But there are pitfalls inherent to this promising enterprise. Over lunch with writer-director (and estimable film scholar) Paul Schrader, Kolker is warned that his subject matter is “a well-trod road,” which indeed it is. There are easily a dozen first-rate books on Hitchcock and his films; François Truffaut’s marvelous Hitchcock/Truffaut (1966) is so well-known that it was the subject of a recent documentary. The output on Welles is similarly ceaseless. Recent notable additions include Alberto Anile’s Orson Welles in Italy (2013) and Patrick McGilligan’s 2015 Young Orson (800 pages about Welles before he directed Citizen Kane). And there is Simon Callow’s massive, still-in-progress, four-volume Welles biography (the second volume is the jewel in that crown to date). The Kubrick literature lags, but only in a relative sense—it too is enormous, including Taschen’s invaluable The Stanley Kubrick Archives (2004), edited by Alison Castle, and Kubrick: The Definitive Edition (1999) by esteemed film critic and historian Michel Ciment. This of course puts pressure on Kolker both to have something new to say, and to navigate a tightrope of providing necessary information for the uninitiated without belaboring the obvious. (…)
A chapter on the theme of “dream worlds” illustrates how widely the net must be cast to bring the filmmakers together. The discussion of Hitchcock’s films as occupying this twilight state—and of characters “that get caught in bad dreams that seem to take place in a palpably awake world”—rings true. I would argue this is especially the case for Jimmy Stewart’s performances in Rope (1948), Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo. Rear Window and Vertigo play explicitly with the grey area between consciousness and unconsciousness; in Rope and The Man Who Knew Too Much, Stewart’s characters are slow to process the fact that they are indeed being confronted with their worst nightmares.
But as a unifying theme, the dream world only gets us so far.