Like a lot of people, we thought to watch a Sean Connery movie this weekend, and our choice was Marnie. It's been a very long time since I'd seen it, and my recollections were mostly negative ... Tippi Hedren was awful, Hitchcock's use of rear projection seemed lazy ... I didn't know her yet, but even Kael called it "Hitchcock scraping bottom". I know that its critical reputation has grown over time ... it's #357 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. All of which intrigued me, although I was prepared to roll my eyes at what Fernando F. Croce in 2006 described as "the daring formal experimentalism of painted backgrounds and rear-projections".
Well, I think backtracking critics are stretching it ... it still looks lazy to me. But I was wrong about Tippi Hedren, who is the best thing about the movie. She's great, and I admit to being complete surprised by this. The bizarre Hitchcockian treatment of the female lead is still creepy ... I think we're supposed to side with Connery's Mark when he tries to "cure" Marnie (at one point, he says, "I'm fighting a powerful impulse to beat the hell out of you"). This isn't Vertigo, where Hitchcock put his creepy obsessions on the screen and then made James Stewart a near-psycho so we wouldn't think his behavior was proper. But Tippi Hedren saves the picture. Her Marnie is sympathetic, and we feel her hurt.
Hedren rescues the movie, and I'm glad I finally watched it again. But I can think of at least 10 Hitchcock films I prefer to Marnie.