Entertainment & Arts

London 2012: Alfred Hitchcock silent films to be celebrated by BFI

Alfred Hitchcock
Image caption Hitchcock pioneered camera techniques which are still practised today

The British Film Institute has revealed details of its celebration of film-maker Alfred Hitchcock, which includes restorations of his silent movies.

Champagne and Blackmail, which were directed by the British master of suspense during the late 1920s, will be shown with live musical accompaniment.

A three-month long season will also see all 58 of his films - including Psycho, Vertigo and The Birds - screened.

Actors Tippi Hedren and Bruce Dern will also take part in live events.

Speaking at a launch in London on Tuesday, Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director, said that the BFI had wanted to get out its "big guns", like other big cultural organisations, during Olympic year.

"The idea of popular cinema somehow being capable of being great art at the same time as being entertaining is still a problem for some people," she said. "Shakespeare is on the national curriculum, Hitchcock is not."

Image caption Some of Hitchcock's earliest works will be shown

She said that in the same way that Picasso had changed the face of modern art, Hitchcock was also a game-changer. "After Psycho, in particular, film-making could never be the same again."

An open-air screening of Blackmail, directed by the 30-year-old Hitchcock in 1929, will be staged in the forecourt of the British Museum on 6 July as part of the BFI's involvement in the London 2012 Festival celebrations.

The film will feature a live score by award-winning composer, musician, writer and broadcaster Neil Brand, performed live by an ensemble of 18 musicians.

A short clip of Blackmail was screened at The Genius of Hitchcock launch event, accompanied by the new score.

Describing Hitchcock as an "incredibly seductive" film-maker, Brand said he had not tried to replicate the music of the silent era. "This is for an audience now."

Hitchcock's 1927 boxing drama The Ring will be shown at the Hackney Empire, with jazz and hip hop artist Soweto Kinch providing live music and fellow Mercury prize nominee Nitin Sawhney will score The Lodger: A Tale Of The London Fog.

After performing a live saxophone solo over a clip from The Ring, Kinch said: "The dance sequences in this film have travelled really well with time. There's a particular beat and a tempo that means I'll be able to twin the old with the new."

Film critic and chairman of the London Film Critics' Circle Jason Solomons said of the Hitchcock retrospective: "What strikes me is the modernity of the project. We're seeing him now as a cool indie British film-maker."

He added: "Music is the first step to reframing how we see cinema. There are different strains of world music and it proves that his films belong to all of us."

Both The Ring and Champagne will be screened live on The Space - a digital arts service which has been developed by Arts Council England in partnership with the BBC and BFI.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, told the BBC: "Alfred Hitchcock is one of the great artists of the 20th Century and like all great artists he makes us look at the world differently - and he makes his art form transform itself after his input."

The BFI on London's South Bank will also house an exhibition paying tribute to Hitchcock, who died aged 80 in 1980.

Over his career, spanning six decades, the director was nominated for five Oscars - but won just one honorary statuette, in 1968.

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