A filmmaker friend sent me into a funk this morning. He managed this feat by declaring that he loves Alfred Hitchcock‘s Marnie, and insisting that it’s a “fantastic” film. My first reaction was “dear God.” My second reaction was to send him the following:

“No one is more passionate about film and other things than yourself, but Marnie? Please name one aspect of Marnie that truly and consistently works, in your view. Name one aspect that you regard as truly ‘fantastic.’

Tippi Hedren delivered the brittle and repressed, but she couldn’t deliver the eros — it just wasn’t there. Hitchcock never admitted this in so many words, but he was looking to turn audiences on with Marnie. It’s a film about repression, constipation and memory panic, but he wanted Hedren to deliver ‘the volcano’, as he once said. But she couldn’t.

“Grace Kelly, whom Hitch had originally cast, might have succeeded in this regard.

“Those stilted scenes with her deranged mother (Louise Latham), that deadly on-the-nose dialogue, those absurd flashes of red, those awful process shots when Hedren is riding her horse, those almost comically fake backdrop paintings by Albert Whitlock, etc.

“You’re basically stuck with a lead actress who can never be healthy, never trust anyone, never have great sex, never breathe easy.

“I like Sean Connery’s performance, the Bernard Herrmann score, the suspenseful Act One robbery sequence.

“I appreciate that Marnie is as much about Hitchcock self-portraiture as Vertigo was. In actuality Hitch was basically Connery’s “Mark Rutland” character, an authority figure using power and pressure to get Marnie/Hedren to sleep with him. Rutland and Vertigo‘s Scotty Ferguson are both rooted in a pervy, twisted psychology. And their respective lead females are liars, fakers and unreliable narrators.

“The bottom line? Hitch adored his ice queens (‘There are hills in that thar gold’) but at the end of the day his big erotic fixation was upon food.”