Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 193 - Psycho

Psycho (1960) directed by Alfred Hitchcock

So continuing with the Halloween theme, I decided to watch Psycho, a film I haven't seen in probably over eight years, so I figured it'd be okay for the project. It also gave me an excuse to watch it on the Blu-ray that's been sitting on my shelf for a year now, and indeed, it does look quite nice. In a way though, I kind of regret watching this film because it is so famous that I couldn't possibly add anything new or interesting to the conversation. Entire books have been written on this movie after all. So I might just ignore talking about the movie all together and just add a couple brief thoughts.

The shower scene is inarguably one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema. It is so well known that people who haven't even seen the movie knows the scene. It is interesting to watch it 50 years later when you realize that the violence is rather artfully done rather than relying on blood and guts. You never see the knife penetrate the skin. There is a little bit of blood but it's not gratuitous or grotesque. Yet it is every bit as terrifying and believable as the modern day slasher flick that shows everything.

Also what is interesting about the scene is that up to that point we think the movie is about the woman Marion, but she doesn't even make it past an hour in the film. I love how Hitchcock toys with the audience, making us think the movie will go a certain direction, but inexplicably kills off the protagonist that we've spent so much time focusing on. Think about all the time we spend on Marion and her dilemma about the money and running away. You can make a whole movie just on that, but instead the movie is really about this psycho. We fully expect Marion to survive to the end, but as it turns out, Norman is the real star of the movie and Marion is sort of just an afterthought. I love how after she is dead and Norman is cleaning up, there is still the issue of the $40,000 that's hidden in plain view. The camera even takes time to notice it and pause there. We wonder if the money will play a further role in the movie, but just like Marion, it turns out to be a moot point when Norman just puts the newspaper holding the cash in the trunk along with the girl.

I suppose some viewers will be turned off at this moment thinking it was all a cheap trick that doesn't follow the rules, but I think it works fantastically. In a way it is like Hitchcock is telling the viewer, "You're not smarter than I am. Stop trying to guess what happens next and just enjoy the show." Everybody loves to be the smart ass that says, "That was so predictable. I knew such and such ten minutes into the film." Everybody wants to think they know what will happen, but Psycho has genuine surprises. I suppose since this film is so famous it loses some of its shock appeal, but that may not necessarily be true. I've seen this movie before and still remember most of it, but even then all the appropriate scenes were incredibly effective.

The closing shot of Norman Bate's knowing smirk is just perfect. This whole movie is perfect. I loved it. I think there are some movies that just demand to be watched again and I think Psycho is a movie I could imagine watching every year or so around Halloween.

Grade: A

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