Archive for September 20th, 2010
Where do I begin with a film like Psycho? Everything has been said and can a film like this really truly be critiqued? Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and one of the greatest films, horror or otherwise but is it really perfect?
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) has an opportunity, a chance to get away from the small town and escape to live with her secret lover, Sam (John Gavin), when her employer lets her walk right out of the office with $40,000. She takes a chance and makes a run for it, leaving her old life behind and dreaming of a new beginning, but her conscience begins to question her actions. She stops off to spend the night at a quiet motel, just off the freeway, while she can work things out in her mind. The motel owner is a nice young guy, Norman Bates(Anthony Perkins), who makes a late night snack and they chat over their thoughts of living in a small town and being a slave to your situation, but sometimes, this can be a good thing, it’s kinda the hand you are dealt. She decides she’s gonna head back home the next day, and try to get herself out of this situation, but Norman’s mother has other plans.
It’s shot perfectly with every scene a perfect photograph. It actually shocked me how amazing good it looks, far superior than I remember and so much better than everything else I usually watch. One frame especially blew me away, as Leigh lays face down, half out of the shower, we get an extreme close up of her eye and the camera spirals slowly out to expose the brutal aftermath. The characters are solid and real. Hitchcock is brilliant. Perkins is totally excellent here, with a huge role to play, he takes the character and owns it fully. Leigh is perfect and for Hitchcock to build up such a believable and accessible character and then chop her up in a shower, is a stunning achievement. Was this one of the first films to perform such a plot structure?
Now, a few bad points. Leigh is dead, but the film continues and works brilliantly, although Marion’s sister Lila, (Vera Miles) comes looking for her. There is nothing here to write home about. Lila as a character is flat, although she has a mighty scream when she meets Norman’s Mother. Craven used a similar structure in Scream, taking Drew Barrymore’s character out of the picture after that amazing build up, but replacing the lead character with the stunning Sidney. Hitchcock missed his chance here I think.
My second problem here is the final ten minutes or so. We really don’t need a breakdown of what the viewers have witnessed for the past 90 mins, but Hitchcock is used to a character explaining the plot towards the end of his films as for the most part, we get a Scooby Doo moment with reasons and motives for the crime. With Psycho, we know everything that’s happened and what we don’t know, Norman’s demented past only makes the viewers mind ache even more. Don’t tell us his secrets.
The final scene should have come a bit sooner as it is a brilliant scene and fine way to wrap the movie, as Norman sits with a blanket, with his thoughts open for the audience to hear. His expression builds and says it all. This is the highlight of the film for me, this is the magic which has been lightly exposing itself and here in the closing moments we see the real danger inside the innocent exterior.