Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation

Robert E. Kapsis, Author
Robert E. Kapsis, Author University of Chicago Press $45 (330p) ISBN 978-0-226-42487-3
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
Paperback - 313 pages - 978-0-226-42489-7
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In his first book, Kapsis, who teaches sociology and film studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, offers an interesting study of the rise, fall and subsequent rise of the reputation of master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. Kapsis considers Hitchcock's critical reputation illustrative of an intriguing thesis: that an artist's standing among the critics is shaped by external forces such as changing fashions in aesthetics and the standing of the critics themselves as much as by the artworks. The effect on Hitchcock's reputation of the popularity of auteur criticism--and its subsequent impact on the thriller and horror genres in general--is a compelling illustration of Kapsis's theory. He moves on to a consideration of how auteur theory in effect drove Brian DePalma, a Hitchcock acolyte, out of the genre, and to brief sketches of the critical reputations of Hollywood filmmakers Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Fritz Lang. Finally, in one of the book's more stimulating sections, Kapsis applies his model to the career of Vladimir Horowitz. This is an intellectually challenging book, but it is marred by repetition and an undistinguished prose style that often borders on the arid. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
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