Michael Ondaatje, the Booker Prize winning author of The English Patient, is too obdurately non-linear in his storytelling to churn out a commercial adaptation of Hitchcock’s silent non-classic The Lodger, but, given the project’s pedigree, I’d rather see an intellectual with an adventurous sense of narrative take on the Jack the Ripper-esque yarn than some novice (i.e. David Ondaatje) who’s been whacking off to the master’s cinema for years without a finished feature to show for his fetish.
If there’s one filmmaker who invites fetishism, it’s Hitchock; no one obsessed on their leading ladies and the various instruments with which they might be dispatched more ghoulishly (for instance, think of Grace Kelly grasping for the scissors in Dial M for Murder). So it’s no surprise that the master’s florid visual style a) went a long way toward inspiring the auteur theory, and b) inspired a horde of pallid imitators. But for every Brian De Palma (a genius-level filmmaker who saw in Hitchcock’s stirring arias of bloodletting the stuff of boldly transgressive, and not altogether accessible, opera), there’s a jackass like Kenneth Branagh who, in Dead Again, integrated his rudimentary (or retarded) notions of symbolism right into the production design. Though Hitchcock wasn’t sneaky with his themes, he at least respected the audience enough to not literally impale them on significance in the third act.
This is just a long-winded way of expressing my reticence over some non-entity redoing a solid Hitchcock work just for the sake of redoing Hitchcock. Since The Lodger is little more than a Jack The Ripper riff, it could easily be updated and, who knows, transplanted to America to better protect Sony’s investment. I’ve no problem with this. What’s troubling, though, is the combination of writer-director David Ondaatje and producer Michael Mailer, who’s very loudly produced a number of ghastly, barely releasable disasters in Black and White, Harvard Man and Empire. Why do these guys get a shot while a smart fella like Shane Carruth languishes? Don’t answer that.