08 Nov 2023 - 23 Mar 2024

Five Hitchcock Films as You’ve Never Seen Them Before

Beirut Art Center


Godard opines in his Histoire(s) du cinéma that “Alfred Hitchcock has been the only poète maudit to achieve success.” Notwithstanding Godard, Hitchcock was not a poète maudit; the author of Blood of Mugwump (1996), Doug Rice, is an example of the usual poète maudit, the one who does not meet with success, and David Lynch, the filmmaker of, among others, episode 8 of the third season of Twin Peaks (2017), Inland Empire (2006), Rabbits (2002), Mulholland Drive (2001) and Lost Highway (1997), is an example of a poète maudit who exceptionally met with critical, academic, and popular success (something to be valued only when it happens during revolutionary times), if not the only poète maudit to do so, while the Sufi al-Ḥallāj of the shaṭḥ (“theopathic” utterance) anā al-ḥaqq (I am the Truth/Real, i.e., God) fame, a keen defender of the paradigmatic damned in Islam, Iblīs, is an example of a poète maudit who met with a success esoterically befitting this kind of poet, for instance, having implored God in the presence of people gathered at the Manṣūr Mosque in Baghdad, “Between me and You there’s an ‘I am’ that’s crowding me. Ah! Remove with Your ‘I am’ my ‘I am’ from between us,” and then reportedly entreated people, “God has made (the spilling of) my blood lawful for you, therefore, kill me!” and predicted, “My death will be in accordance with the religion of the cross,” he ended up being condemned to be crucified and appears to have died on the cross. If Hitchcock met with success, not only popular but also critical and academic, it was not, notwithstanding Godard (“if Alfred Hitchcock has been the only poète maudit to achieve success, it is because he was the greatest creator of forms of the twentieth century”), because he was the greatest creator of forms of the twentieth century—there have been many greater creators of forms among twentieth century painters (Francis Bacon, etc.), filmmakers (Tarkovsky, Parajanov, Sokurov, Bokanowski, Brothers Quay, etc.), etc.—but rather because he compromised, was not radical enough, thus made films that are partial artistic failures, as implied by the many remakes and other reworkings of his films by other filmmakers and artists, including me (Vertiginous Variations on Vertigo [2016]), and by the remake he did of one of his films, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956)—one could view Gus van Sant’s Psycho (1998), largely a “shot-for-shot remake,” as unconsciously implying that Hitchcock’s Psycho is, exceptionally among his films, not a partial artistic failure since it did not require a revision in the form of a (significantly) variant remake.

Through explicit and implicit variations on them, as well as by other manners, this exhibition presents five Hitchcock films as you’ve never seen them before. 

-Jalal Toufic

Artist statement from Beirut Art Center

Image: Jalal Toufic. Variations on Guilt and Innocence in 39 Steps. 2013. Conceptual film. 75 minutes. Image courtesy of Beirut Art Center. Photo: Divine Gerges