"MOVIE MAD" by Michael van den Bos

(c) 2014 by Michael van den Bos

1 Post from November 2012


HITCHCOCK - directed by Sacha Gervasi   




Rating: 3 out of 5 Hitchcocks.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the grand masters of moviemaking, essentially inventing the type of suspense film, and refining it to an art, whose films continue to inspire  21st century filmmakers working in the thriller genre. HITCHCOCK, the movie, focuses on the period of 1959-1960 of Hitch's career when, at the height of his popularity and success (coming off the box-office bonanza of his stylish, sexy and expensive romantic thriller, NORTH BY NORTHWEST), he embarked on his most controversial and experimental film to date, the groundbreaking and highly influential low-budget horror film, PSYCHO (1960), based on the Robert Bloch novel, in turn based on Wisconsin serial killer, Ed Gein. HITCHCOCK also sheds long over due light on his foremost creative collaborator, his wife, Alma Reville.

The movie features an outstanding cast, with Anthony Hopkins getting deep in the corpulent skin of Alfred Hitchcock, capturing the director's sly impudence, dry sarcasm, droll wit, simmering insecurities and even touching pathos. The real Hitchcock was an extremely complex personality, who manifested his anxieties, neuroses, fears, fetishes and dark humor into over 50 brilliantly directed motion pictures.  HITCHCOCK can't come close to mining these complexities of the great director, but it does suggest shades of Hitch's psyche as he makes PSYCHO.  And Helen Mirren is warm and intelligent as Alma Reville, the one person Hitchcock trusted above all others to make the right creative calls on all of his productions.  (Alma worked in the British film industry as an editor and scriptwriter before her future husband started directing).  Hopkins will likely receive an Oscar nomination and I wouldn't be surprised if Mirren does as well.

Director Sascha Gervasi and writer John J. McLaughlin take artistic license with Hitchcock's personal life (I don't buy that Hitchcock was haunted by the figure of Ed Gein) and great liberties in a fictitious sub-plot about Alma skimming the edges of flirtation with real-life screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), but all the scenes about the making of PSYCHO, inspired by the excellent Stephen A. Rebello book, "Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho", hits the bull's -eye for its accuracy (although much important and interesting making-of information is missing, like using chocolate syrup for Janet Leigh's bathtub bloodbath), and it is a shame the filmmakers couldn't get the rights to use clips from the actual movie PSYCHO, but HITCHCOCK is immensely entertaining and a lovely homage to the Master of Suspense.

Along with Hopkins and Mirren, the rest of the cast is solid, with Scarlett Johansson sharp and spunky as Janet Leigh; Jessica Biel as PSYCHO co-star Vera Miles, who was a failed romantic conquest for Hitchcock; Toni Collette as Hitch's dedicated assistant, Peggy Robertson; Michael Stuhlbarg as mega-agent, Lew Wasserman; and Kurtwood Smith as Hitch's nemesis, the head of Hollywood's censorial Production Code Administration, Geoffery Shurlock.

All tech credits are top notch, especially Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography, and the art direction and costume design, which all lovingly captures a lost era of classic moviemaking as it was coming to an end. HITCHCOCK is not documentary-like in its accuracy, but like its subject matter, it is playful and suggestive of arguably the 20th century's greatest and most famous filmmaker's subversive side.