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Suzanne Tenner/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Hitchcock

Movies

Issue: "2012 Daniels of the Year," Dec. 15, 2012

Even if you don’t know a thing about Alfred Hitchcock, you know his name. He was one of the greatest moviemakers of all time, and one of the most influential. His techniques still fascinate audiences and prompt directors to imitate him. Among them is Sacha Gervasi, who makes his narrative directorial debut with the much-anticipated biopic, Hitchcock.

This Oscar contender boasts an array of stars, including Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlet Johansson, Toni Collette, and Jessica Biel. It chronicles the relationship between Hitchcock (Hopkins) and his wife and collaborator, Alma Reville (Mirren), during the making and release of Psycho.

Hopkins gives a masterful performance as the corpulent Brit on the hunt for his next great movie, but Hopkins’ performance is matched if not surpassed by Mirren, who brings a winsome charm to the otherwise macabre film as the genius behind Hitchcock’s work.

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Narrative monologues, reminiscent of the television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, bookend the story. In the opening scene, Hitch introduces audiences to Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein, who’s killed his brother and is on his way to becoming the prototype for Psycho slayer Norman Bates.

The movie seamlessly pivots back to “real time,” where the Master of Suspense, wondering if he’s past his prime, is looking for a new movie idea after North by Northwest. He happens upon a book (also called Psycho) about a transvestite mass murderer. He believes it’s his ticket to stardom.

As Hitchcock reads the book and starts filming, Ed Gein becomes Hitch’s demonic muse, “visiting” him throughout the film, in a nightmare, at other times when Hitch is overtired and delirious. Scenes of violent murder are juxtaposed with Hitchcock’s film-making struggles, earning the movie its much deserved—if not underrated—PG-13.

Sacha Gervasi’s interweaving of these scenes with Hitch and Alma’s collaboration on Psycho displays his directorial skill. It also displays how dark our souls become when we purposefully wander into darkness.

Stephanie Perrault
Stephanie Perrault

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