Now playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center is a program titled "Dial 3 for 3-D," a veritable film festival of notable stereoscopic films from the 1950s through the present. The series includes everything from vintage horror and cult items like Creature from the Black Lagoon and House of Wax to contemporary documentaries and art films such as Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Pina. The must-sees are Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954) and Jean-Luc Godard’s recent Goodbye to Language (2014).
Critic J. Hoberman has called Hitchcock’s film “by far the most visually compelling of studio stereoscopic movies,” and it’s easy to see why. It contains the least obtrusive use of 3-D of any Hollywood movie ever shot in that format. Only during a scene involving the attempted murder of Grace Kelly’s character does Hitchcock resort to eye-popping effects: Kelly reaches her hand towards the camera, and by extension into the audience, beckoning us for help. The moment is startlingly effective, as we’ve been lulled into forgetting about Hitchcock’s use of the technology.
If Hitchcock offers the least showy approach to 3-D, Godard is the opposite. Fittingly for the man who popularized self-reflexive devices such as the jump-cut in his groundbreaking work of the 1960s, Goodbye to Language never lets us forget we are watching a 3-D movie. The 84-year-old director’s playful essay film, a treatise on the difficulty of communication in the modern world, contains extended sequences of his pet dog frolicking in nature. It is an appropriate metaphor for the new life in the old dog behind the camera.
"Dial 3 for 3-D" runs through February 5. Check the Siskel Center’s website for the complete schedule and showtimes.