Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh, we have 12 vacancies. 12 cabins, 12 vacancies

No 45 - Psycho
Director - Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho is one of those films that has already been analysed and discussed to an incredible degree. I don't feel like I'll really be able add anything that hasn't already been explained a hundred times before. So all I'm going to do is discuss the little magical moments which help make this such a brilliant film.

The film follows Janet Leigh's Marion Crane as she steals some money from her work and proceeds to act very suspiciously. This means that (naturally) she attracts a lot of attention from the police and other types as she flees - initially you think this may be a bad thing, the fool is hardly subtle, but actually it turns out to be a good thing because it means there are a lot of people who remember her after the tragedy of meeting Norman Bates and his mother.

The shower scene is probably the most famous part of Psycho, and arguably the most famous sequence of Hitchcock's entire career. Whilst people may not have seen the incredibly edited series of short cuts (pardon the pun) - I reckon everyone in the UK knows what those screeching strings mean..... they mean stabbin'.
There are lots of places where you can explore the technical gubbins linked to this film but I want to talk about the effect. It is true that you see much less than you think you do. There is no stabbing, there is no naughty bits.... it is all implied. But not only does it feel more taboo than it is, it is also really bleak.... for me, on of the film's most chilling moments is that moment as Marion's gasping body slides down the wall of the shower... it is a really cold and really emotional.
Anyway... on the off chance that you've never seen that excellent moment.... look at it now.

But the shower scene isn't just a technical marvel (77 camera angles doncha know) - it is also a brave move as Janet Leigh was the biggest name in the film... it sets a chilling atmosphere, no one is safe. Anyone could be deaded. Other films have carried on this brave gambit. It makes slasher films a lot less predictable - and yet, Psycho was probably the first slasher film - so it goes to show how predictable things got after Hitchcock set the scene.

the only other thing I want to discuss is Anthony Perkins. - who is really quite remarkable in this. The way that he manages to alternate between looking quite naive and innocent to looking truly menacing (normally when he is standing in shadows).
I'm guessing most people have seen Psycho - but I don't want to spoiler it.... let me just say that Perkins' acting abilities pinnacle at the film's final scene. His monologue and his look directly to camera are the film's most chilling moment. Hitchcock manages to make the sequence even more chilling with a beautifully subtle skull overlap.

It is a masterful film. It has incredible music, incredible titles, incredible performances and (as you'd expect from Hitchcock) it is as taut and tense as can be.

And, the best thing of all is this EXCELLENT trailer, showing that Hitchcock is not only a great storyteller, he is a comedy genius.