Hitchcock – A Wikipedia guide to Psycho from Sasha Gervasi. (Film Review)

What an odd film!

I’m not sure which side of the fence to fall on after watching Hitchcock. For a film I thought would be terrible, I had a rather good time.  I was compelled to go home directly and watch Psycho, currently shown for free all over the net – something I think is fantastic.  On the other side I think Anthony Hopkins looks bloody awful, nothing like Hitchcock and sounds even less like him. It was a bit like watching Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. When so many people go on and on about what a good job they did, you’re left at the end thinking you’ve gone mad because you found the performance unconvincing (to say the least).  At least Hopkins isn’t up for an academy award, so I don’t have that mind-bogglement to go through.

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I do think Alma Reville needs to be brought to the spotlight, and as we are told at the end of the film, when Alfred Hitchcock received his lifetime achievement award, he credited her as being a joint recipient. Even if the story is a dull one, it does need to be told. So common is that story these days we assume a missing female when a man is credited for some great work completely alone. But Hitchcock takes what could be a very interesting relationship between two artists and turns it into a man/woman jealousy thing which is a bit trite and rather silly, centering around Hitchcock’s supposed fascination with blondes.

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The bulk of the ‘Hitchcock/ Blonde’ discussion comes from watching his films. In fact, he was rather dismissive of the actors on set and had no time for method acting. He didn’t want the actors doing anything other than standing there and allowing the director to do all the work.  This applied equally to men and women.  Hitchcock also made a huge deal through many of his films about homosexuality and societies refusal to acknowledge it. However, to my knowledge he is never accused of being gay. Janet Leigh is not a natural blonde.  She had her died long before she met Hitchcock, one presumes because it would get her more roles in Hollywood. Hitchcock may have had the same wild idea that blondes are popular with audiences.

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Just as disappearing the wife is essential in the mythologies around misogyny, so are the myths that enhance the male sexual appetite. The unspoken message around Hitchcock is that it is his physical appearance that stands between his being a complete womanizer and his reality as faithful man. The assumption is that if he were thin, all these women he supposedly stalked and placed in his films would have been sleeping with him. It’s as if Hitchcock’s virility is central to his accomplishments. What is conveniently left out of this assessment is the fact that women (particularly in the past) were attracted to power, and a mans appearance had nothing to do with his being able to amass females. Don’t tell me the great Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t find a hot little b-grade blonde to sleep with him.

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Probably the dumbest aspect of this film is (as highlighted above)  the sexual politics going on between Hitchcock and Reville.  It’s a shame, what would have been a much more interesting film was more on the making of Psycho.  Sasha Gervasi is capable of a great film based on intense research – he made Anvil: the story of Anvil, which is an incredible rock documentary. Unfortunately, because the film is filled with scenes like Hitchcock crawling on his bathroom floor collecting sand to accuse his wife of an affair at the beach, a lot of the fascinating story is left out. AS it stands, we see none of the original footage and the bulk of the shots center around the famous shower scene. There is shamefully nothing of why Hitchcock wanted to make the first slasher film, nor is their any attempt to go into that idea.

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In fact the film looks a little like the research was done on Wikipedia and that was it.

There seems to be a spate of films that like to play with and distort the truth at the moment. I’m thinking here of Argo – I do think if Argo can get away with their plot alterations on a moment in history that we do actually know a great deal about, then Hitchcock should be able to get away with it as well.  For some reason it doesn’t work quite as well. Maybe we needed more scenes of Hitch standing in doorways with American flags flying behind him. (grin)

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