Director Martin Scorsese recently released The Key to Reserva, a 10-minute Internet-based commercial for Freixenet champagne provocatively billed as an adaptation of a “lost” Hitchcock manuscript. The short has two storylines. One tells the truncated tale (owing to an incomplete manuscript!) of a man anxious to find a key that unlocks a box containing a bottle of fine champagne bearing a top-secret message. The second, hidden in the open as they say, is the story inside the story: a supposed making-of “documentary” that sets up the drama—a lost Hitchcock script found! Scorsese directing it!
The film is shot in a very recognizably Hitchcockian style, and Hitchcock references abound. Some are glaring, like the classic Bernard Herrmann score and Saul Bass-style credits. Many more require an expansive knowledge of the primary sources—like the R.O.T. initialed handkerchief (North by Northwest), the brutal stabbing (Dial M for Murder), the camera’s red flashes (Rear Window), the key and the bottle of Freixenet (both Notorious), and the Hitchcock blonde (don’t even get me started). But beyond being just a shower of references, more impressively, Scorsese pulls off stylistic allusions—like the crane shot backing out of the orchestra (Young and Innocent) and the overhead shot of the protagonist’s ascension of the stairs (Vertigo).
As for whether Scorsese succeeds in making a Hitchcock, well, no—though I would argue that he has succeeded in pulling off a terribly funny joke about making one. The manuscript claim is sold convincingly, and Scorsese, to his credit, never shoots us a wink. Ultimately, the very preponderance of references foils the ruse—not to mention that Scorsese’s pacing is too fast, which underdevelops the suspense.
As for the much-anticipated Hitchcock cameo: Scorsese’s Spellbound poster would hint that Hitch should be playing a violin, and the orchestra, frustratingly, seems to bear a large percentage of portly, bald men—certainly a staged distraction. This is a tough one, but just when you might have given up, hold it right there—in the production room scene with Scorsese, is that an uncredited Pat Hitchcock, Hitch’s daughter? Now that would be clever.
And what about that picture just outside the balcony door? Is it a young Scorsese? Or maybe cameos are just for the birds.