Spain, 10 min
Directed by: Martin ScorseseWritten by: Ted Griffin (writer)
Starring: Simon Baker, Kelli O'Hara, Michael Stuhlbarg, Christopher Denham, Richard Easton, Martin Scorsese
From one Hitchcock fan to another: Bravo, Marty Scorsese! Given the task of producing a commercial for Freixenet Wines, the prominent director enthusiastically crafted an endearing homage to the Master of Suspense, in the guise of a "rediscovered" Hitchcock script. The Key to Reserva (2007) is that very rare thing – an advertisement that is absolutely a joy to watch, so much so that you can easily ignore the advertising itself and consider the prized Freixenet wine-bottle just another of Hitchcock's unlikely MacGuffins. The film even tries to obscure the fact that it is merely a commercial, with Scorsese starring as himself in a documentary framing device that sees him excitedly boasting about his plans to film three fragmented pages from an unproduced Hitchcock script. One is hardly likely to fall for the ruse nowadays, but, when the short first emerged on the internet, I have no doubt that many people were swindled, even if the promise of Marty-doing-Hitch would have seemed simply too amazing to be true.
Scorsese's The Key to Reserva opens with screeching violins over opening credits that might have been designed by Saul Bass. We fade into the strings of a violin, as a musician twangs vigorously at his instrument, and Scorsese pulls off a breathtaking crane shot – over the heads of the orchestra audience and into the entrance hall – that would have made Hitchcock proud. What follows is an exciting amalgamation of homages to the director's greatest set-pieces, including references to Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo (1958)… right at the end, there's also a very subtle nod towards The Birds (1963), though you'll have to pay close attention! Hitchcock's film-making techniques are recreated in a slightly-exaggerated but nonetheless affectionate way, and Scorsese delights in exploring the singular stylistic touches - the spectacular long-shots, the overstated angles, the creative use of light and shadow to communicate approaching danger - that made the director such an influential figure in American cinema.
Some directors, such as Brian DePalma, have made a living out of homaging The Master of Suspense, but to witness one of cinema's contemporary greats expressing such gratitude towards Hitchcock is something else altogether. Scorsese even establishes himself as quite an entertaining actor, his self-portrayal occasionally touching on Woody Allen in terms of neurotic, boyishly-excited energy. Even long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker gets an appearance, adding another layer of authenticity to the ingenious framing device. Scorsese's film-within-a-film is almost completely wordless, undoubtedly following in the footsteps of a similar set-piece in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and that the story opens mid-stream adds a hint of tantalising ambiguity. But do you know what would be even better? Nothing would thrill me more than for Martin Scorsese to re-hire screenwriter Ted Griffin, expand these "rediscovered" pages into a feature-length treatment, and release The Key to Reserva into cinemas by 2011. I'd be first in line, and nobody would be admitted after the opening credits.