Greetings again from the darkness. Does it make sense to create an entire movie about a single scene from another movie? Director Alexandre O. Philippe answers with a resounding “Yes” and proves it with thorough and varied analysis of the infamous and iconic shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic PSYCHO.
“The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.”
That quote from Edgar Allan Poe opens the film, and reminds us that the hullabaloo surrounding PSYCHO would never have been possible if Janet Leigh hadn’t been a beautiful movie star … and if Hitchcock hadn’t shocked us with the timing … and if so many other pieces hadn’t fallen into place. It’s those pieces that are the focus of Mr. Philippe’s expository on the immediate and lasting impact of the scene.
The film’s title comes from the 78 pieces of film and 52 cuts that make up the 3 minute sequence being adored, admired and argued here. The interviews and insight come fast and passionately from filmmakers, writers, educators, film historians, and actors. We meet the ultra-charming Marli Renfro, who was Janet Leigh’s body-double for the film – and also graced the September 1960 cover of Playboy. There is also Tere Carrubba, Mr. Hitchcock’s granddaughter and the daughter of Patricia Hitchcock, who has a minor role in PSYCHO. A few of the others who discuss the scene and film’s influence include directors Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, and Karyn Kusama (JENNIFER’S BODY); and writers Leigh Whannell (SAW, INSIDIOUS) and Bret Easton Ellis (AMERICAN PSYCHO).
True technical analysis and peek behind the mysterious filmmaking curtain kicks into high gear when Walter Murch speaks. Mr. Murch is a 3-time Oscar winner and 9-time nominee for such timeless films as APOCALYPSE NOW and THE CONVERSATION. He is an expert on sound and film editing, two vital components to the shower scene, and he literally guides us through the individual cuts. Most fans of the film know of the chocolate syrup, but the casaba melon and the painting on the wall might be new territory. The film ties together, like never before, the script of Joseph Stefano, the storyboard of Saul Bass, the editing of George Tomasini, and the scene score of Bernard Hermann … all giants of the industry.
Whether you are a film lover, Hitchcock fanatic, or film theorist, you are likely to find something new here. The film represents so many “firsts” and was truly a turning point in the film industry, while also being a cultural phenomenon. When Martin Scorcese talks about the PSYCHO influence on RAGING BULL, it’s the culmination of a blissful 90 minutes.
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