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MANILA, Philippines - "Hitchcock," about one of the greatest filmmakers of all time making one of the biggest films of all time ("Psycho") is getting a limited run in the Philippines.
This is great for movie buffs, especially Alfred Hitchcock fans; but most moviegoers will probably pass this one up.
Opening with a scene that feels like fan service, and continuing that fan service pretty much through to the end, we get a movie made for movie lovers that pulls us in and shocks us. It never nears the heights of emotion or suspense that Hitchcock reached in his own films (but then how many things ever do?) but it serves as a fitful little tip of the hat to the great filmmaker.
The opening is shocking in its brutality and banality, portraying the real murder which Robert Bloch based his novel on, which Hitchcock would then base his film on. Then the camera pans to reveal Anthony Hopkins’s Hitchcock, coming in to talk. The narrative frame plays straight homage to the classic TV show, complete with theme song and silhouettes of the director whenever they could be thrown in.
From there we get a sense of the movie’s playfulness. It plays with reality and fantasy, in much the same way the the great filmmaker did himself. There are times when Ed Gein, the murderer whom Norman Bates was based on, makes appearances and addresses Hitchcock. These were rather unusual dream sequences and I am not entirely sure if these sit well with me. But if their main purpose was to put a chill down viewers’ backs and give us surprises, then these worked very well.
While the film is set around the production and release of "Psycho," it deals with two big stories:
One is the artistic struggles that Alfred Hitchcock was going through. At the beginning of the film, he wrestles with the idea that he has become predictable and complacent as a filmmaker, that he is over the hill, and that he is repeating himself. It’s the kind of accusation that every artist must deal with. It’s insightful to watch here how the director who had made his mark on films so many times, who helped to define modern filmmaking, often dealt with artistic insecurity and doubt.
Coupled with the artistic insecurity are the marital problems that Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville, played by Helen Mirren, go through. Again, more of this insight that even these great, accomplished people suffered from mundane concerns and sometimes crippling insecurity. There’s a golden scene where, Hitchcock, overcome with jealousy, thrashes a treatment that Reville had just written with the man Hitchcock is jealous of. He tears into it and we watch Mirren’s mastery as she conveys an exterior of cold control while inside she crumbles.
There are quite a number of scenes where Hitchcock goes off on a tear, all of them intense and amazing. Most memorable are the shooting of the infamous shower scene, and the heaps of abuse that he throws in Janet Leigh’s (played by Scarlett Johansson) way while they shoot the scene of her character driving away from her crime.
The problem I found though, is that many of the emotional troubles are resolved too easily. For example, Hitchcock’s never-ending desire for his blonde leads and his sometimes perverse actions are all neatly handled by the end. While I don’t begrudge the film its happy ending, I felt that it was far too often a foregone conclusion.
Then again, that’s one of the things that I felt this film was. It did not really seem to make things as dire as they could have been. Perhaps it was erring on the side of factuality, but at the detriment of possible suspense.
This is nitpicking though, because on the whole the film is an engrossing experience. Even when the tension goes slack, or it feels like it is going through the motions of plot progression, it entertains and keeps us with these characters.
It’s a credit to the film that these characters are all people that we come to care for and eventually like. The tensions between characters, like Leigh and Reville, fueled by Hitchcock’s tendency to take longing looks, make for very real encounters between people.
While a lot of attention might be given to the make-up work and some of the actors’ uncanny abilities to embody the people they are portraying (like James D’Arcy’s almost too accurate take on Anthony Perkins), what was more interesting to me was the way that each of the characters played off of each other, and how that helped me to care more about the movie.
I think also that the struggles of financing and getting "Psycho" made were intriguing. I am a fan of the film itself, but I did not know of the story behind it. And that’s where "Hitchcock" seems at its best, when it is showing us this world behind the world of movies.
Though meant for a limited audience and far from being a great biopic, "Hitchcock" is entertaining, it draws us in, and it delivers a lot of interesting things.
It’s worth a watch if you’re a movie buff, and it’s a must-see if you like Alfred Hitchcock and his films. - Rappler.com
("Hitchcock" opens on February 6 and will be shown in Ayala Malls Cinemas nationwide.)
Carljoe Javier doesn't know why people think he's a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he's not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games... Then again, those people could be right.
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