Monday, October 7, 2013

Psycho (1960)

She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes.

The prototypical slasher film, and one of  Hitchcock’s finest. What the hell do you say about Psycho

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Psycho and I’d forgotten how good it is. From the opening shots of Phoenix, zooming into the hotel where Marion and Sam are trysting, to the final shots of Norman in the holding room and the car being pulled from the swamp – it’s fantastic. Pacing, cinematography, acting – and that score! 

Look, if you have somehow missed this film you should see it. If, by some fantastic confluence of events, you’ve also never had the plot spoiled, go see it NOW, before some jackass does ruin it for you. I’ll sit here and be envious of your experience of this movie as it was intended to be seen.

Now that the magical unicorn people have left:  even knowing the plot, even having seen it a few times, I was still caught up in the film. The shower scene still got me. The sudden attack on the detective too. And of course the confrontation with Mother in the root cellar. (Looks like a normal basement to me, actually.)

I love that you get the rug gets pulled out from under you about halfway through. I love that Norman is the most likeable character out of the bunch. (And the creepiest – that half-smile just makes you shudder sometimes.) I love the conversation between Norman and Marion over sandwiches (“I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out.”). I love the bit where the car doesn’t sink all the way into the swamp at first and Norman gets that ‘oh shit, what am I going to do  now?’ look on his face. The two or three frames at the very end when Mother’s face is lightly super-imposed on Norman’s. Great stuff.

There were a lot of little details I noticed this time around that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. Like the way the cabin is all cute and well cared for – but the toilet is a little beaten up. The way Janet Leigh uses her eyes, like a trapped animal. The one shot where Arbogast is pulling away and the headlights illuminate part of the motel and Norman – but the light never reaches Norman’s face. And when the light moves away – Norman smiles. All those shadows.

Weirdly, this feels more ‘real’ to me than some of Hitchcock’s other films, despite being shot in black and white. Having recently watched Rear Window and North by Northwest, Psycho feels more raw and, I dunno, less stiff, less formal. I love those movies, but Psycho is more immediate and visceral. You’d never see a toilet in Vertigo.

I’m rambling on here, but I really enjoyed the movie. The biggest revelation for me this time around was that I really LIKE Norman. I’d want to hang out with him. He seems like a nice guy.

But man, his mother is MURDER.

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