Hitchcock [Blu-Ray]

Sacha Gervasi

BY Robert BellPublished Mar 15, 2013

Amidst the many supplemental materials provided with the Hitchcock Blu-Ray — on make-up, casting, recreating history and bringing the story to the screen — director Sacha Gervasi discusses his approach to such potentially foreboding material. Rather attempting to pay homage to the works of Alfred Hitchcock, forcing a thriller element and utilizing persistent looming, voyeuristic cinematography, he chose to limit mimicry to scenes where moments from Psycho were being filmed. Though this true story is ostensibly an extended, narrative "behind the scenes" to Hitchcock's (Anthony Hopkins) notorious, convention-defying horror film, the tone and style are that of a character drama and love story. After the release of North by Northwest, speculation of the aging auteur's ability to keep up with a younger generation flew. Studios were interested mainly in repeating success, asking him to direct thematically and structurally similar spy thrillers. But, missing the spirit of his youth and the excitement he had when working with wife Alma (Helen Mirren) on smaller projects with less money, Hitch decided to push boundaries by adapting a book based upon the murders of Ed Gein. Smartly, Gervasi doesn't focus on the late-life crisis aspect of the story so much as the complexities of the relationship between the Psycho director and his wife. As he goes through the ritual of passively romancing and obsessing over his leading lady, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), treating Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) like crap for getting pregnant just prior to filming Vertigo, Alma finds excitement in the attention she receives from Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), a mediocre writer using flirtation as a means to exploit her talent. The risky venture of filming Psycho — funding it himself without a great deal of studio support — is ultimately mirrored by the reinvention of a long-term relationship. This juxtaposition and conventionality of the story are surprisingly formulaic, perhaps deliberately detracting from the style of the film's subject, whose style focused on subverting the status quo and challenging the star system. It makes for a pleasant and entertaining, if average and forgettable, viewing. If there is a fault beyond the overall mediocrity of Hitchcock, it's the framing device of Ed Gein's spirit haunting our portly protagonist. It adds very little depth to the narrative and fragments a tale that is otherwise grounded in reality.

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