In this compact book—extended essay, really—the arguably most provocative and acerbic of major film critics (see the plethoric Have You Seen . . . ?, 2008) concentrates on a single work, Alfred Hitchcock’s influential Psycho. The 1960 film was groundbreaking not just for bringing sex and violence to the fore and eschewing the expected happy ending but also for its efficient, low-budget production. It was shot in just three months in the expedient fashion of Hitchcock’s television series. After an introductory passage on the film’s genesis, Thomson offers a close reading distinguished by insight and illumination, particularly about the problematic second half. He concludes with an analysis of Psycho’s impact, including an annotated list of films it influenced, especially in its treatment of sex and violence, from James Bond flicks to David Lynch’s and Quentin Tarantino’s bloodbaths. Thomson doesn’t blame Hitchcock for touching off the subsequent wave of emotionally detached movies predicated on gory special effects but says Psycho opened the door to ignoring consequences “if the end product is thrilling enough.” --Gordon Flagg
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"Thomson's close analysis of the film, its context in terms of director and cast and its influence on subsequent movies is another of his five-star movie masterclasses. He should be given an annual Oscar for movie criticism and a lifetime achievement award for being consistently right about film." The Times "Thomson intuits the secret afterlife of Psycho in the American mind, in a short book which is like an inspired, bravura jazz solo... Thomson attempts to place himself inside the fabric of Psycho, floating in its pin-sharp monochrome nightmare, living through its narrative and the narrative of its cultural impact in a sort of subjective real time. Shrewdly, he places it alongside Truman Capote's 1966 true-crime study In Cold Blood, as a work which shows that America's hinterlands are not the places of provincial decency quaintly imagined by popular culture but unpoliced worlds of melancholy and menace. Who are all these lonely men? Good ol' boys? Momma's boys? Thomson playfully asks us to imagine that dutiful son Elvis Presley in the Tony Perkins role: A disquietingly plausible cine-fantasy and the kind of brilliant flush that only Thomson could conjure." The Guardian "a compelling argument from the pre-eminent film critic of the age. I have long been a fan of Thomson's magisterial Biographical Dictionary of Film, and in The Moment of Psycho he is at his most fluent and perceptive." The Mail On Sunday "Ever since I first saw Psycho as a terrified adolescent, I've been replaying it - inside my head for several decades, nowadays on a screen at the foot of my bed - but David Thomson has spotted things that my countless viewings overlooked... At his best, Thomson provides his own deftly poetic equivalents to the film's visual images and wordless sounds... (He) is a metaphysician of the movies who has also always been fascinated by the fantasies and mysteries that play out in the darkened cinema, and he writes compellingly about the snarled relationship between voyeurism and moral responsibility of Psycho." The Observer "A flood of slasher, slice-and-dice and arterial-spray films have dulled Psycho's edge in recent years, but Thomson is right to recall just how scandalous Hitchcock's picture was at the time of its release... Thomson leads us through the film and its release with a sure hand, always smart and provocative..." The Times "In 1960, few wrote seriously about film. Now everybody's at it, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 shower shocker could be cinema's most written about movie. Do we really need another Psycho book? Well... yes. David Thomson's slim, densely packed essay adds something new by concentrating on precisely that shift in attitude... Thomson is a magisterial writer. There's enough meat her to keep the Psycho industry rolling on for several more years." Total Film "Forget about assassination, communism and war - an extraordinary new book argues that it was really Hitchcock's masterpiece that sparked global panic, paranoia and distrust." The Sunday Express "Forget about assassination, communism and war - an extraordinary newbook argues that it was really Hitchcock's masterpiece that sparked global panic, paranoia and distrust." The Daily Express "Iluminating... Thomson's own passion for the film is evident." The Evening Standard "Thomson's book represents a refreshing return to the value judgment in Hitchcockian exegesis." The Spectator "satisfyingly controversial" and "persuasive". Sight and Sound Magazine"