Monday, 7 January 2013
Review : HITCHCOCK (2012)
As NORTH BY NORTHWEST opens to great acclaim, an ageing Alfred Hitchcock begins to suspect he may be losing his touch. In his clamour for inspiration and something truly challenging, he comes across a little-known horror novel about a boy and his mother...a novel called PSYCHO...
Yeah, yeah...I know. It's not a horror movie, I hear you cry. That's as may be, but it centres around one of the greatest horror films ever made, (and perhaps one of the few authentically perfect movies in existence), and it deals with a man synonymous with the genre. Therefor, its getting reviewed, kids. Not only for these aforementioned reasons, but because it's a portrait of a man I have unbounded love and admiration for, and it put a grin on my mug a mile wide, and what better way to start a new year of reviews than with a film that had got me giddy as a schoolboy?
HITCHCOCK is not a film your gonna watch for any real depth or insight into the soul of this great master of horror and suspense. It's not a concise and detailed look at the film-making process, either. Theres very little of historical value here, other than surface anecdotal whimsy and the retelling of legend in a totally biased and celebratory fashion. Nope, what you get with HITCHCOCK is a surrealistic and very humorous glimpse into the situation this immortal big fat bugger found himself in, as the years began to catch up on him. What baring of the soul is witnessed by the viewer comes almost fully from our preconceived notions of the man, and in this case, (much like ED WOOD), that's no bad thing.
If your looking for a dark, intimate study of a man who was, by all accounts, a bit on the crazy side, then your in the wrong place. But if, like me, the mere mention the man puts a smile on your face and a song in your heart, then this is candy-corn and carnivals, folks. It really is a ninety minute celebration of perhaps the most single-minded sonofagun who ever directed a motion picture. A true one-off, and a man whose cunning and wit wit simply makes any scene featuring him a joy to behold.
And there really is no end to the brilliant moments here. Hitchcock whining for a drink as Alma forces him to do the gardening...his endless flirtation with Janet Leigh...his temper tantrums on set...his blaring of classical music while he enjoys cream-cake and Warner Bros cartoons...it's all gold.
At the centre of all this joviality is a man who is no stranger to horror, himself, Anthony Hopkins...and he plays old Hitch to perfection. It would have been easy to stray into caricature as so many actors do when portraying characters as colorful as big Al, (of which there are very few), but Hopkins knows how to toe the line. He plays up Hitch's many famous idiosyncrasies, while keeping the man grounded in authentic human emotion. He's simply fantastic, and he should be...he's helped by some extraordinary make-up that makes him a near dead-ringer for Hitch. As his long-suffering and fiercely intelligent wife, Alma, Helen Mirren is bang on the money. They have great chemistry, and help keep the scenes that deviate from the lightness of tone very palatable. It may be seen as a flaw that so much of the film is focused on their relationship, but at heart, HITCHCOCK is a love story. A very sweet, somewhat seasoned tale of two soul-mates, and the shit they put each other through in this weird old life. As a couple, they are never less than delightful.
And they have fine support, too. Scarlett Johansson is spot-on as Janet Leigh...both erotic and approachable, (much to Alma's misfortune), and the fella who plays Anthony Perkins is shockingly brilliant. He looks and acts exactly like the man. Its, frankly, uncanny. Though, make no mistake, as good as the support is, this is really a two-hander, and their relationship fuels the two intertwining plots overwhelmingly.
Of course, many if not all of you are less interested in Hitch's marriage than in the telling of how his arguably finest movie, (and first foray into pure horror), came to be born, ...and you wont be disappointed. Theres a real spirit of nostalgia in the scenes of filming, and the lead-up, as Hitch does battle with the evil forces of Paramount and its half-witted producers, is every bit as enthralling as the scenes of the man directing. Theres always been something gleefully mischievous about Hitchcock's persona, and in these early scenes, (and in later post-production scenes), its made clear how well this wily old dogs wits served him in his unending fight to retain complete control over his movies. And thank God he did. There are few things as gratifying in this life as seeing an true artist overcome the bureaucrats that hold them back, and HITCHCOCK playfully details our heroes manipulation of these monkeys, celebrating his victories with abandon.
There are a few darker elements in here, (Hitchcock's anger with his wife seems to fuel his directing of PSYCHO into a more vicious work than even he had contemplated, and his infamous obsession with his leading ladies is centre-front throughout the tale), but the overall tone is one of creativity and play. In one inspired storytelling choice, Alfred often holds imaginary conversations with true-life serial killer, Ed Gein, (the inspiration for PSYCHO, among other horror works, including SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as it happens), seeking inspiration and understanding. Its an unnecessary but very entertaining method of bringing us closer to the man.
Another wonderful flourish within the tale is the style in which Alfred and Alma's relationship is told. As Hitch begins to suspect his long-time love of having an affair with her smarmy bastard of a writer friend; the film plays out like a Hitchcock suspense film. The overwrought music recalls the great work of Bernard Herman, as the portly directors suspicion grows; and its hilarious, culminating in a fantastic moment where he expresses to Alma in his trademark deadpan way, that, 'Every man is capable of murder, and with good reason'. He states this mid-argument, mind you, as she removes a cream-cake from his person.
Now, if that last sentence put a smile on your face, then you obviously know your Hitchcock, and your guaranteed to love this thing. For those unfamiliar with his work or his legend, (the hell is wrong with you!?), the film may be far less charming. In truth, though, if your unaware of Alfred Hitchcock you have no place near a cinema screen in the first place. Just saying...
A little too much screen-time is spent detailing Alma's situation with her admirer. We really only need the bare minimum of these two together to understand that shes frustrated in her life, that time could have been put to far better use with Hitch doing, well, anything, but its a small bit of gristle in an otherwise hugely enjoyable steak. It's hard to complain.
Overall, HITCHCOCK is ninety minutes of fresh summer air. It's not a serious take on the man, nor is it trying to be...its a period piece with real colour and vibrancy, and a character study that isn't afraid to simply revel in its larger-than-life protagonist and focus on fun. It's absolutely hilarious from start to finish, and never once sinks into maudlin situations or mundane excess. The tempestuous relationships at its core, (both between Hitch and Alma, and Hitch and the studio), are buoyant and light-footed, and, (as you all know how PSYCHO went down) the tale ends on a beautifully romantic and victorious high. This is some great fun, right here, guys. It had me at, 'Good evening'.....
8 Shower Curtains out of 10