I was initially intrigued by Lucy Ellman‘s “Patriarchy Is Just a Spell,” a 12.26 N.Y. Times piece about Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound. But the subhead — “I’m outing Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 thriller Spellbound as a #MeToo film” — doesn’t really manifest.
Ellmann basically notes how the male characters in Spellbound treat Ingrid Bergman‘s character, Dr. Constance Petersen, like a sex object or otherwise disregard her authority as a psychoanalyst. Over and over and over, Gregory Peck included. That doesn’t make Spellbound a #MeToo film. It makes it a study of upscale 1945 culture and how almost all males from that realm were sexist assholes in one way or another, certainly by the standards of 2019.
Spellbound is, was and always will be a less-than-satisfying film. The psychological jargon has always felt gimmicky and simplistic, and Peck’s character, John Ballantyne, is, in fact, a brooding, hair-trigger jerk.
But the film has always held my attention for (a) the falling-in-love, opening-of-doors sequence when Bergman realizes she’s head over heels for Peck and vice versa, and (b) the fact that Bergman and Peck did in fact lock loins during production. Both were 29 at the time.
Peck to People‘s Brad Darrach in a 1987 interview: “All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”
Ellman #1: “Psychoanalysis has often despaired of women. Detailing the faults of mothers has worn out the velvet of many an analytic couch. Freud expressed mystification and exasperation with the uncharitable question ‘What do women want?’
“Well, maybe what women want is to steal the show, regain center stage, which is in fact their rightful place in the world — and in the movies. Echoes of the matriarchal cultures that dominated prehistory lurk in our collective unconscious. Female supremacy is alluring.”
I too find female supremacy alluring. This is probably the way to go, given the toxic tendencies of too many boomer, GenX and Millennial males. Things have to change.
But when I think of what’s happened to the Sundance Film Festival over the last five years **, it does give me pause. Think about that and all of the Robespierre
Ellman #2: “Who doesn’t want Ingrid Bergman to be happy? We’ve seen her driven to distraction in so many movies. We want her to relax and feel safe! We want her in Paris, actually, all leggy in that gold dressing gown of hers, not the dowdy pinstriped thing Hitch lumbered her with in Spellbound. We want her drinking champagne with Humphrey Bogart. (Let’s face it, Peck’s just a little too complicated.)
“Patriarchy is only an idea after all, a spell, an enchantment. We’re not bound to it.”
** From “Return to Camp Woke,” posted on 11.27.19: “Sundance is a default venue for progressive, Bernie and AOC-admiring Millennials and GenZ-ers with a smattering of wealthy boomers and GenXers…a place for the sharing of 21st Century, lefty-concentration-camp values…the right kind of legends…struggles and celebrations of women, LGBTQs, people and cultures of color, and a corresponding absence of anything that’s even a little contrarian in terms of, say, white-male experience or straight perspectives.
“The whole festival is a safe space, and anyone who’s afraid of being overthrown or cancelled or at least strongly challenged…well, it’s your call.”