A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
Melanie Daniels is the modern rich socialite, part of the jet-set who always gets what she wants. When lawyer Mitch Brenner sees her in a pet shop, he plays something of a practical joke on her, and she decides to return the favor. She drives about an hour north of San Francisco to Bodega Bay, where Mitch spends the weekends with his mother Lydia and younger sister Cathy. Soon after her arrival, however, the birds in the area begin to act strangely. A seagull attacks Melanie as she is crossing the bay in a small boat, and then, Lydia finds her neighbor dead, obviously the victim of a bird attack. Soon, birds in the hundreds and thousands are attacking anyone they find out of doors. There is no explanation as to why this might be happening, and as the birds continue their vicious attacks, survival becomes the priority. Written by
One of Hitchcock's most enigmatic and fascinating films, a true puzzle without an answer. Hitchcock chucks away all but the barest conceit of DuMaurier's story, and instead constructs an elegant little comedy of manners so dry it'll sting your lips. Tippi Hedren's spoiled rich girl makes a trip to a west-coast fishing town to play a joke on a smartass lawyer who still lives with his mum, and things get complicated. In the movie's first half, the director layers on the sexual tensions and the bitchy wit until you're at the screaming point--and then unleashes a cataclysmic natural horror so unspeakable it could be something out of the Bible.
All technical elements are superb. Hitchcock, so well known for his use of music, shows here how terrifying silence can be, and 'The Birds' remains an intensely quiet picture, even punctuated, as it is, by sudden noisy violence. The set pieces, like the fireplace scene, the playground scene, and the visit with Dan Fawcett, are studies in perfection. The cast is smooth down to the tiniest roles, with the proto-Altman ensemble scene in the diner being one of the most memorable segments in a film chock-full of them.
And it is literally impossible to imagine better-cast actors in the leads. Hedren is perfect as Melanie Daniels, the party girl who, while not nearly as clever as she thinks she is, may just be telling the truth when she says she's looking for something more meaningful in her life. Rod Taylor is charming and somewhat inscrutable as the local-boy-made-good who thinks he knows what he wants. Suzanne Pleschette is smoldering as the cynical (and perhaps sexually ambiguous) schoolteacher who takes Melanie in.
And perhaps most important, Jessica Tandy is a searing, twitchily hypnotic presence as Lydia Brenner, surely one of greatest supporting characters in the Hitchcock pantheon.
As the movie runs on, the director gleefully ignores one loose end after another, leaving the viewer with an epic catalogue of unanswered questions at the climax (the most important of which is articulated by the diner's birdwatching crone: Why?). And if you're the kind of moviegoer who likes having everything neatly explained, you'd best try something else. But if you like ambiguity (and a healthy dose of existential nightmarishness), it doesn't get any better than this. 10 out of 10.
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