A Psychotic Risk

Hitchcock

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In a similar vein that Simon Curtis’s film My Week with Marilyn  depicted the events surrounding the filming of the Monroe and Olivier 1957 picture The Prince and the Showgirl, Sacha Gervasi’s brilliant film Hitchcock traces the making of Psycho, one of the most pivotal horror films ever made by the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock.

Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins with lots of prosthetic makeup brings the corpulent Alfred Hitchcock to cinematic life, along with Helen Mirren as his brilliant, sharp-witted wife Alma Reville. Hitchcock centres on how the director and Alma embark on making one of the most shocking films of the time, Psycho.

Hitchcock opens with the 1959 premiere of North by Northwest and the legendary director is restless for a departure from the thriller genre, searching for a more captivating project. Soon Hitchcock reads the 1959 novel Psycho by Robert Bloch based on a documented case of a Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber Ed Gein (played by Michael Wincott in Hitchcock) who terrorized the mid-West in the late 1950’s cutting up female corpses in a farmhouse in a serious attempt to deal with his mother issues http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psycho_%281960_film%29.

Alfred Hitchcock is naturally drawn to such a macabre and brutal story and plans to make a shocking film version.

Without the financial backing of Paramount Studios, Hitchcock and Reville put up their own money to finance the picture and the casting begins… Scarlett Johansson (Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Black Dahlia) returns to form as the voluptuous actress Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy (W/E) plays Anthony Perkins along with Jessica Biel (Easy Virtue) as the more conventional actress Vera Miles. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) is Hitchcock’s faithful agent Lew Wasserman and what follows is a fascinating film about the turmoil of making Psycho, but really focusing on the unique collaborative and at times difficult relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his brisk, intelligent wife Alma Reville superbly played by Mirren.

Reville collaborated with Hitchcock on many of his films, often rewriting the final scenes of some of his films and was a solid supporter of all his trademark direction. Hopkins is wonderful as Hitchcock who plays the portly director subtly balancing caricature and genius, whilst also revealing his flaws as a sixty year old man who fraught with jealous and suspicion makes one of the most shocking films of his career.

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For cinema enthusiasts, Hitchcock whilst skilfully depicting all the stages of film making  from conceptualization and casting, to editing and distribution is a delight as it shows in stylish detail how Psycho despite  all the obstacles ranging from the censorship board to the limited distribution was eventually completed. At the heart of the production was the wonderfully brisk collaboration between Hitchcock and Alma who had to insure that their personal investment in Psycho produced a spine chilling cinematic achievement, one that the audiences would never forget.

A lot of the success of Psycho (1960) was in how the film was edited as Hitchcock returned to a form of American minimalism whilst exploring the murky world of psycho-sexual obsessions from voyeurism to suppression, resulting in absolute rage and brutal murder. The infamous shower scene at the Bates Motel in which Janet Leigh is stabbed by Anthony Perkins is wonderfully recreated and in the editing suite is cut viciously to a horrific musical score after Hitchcock shot the scene from seven different camera angles and not to mention actually physically frightening Leigh himself just to capture the shock factor.

The best line in the film is when Hitchcock is talking to a neurotic screenwriter Joseph Stefano and asks him why he goes to daily psychoanalysis and the answer is

“Oh, the usual reasons: Sex, Rage, My Mother!”

Essentially Hitchcock is a intelligent drama with an edgy script almost comically depicting  how one of the most legendary film directors of that era changed the face of cinema forever with the help of his  quick-witted sophisticated wife Alma Reville. The first time onscreen pairing of Hopkins and Mirren is superb as they portray the intelligent and complex power couple and ably assisted with a great supporting cast, along with Danny Huston as a charming screenwriter Whitfield Cook and Toni Colette as Hitchcock’s loyal secretary Peggy Robertson making Hitchcock a must see for all serious film lovers . Disturbing, quirky and definitely recommended viewing, Hitchcock is a must!

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