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PostPosted: Sun Jul 13, 2008 10:12 pm 
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Lately I've been revisiting Hitchcock's 50s and 60s films. A decade ago, I thought Vertigo was Hitchcock's greatest film. That changed a few years later when I saw The Birds on a huge screen at an outdoor film festival. A couple of years ago I became completely floored by Rear Window. But today it's Psycho's turn.

I don't think we all need to be reminded that Hitchcock digs voyeurism and expresses it luminously in his masterpieces. During this recent marathon of his films, I was struck by how "voyeurism" was handled in Psycho, something I never really noticed before. It is like all the voyeurism of Rear Window, Vertigo and The Birds put together and multiply that by hundreds, then we have Psycho.

Psycho opens with us sailing through the window of a motel room to view the aftermath of a casual afternoon sex between half-naked people. We instantly become the voyeurs of Psycho, the film itself and remain that way till the very end. Voyeurism expressed in Psycho is amazingly multi-layered: motels being probably one of the best places for voyeurs, Norman peeking through the wall hole at people undressing, Lila "breaking" into the house and we become her POV, her voyeur throughout the the house, the doctors cracking Norman's psychosis in the end, to name a few examples.

Psycho seems "sketchy" comparing to Hitchcock's other best-known films, which are quite "baroque" or rich. I think the "sketchy" feeling/quality of the film is perfectly fitting for a film like Psycho that magnifies the emptiness of America's wasteland as expressed in the paintings, dead animals and so forth. Right after Marion gets killed, Norman cleaning up the motel room takes quite a while, Hitchcock forces us to linger with him, giving us the time to feel the horrible meaningless-ness of the killing, the emptiness, the waste.

I just noticed Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcok and the Making of PSYCHO on Ebay. Is the book worth getting?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:44 am 
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Psycho doesn't exactly compare to Hitchcock's other work because it is his most blatant use of horror and violence to terrify.

As far as being "baroque" I can see the contrast with this film, but don't necessarily find his work to be "baroque".

The film was innovative, a few shots opened doors for horror films and atmosphere. However, I still feel like his horror didn't match his psychological thrillers such as the brilliant Vertigo or the disturbing Rope.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:23 am 
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moviscop wrote:
Psycho doesn't exactly compare to Hitchcock's other work because it is his most blatant use of horror and violence to terrify.

As far as being "baroque" I can see the contrast with this film, but don't necessarily find his work to be "baroque".

The film was innovative, a few shots opened doors for horror films and atmosphere. However, I still feel like his horror didn't match his psychological thrillers such as the brilliant Vertigo or the disturbing Rope.


Maybe "baroque" is not the right word but what I mean by that is his 50s/60s films (minus Psycho) are very florid and elaborate, the rich use of colors blossoming luxuriously for example. Psycho, on the other hand, is like a white hot poker slashing through. Very lean and "sketchy" like I said previously. And it's also very crude in style and tone. I don't know if it's because I've gotten much older but I now find so much to love in Psycho, a lot of things are coming through that I never noticed before. Psycho is the perfect marriage, Hitchcock's only marriage of Hollywood and Television, because it's obvious that he applied some of his television art to making Psycho.

Psycho is the ultimate modern American Gothic film.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:49 am 
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As an innate voyeur I love The Birds, Rear Window and Psycho the most out of Hitchcock's work (I've never really thought about it before but perhaps I don't like Vertigo as much because it turns its focus around to analyse the voyeur themselves? That's almost as uncomfortable a position to be put in as being asked by Hitch to 'enjoy' the real time strangling in Frenzy along with our killer)

I like your interpretation Michael. I get an initial feeling that we are meant to feel that Hitchcock is working in a more 'realistic' environment of offices and day to day business. Even though we have handsome actors and more extreme events (afternoon sex and stealing money) it seems that we get that idea of reality emphasised through spending time with Marion having to do 'procedural' business such as packing or going through the process of exchanging her car for a different one.

But then she gets off at the wrong turning and enters into a different, darker world where all real world concerns are blown away. She has gambled on getting enough money to make a new life but has stumbled onto the abandoned America - the America that got left behind in the scramble for money, power and progress. That could be seen as the reason why Marion must die - because she represents the city with all that implies about different behaviour and lack of respect or (more pertinent for Marion) knowledge about the older world on which it has built upon, or diverted the main road away from. It is not a crime about the money or the sex, which is the currency of the modern world, but instead to do with family values and a good, honest day's work which has been twisted into psychosis through abandonment.

The generic motel has become attached to the old dark house through a similar failure to move with the times and there is the sense that we are seeing it through the gaze of the urban characters, with the spooky and unreal aspects emphasised.

Talking about double bills on the other thread, maybe Psycho might make a good double bill with The Hills Have Eyes!

The above is maybe getting a bit too much into (just one of the) subtexts (and I'm glad all the above stays as subtext) but I'm also glad that the film allows the room for the viewer to go off into these kinds of flights of fancy if they wish!


Last edited by colinr0380 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:59 am, edited 7 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:51 am 

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Michael wrote:
[Psycho is the ultimate modern American Gothic film.

I agree! Psycho is my favorite Hitchcock movie.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:51 am 
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colinr0380 wrote:
As an innate voyeur I love The Birds, Rear Window and Psycho the most out of Hitchcock's work (I've never really thought about it before but perhaps I don't like Vertigo as much because it turns its focus around to analyse the voyeur themselves?)

But isn't this exactly what Rear Window does, too? The moment where Thorwald looks directly at Jeff, the camera, and us is the key moment in the film.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:44 am 
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Yes, but in Rear Window James Stewart is always a sympathetic figure and is proved to be in the right in carrying out his voyeuristic activities!

It is a good point - there is some criticism of Stewart's character during Rear Window but in the end he drags his companions into his activities with him. While he eventually gets targeted himself by Thorwald that can be seen as a condemnation of his gaze (a "careful what you wish for when you go looking for excitement" idea) but it also contains the idea that however much you try and keep a formal distance you are always a participant in events and that coming face to face with his opponent is necessary in filmic terms to provide an action climax. It could be seen as teaching a lesson to Stewart but at the same time he wouldn't be treated as such a hero if he had not been put in personal danger!

In Vertigo there is no outside condemnation on Scottie, in fact voyeurism is part of his job, and part of the plot used to drag him in to the initial scheme. It is ironic for Madeline that she tempts Scotty's voyeuristic impulses only to be destroyed by it when he goes off the rails. She gets her comeuppance but it still fundamentally remains Scottie's tragedy as he is in a fugue state trapped in a cycle of watching his dream woman die - what is his nightmare and what is real? He is both the audience identification figure and the most manipulated character in the film.

In a way, Stewart is the actor being manipulated in Vertigo compared to the director doing the organising in Rear Window! (If we follow that train of thought then it could be suggested that a director might have an actor explode and try to attack him but will always retain the superior position; an actor can only maintain dignity if he is allowed to by his director or if he is in a position to try and grab the controls of the production process himself!)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:48 pm 
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And this is exactly what makes Psycho stand out now as Hitchcock's best work for me. We don't have Stewart to serve as a voyeur for us. Every one including the killer in Psycho is a voyeur in his own way and we become the ultimate voyeur of them all as the camera becomes us instantly, pulling us into the motel air of aftersex. Looking closer to the film, the film's use of voyeurism is quite labyrinthine and dense.

Plus Psycho has the most attractive cast of all Hitchcock films.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:47 pm 
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Michael wrote:
Plus Psycho has the most attractive cast of all Hitchcock films.

False

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:59 pm 
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Well, Grace Kelly looks fabulous, but I can do without "tanning salon" era Cary Grant.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:18 pm 
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John Gavin is a hot stud. So is Anthony Perkins. I love that exchange between those two in the motel office, you could almost sense their sparks so hot that they want to fuck each other. My hubby sensed the same thing.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:30 pm 
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Now we know why Michael doesn't agree with Domino.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 4:00 pm 
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Not my favorite Hitchcock (not even close), but one of my favorite casts. I can't get enough of Diane Baker.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 4:17 pm 
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fiddlesticks wrote:
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Not my favorite Hitchcock (not even close), but one of my favorite casts. I can't get enough of Diane Baker.

I was actually going to mention this because it is my favorite Hitchcock. Although I think Domino may be right because I don't think Tippi Hedren, or anyone really, is more beautiful than Grace Kelly.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:18 pm 
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Michael wrote:
Plus Psycho has the most attractive cast of all Hitchcock films.

I don't know about attractiveness, but what keeps bringing me back to Psycho is its inclusion of two of the best performances (maybe the two best) Hitchcock ever managed to get on screen, from Perkins and Leigh. They're superb together and, maybe more critical, utterly compelling in their several scenes completely alone (or, the next best thing, acting alongside John Gavin). There's a level of intelligence and consideration they give to each line reading without becoming over-determined or actorish. When you know what's coming, Norman's every stammer and hesitation is psychologically revealing.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:30 pm 
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There has never been a performance in any Hitchcock film better than Joan Fontaine in Rebecca. This is science fact.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:54 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
There has never been a performance in any Hitchcock film better than Joan Fontaine in Rebecca. This is science fact.

In my book she also wins the beauty contest.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:55 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
There has never been a performance in any Hitchcock film better than Joan Fontaine in Rebecca. This is science fact.

Tippi Hedren? Marnie?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:14 pm 
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Hedren is excellent in Marnie. She is however nowhere near Fontaine's level.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:18 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
There has never been a performance in any Hitchcock film better than Joan Fontaine in Rebecca. This is science fact.

I'm afraid not. Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train wins everytime.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:20 pm 
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Can we return to Psycho? Please.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:23 pm 
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Michael wrote:
Can we return to Psycho? Please.

You should have just posted about it in the Hitchcock thread like everyone else does when they want to discuss one of his movies, his films aren't really separable from each other.

tojoed wrote:
domino harvey wrote:
There has never been a performance in any Hitchcock film better than Joan Fontaine in Rebecca. This is science fact.

I'm afraid not. Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train wins everytime.

Why do you argue against science?! [-X


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:59 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
You should have just posted about it in the Hitchcock thread like everyone else does when they want to discuss one of his movies, his films aren't really separable from each other.

If I want to discuss Hitchcock himself as a filmmaker in general, then the Hitchcock thread is the one to go to. But here and now all I want to discuss and focus on is Psycho, the film itself and it's making and how it stands next to Hitchcock's other films, and so forth. The only thing I regretted bringing up is Psycho's cast being the most attractive but zedz nailed everything I feel about the cast - the realism, the mannerisms, etc. Tippi, Grace, Cary, etc are glamorous and so Hollywood while Psycho's cast is extra lean and oozes raw sex.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:03 pm 
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I replied to a post you made in this thread, and then other people replied to my post. That's how conversations work. It's not like we're off topic, they're relevant discussions regarding your claim.

But to appease your desire to discuss the film at hand directly: Hitchcock considered this film a comedy. :shock:


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:30 pm 
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For me, no one oozed raw sex like Ingrid in NOTORIOUS, particularly since women were supposedly prohibited from doing so in 1946 on screen.

I love the cast of PSYCHO, I don't love the interpretation that it's a comedy.


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