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Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies

Volume II. War Machines

2004
Author:

Tom Cohen

Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies

An interpretation of Hitchcock’s films as deeply subversive works that realize cinema’s potential to transform society

This first volume of Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies provides a singularly close reading of The Lady Vanishes, Spellbound, and North by Northwest, exposing the visual and aural puns, graphic elements, and cryptograms that traverse his entire body of work.

Within Hitchcock’s cinema, Tom Cohen argues, these "secret agents" have more than just symbolic significance; they also reflect and disrupt traditional cinematic practice.

It is safe to say that no one who reads this book will ever look at any Hitchcock film quite the same way again.

William Rothman, author of Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze

Tom Cohen’s radical exploration of Hitchcock’s cinema departs from conventional approaches—psychoanalytic, feminist, political—to emphasize the dense web of signatures and markings inscribed on and around his films. Aligning Hitchcock’s agenda with the philosophical and aesthetic writings of Nietzsche, Derrida, and Benjamin, Cohen's project dramatically recasts the history and meaning of cinema itself.

This first volume of Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies provides a singularly close reading of films such as The Lady Vanishes, Spellbound, and North by Northwest, exposing the often imperceptible visual and aural puns, graphic elements, and cryptograms that traverse his entire body of work. Within Hitchcock’s cinema, Cohen argues, these "secret agents" have more than just decorative or symbolic significance; they also reflect, critique, and disrupt traditional cinematic practice, undermining ways of seeing inherited from the Enlightenment and prefiguring postmodern culture.

From the recurrence of the eye motif and the frequency of names beginning with "Mar" to the role of memory and the director’s trademark cameos, Cohen offers an unprecedented guide to the entirety of Hitchcock’s labyrinthine signature system. At the same time, he liberates Hitchcock’s works from film history (modernist, auteurist), revealing them as unsettled events in the archaeology of contemporary global image culture.


Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies

Tom Cohen is professor of American literary, critical, and cinematic studies at the University at Albany. He is the author of Anti-Mimesis: From Plato to Hitchcock and Ideology and Inscription: “Cultural Studies” after Benjamin, and coeditor of Material Events (Minnesota, 2000).

Tom Cohen is professor of American literary, critical, and cinematic studies at the University at Albany. He is the author of Anti-Mimesis: From Plato to Hitchcock and Ideology and Inscription: “Cultural Studies” after Benjamin, and coeditor of Material Events (Minnesota, 2000).

Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies

It is safe to say that no one who reads this book will ever look at any Hitchcock film quite the same way again.

William Rothman, author of Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze

A ferociously original book.

Thomas Leitch, author of The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock

These two books are a virtuoso performance of reading and interpreting the Hitchcockian corpus.

ArtUS

Hitchcock’s Cryptonomies is an intellectual event of the first order for film studies, critical theory, and philosophy. In the originality of its challenge to received critical approaches, it has no peer in film theory. Cohen forces the reader to reassess not simply the ostensible object of his study but the nature of reality, the history of the West, and all ways of knowing. Hitchcock’s Cryptonomies is a work that should be counted with the breakthrough books of the twentieth century; if enough readers take the time to let the book speak, it should remake film studies and philosophy, too.

Film Criticism

Cohen produces a radical challenge to the established perception of Hitchcock as a typically modern, painterly filmmaker. Instead, Cohen recasts Hitchcock as an iconoclastic, self-plagiarising and logophilic genius prefiguring cinematic postmodernity. An original and ferocious incision into the body of critical work on Hitchcock as well as on cinema as a quintessentially modern medium.

Senses of Cinema

It is safe to say that no one who reads this book will ever look at any Hitchcock film quite the same way again.

William Rothman, author of Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze

A ferociously original book.

Thomas Leitch, author of The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock

These two books are a virtuoso performance of reading and interpreting the Hitchcockian corpus.

ArtUS

Hitchcock’s Cryptonomies is an intellectual event of the first order for film studies, critical theory, and philosophy. In the originality of its challenge to received critical approaches, it has no peer in film theory. Cohen forces the reader to reassess not simply the ostensible object of his study . . . but the nature of reality, the history of the West, and all ways of knowing. Hitchcock’s Cryptonomies is a work that should be counted with the breakthrough books of the twentieth century; if enough readers take the time to let the book speak, it should remake film studies and philosophy, too.

Film Criticism

Hitchcock’s Cryptonymies

Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface

Introduction: The Blind of Ocularcentrism

Part I. Police, Criminals, and the Mediatric State

1. The Avenging Fog of Media: The Lodger as Host
2. A User's Guide to Hitchcock's Signature Systems
3. Espionage in the Teletechnic Empire
4. Blackmail in the Universal Reading Room

Part II. The Spies' Post Office

5. The Archival Wars of "Old Man R"
6. The Slave Revolt of Memory: R to the Power of Gamma
7. Contretemps: Secret Agency in the Chocolate Factory
8. Animation Blackout: The Sabotage of Aura

Part III. State of the Image

9. Solar Fronts: Politics of the Post-Enlightenment
10. Zarathustran Hitchcock
11. Extraterritoriality: An In-House Affair at the Embassy of Ao

Coda: Exploding Cameos
Notes

Index of Films

Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface

Introduction: Hitchcock's Esperanto

Part I. Travel Service Window

1. Transports
2. Combined Ops: The Postal Politics of Bon Voyage!

Part II. Prehistory of the Afterlife of Cinema

3. A Performativity without Frame
4. "How Old Is Mae West? "
5. Phoenix Rex: The Passing of Oedipus in Hitchcock

Part III. Jump Cuts

6. Time Machines
7. Matrixide

Part IV. The Black Sun

8. Prosthesis of the Visible
9. Upping the Ante: A Deauratic Cinema
10. Hitchcock's Light Touch

Coda: Trouble at the Seance
Notes

Index of Films