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78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene
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The screeching strings, the plunging knife, the slow zoom out from a lifeless eyeball: in 1960, Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho changed film history forever with its taboo-shattering shower scene. With 78 camera set-ups and 52 edits over the course of 3 minutes, Psycho redefined screen violence, set the stage for decades of slasher films to come, and introduced a new element of danger to the movie-going experience. Aided by a roster of filmmakers, critics, and fans (including Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eli Roth, Danny Elfman, and Peter Bogdanovich) director Alexandre O. Philippe pulls back the curtain on the making and influence of this cinematic game-changer, breaking it down frame by frame and unpacking Hitchcocks dense web of allusions and double meanings. The result is an enthralling piece of cinematic detective work thats pure nirvana for film buffs
Extended Interview With Walter Murch
Extended Interview With Guillermo Del Toro
“Stabbing Melons” With Director Alexandre O. Philippe
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But first, some applause:
Marli Renfro. The girl in the shower finally gets some way overdue attention (though not nearly enough).
Excellent editing. The often clever way in which various archival sources are used and blended together with the observational scenes is first rate.
Black and white cinematography, thank you very much. Nicely lit and composed scenes, with droll use of sets.
Some excellent commentaries. Particularly Mr. Rebello (though I simply must correct him: Hitchcock's sensibility was NOT "Victorian" in any way. He was born in 1899, so matured during the Edwardian period, and after - which might partially explain his rather
pornographic predisposition). And then, of course, Mr. del Toro, whose opinions about great movies I always find so intelligent, pertinent and so nicely poetic.
David Thomson. The author of The Moment of Psycho, which I have not read, also offers pithy and relevant observations.
Now for the knife:
Not enough technical step-by-step information on how the shower scene was conceived, staged, lensed (not a single mention of Hitch's 50 mm specificity for EVERY scene in the movie) or rehearsed: Here is where more of Marli Renfro's anecdotes
would have been so much more worthwhile.
Richard Anobile's 1974 frame-by-frame book not given its due credit.
Not even a mention of Ed Gein?
Couldn't Robert Bloch be thrown a few more crumbs?.
Not enough cultural context - other than Colavito and Roth's rather doctrinaire ramblings - on how Hitchcock wryly took advantage of the current drive-in, William Castle, Hammer Films, box-office trend in fashioning Psycho to his complex advantage.
An annoying string quartet score which does very little to echo or emulate the dread and melancholy of Bernard Herrmann's magnificent, monumental score - which, sadly, is also given short shrift.
Finally: I simply could not abide the way some of the invited viewers so breezily assumed that their rather mediocre opinions were informed by some sort of inside information, as if they were there in the editing room, or were privy to Hithcock or Tomasini's methods and decision making process. For example: the rather glib conclusion that Bates' decision to murder Crane was made during the "Asylum" soliloquy is purely subjective; the more likely moment is after he has done spying on her through the peephole.
Nevertheless, I am glad that this sort-of documentary was made, and do encourage anyone at all interested to give it a not too baleful look.
This is an engrossing documentary about the making of that shower scene, and anyone who's not in the film business will be surprised at the labor that went into it. When you are watching the film, you don't realize how many cuts or the style of cuts you are watching. You don't even realize that you are filling in information that isn't even shown. I have been a Hitchcock fan for most of my long life and I continue to learn new things about his filmmaking techniques; this documentary has revealed a lot that I didn't know and from a fresh perspective. If you are into film, or just a Hitchcock fan, you'll love this documentary.