distress?"

"Dis dress, dat dress, who cares? I'm distraught!"
The theory is touched upon (but never elaborated and certainly never confirmed) that birds are fed up with humans using up the Earth's finite resources, and  initiate a reclamation of the planet, starting with Bodega Bay. In their efforts to Occupy Gull Street (I had to), swarms of them dive-bomb windows and telephone booths and hundreds of crows are involved in one of the most memorable scenes.

Melanie is an interesting character: being the child of a rich father, she has what seems like all the world's resources at her manicured fingertips, and she appears fearless to take on any challenge that lies in her way. Having watched movies like Kill Bill and Terminator 2 where the heroines are physically/mentally strong either as a result of extensive training or having faced several life-or-death situations, it's upsetting to me to see that there aren't more examples of strong women in cinema for females of all ages to follow. The subtle message becomes that for a woman to defy authority (or to take it in her own dainty hands) is a rarity and submitting to complacency is the easy way out. Although Melanie comes from a place of privilege, she lives up to the standard of wealth and luxury rather than seizing the opportunity to challenge it and surpass one's expectations of how rich stuffy people interact and empathize with others.

The ending is nothing short of visually breath-taking, and the technique(s) Hitchcock used in creating scenes using hundreds of birds is worth watching. When I first saw this movie at eight years old it piqued my interest in movies and special effects. If you haven't seen The Birds it's a great movie that achieves a lot before the age of computers took over and screwed with the perceptions of proportion and scale. 

Also PETA would've been on his ass.
Are those birds being properly represented, Mr. H?!


Catfreeek said...

Also one of my favorites from my all time favorite director, nice pick and falls in beautifully right after my Psycho review. Great timing Crystal!

Octopunk said...

I love that coincidence, too.

"This movie follows a traditional formula of damsel-in-distress and hero in high-waisted pants." Awesome.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

It was a rare treat to see a Hitchcock movie on the big screen. The loud, incessant chirps during their relentless attacks made for an intense experience.

We need to take a road trip to Bodega Bay someday to give those birds a taste of their own medicine!

DCD said...

Love this review! I haven't seen this in years and now I'm curious to have the "adult" experience of rediscovering it. Nice work!

Felicia Angel said...

Awesome job, though that movie STILL scares me (no laughing, I was young and easily swayed by visions of HOLY F**** HE HAS NO EYES!!). I do love the Occupy Gull Street too XD, and considering that Melaine was one of the many "Hitchcock Blondes" that came up, she wasn't going to be Kill Bill strong, but have her own strength for the time. Great Review, though!