Hitchcock (2012)

hitchcockI must preface by saying that personally, Alfred Hitchcock stands out as an impressionable director for three reasons:

1) Among the greats I was forced to study in history class; next to the brooding good looks of David Lean, Orson Welles and John Cassevetes etc. he was the homeliest looking of the lot.

2) Few directors appeared in cameos for their own films back then and he did.

3) The Birds scared the hell out of me.

Among his repertoire of films exceeding fifty; I have only seen a handful, but he is the kind of character that intrigues. In the vein of Vittorio De Sica and Charlile Chaplin; it seems as if Hitchcock has jumped over dark, twisted edges and survived to tell the stories. You get the sense that apart from rigorous discipline; his success came from a keen understanding of fear and how to provoke the human mind. After-all,  he was a critically lauded genius.

Exploiting audiences’ false sense of security with composition techniques (North by Northwest), creating psychological tensions with dramatic music (Psycho), shaming audiences by turning them into voyeurs (Rear Window)… are just three out of the many innovations he pioneered to the benefit of modern cinema.

But enough of that now.

Caked in thick layers of cinemagraphic latex to pile on fifty pounds above his original frame, Anthony Hopkins is portly Sir Alfred Hitchcock — private, introverted, eccentric, suspicious. Helen Mirren is Alma Reville: talented editor and long time partner-collaborator to virtually all his groundbreaking films. This screenplay by John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan, Parker) emphasizes three things:

1) Psychological pathology in Hitchcock with narratives about women in his life (mother and blonde actresses), his penchant for voyeurism and lechery.

2) Honoring of Reville’s role in his success.

3) Dynamics within their fifty years of marriage.

That McLaughlin chose “Making of Psycho” as the shaping hand of this story is possibly strategic in the sense of marketing. But for the heck of it; I’ll elaborate just a wee bit on the likelihood of symbolic implications, and use of double entendre.

Hitchcock once famously said, “The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them.” So it follows that psychological anxieties could have been redirected and transferred to art. In the presence of overwhelming stressors from childhood and toxic relationships in his life (aren’t we all?) ; what better way to cope than by dissecting and reenacting history in a bid to sensitize negative experiences?

Besides, Sigmund Freud came into prominence with psychoanalytic movements in the same era as Alfred Hitchcock did with formalistic cinema. Also; Freud’s theories were prominently featured in several films by Hitchcock, especially psychological thrillers Spellbound and Vertigo. Though it is a huge leap to go as far as saying he exhibited psychopathic tendencies; certainly, there must be some validity to the line of inquiry surrounding maldaptive coping and behavior.

That said, my bets are off for Hitchcock being a psychopath himself. To venture into such sensationalistic territory, we’ll have to investigate the multitude of novelists he adapted from!

This film is based on Stephen Rebello’s controversial biography, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Directed by Sacha Gervasi; Hitchcock (2012) is an entertaining, well produced film. Special attention must be paid to production and costume design— delightful throwbacks to the process of film-making before computers entered the scene with digital edits and green screens. A likable choice of modern casts to portray Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) blends well with narrative threads about Hitchcock’s business relationships with personal agent and studio giants of the 1950s.

Hitchcock is an entertaining, well-produced film. But it would be prudent to enjoy this drama / black comedy with the knowledge that narrative logic is often dramatized for the benefit of fiction and profit. What it does for reality; and whether parallels between Hitchcock and necrophiliac Ed Gein are faulty or justifiable, remains to be seen.

★★★★★

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6 responses to “Hitchcock (2012)

  1. Good, review, but when I watched “Hitchcock” I didn’t get quite the same enjoyment. I thought it was kinda weird, to be honest. I just couldn’t get past the fact that Anthony Hopkins was beneath that fat suit and giant ego.

    • Thanks LB, props and set pieces in the film were eye openers for me. And yeah, the fat suit was distracting hence I’m glad for the fact that part of the narrative focused on Alma Reville. What disturbed me somewhat, was the decision to sensationalize Hitchcock’s private life — seemed a tad exploitative.

      • I thought so too. Alfred creeped me out a tad, as I’m sure was the intent. It honestly didn’t make me think much of him as a man or a director. And I love Helen Mirren, but even she didn’t impress me in this one. I don’t think can top “The Last Station,” though.

        • Admittedly I haven’t seen (or heard of) “The Last Station”, I saw her most recently in a run-of-the-mill HBO film “Phil Spector”. Helen Mirren is a very seasoned actress but sadly, sometimes a mediocre story distracts from performance.

          • I don’t think “The Last Station” was hugely popular when it came out in 2009; I discovered it by chance one day at a video rental place, where I bought it on a whim for $2. Best decision I’ve ever made.

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