Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Film Review: Hitchcock

Ladies and gentlemen, I just saw Hitchcock. I shall share my assessment shortly. Sensitive readers may wish to find other diversions.

OK, OK. Great movie, dealing with Alfred and Alma Hitchcock's struggle to get Psycho on film. Brilliant performances by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.

So what's my problem?

Sacha Gervasi's fictional film is an adaptation of a non-fiction book: Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Screenwriter John J. McLaughlin put a tight focus on the creative/sexual tension between "Hitch" and Alma; Hitch's obsession with blondes, yattayatta. What's in the film is all good. What's McLaughlin left out is the problem.

Yes, I understand the procrustean imperatives of film. The screenwriter's need to cut it all down to a simple storyline. Cut! Fine by me.

Hack away. Distill the chaotic sprawl of real life events into a beginning-middle-end story. Simplify the story. But tell the story. If the story is Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, don't distort the story.

If all you knew about the making of Psycho came from this film, you'd get a very wrong impression.

Based on this movie, the Psycho screenwriter (Joseph Stefano of The Outer Limits fame) was a wet-behind-the-ears newbie — and, if it weren't for script doctor Alma, his script would've been DOA. Robert Bloch, the bloody genius who wrote the original novel, never appears and is barely mentioned in few throwaway lines. But it's enough to let you know he's a hack writer. You're led to believe that Hitchcock was obsessed with Ed Gein's original murders. Bloch thinly fictionalized Gein's story as Psycho — a trashy pulp fiction novel that basically just changed the names. Long story short ... 

Hitch and Alma started out with a bad script based on a bad novel. Like filmmaking alchemists, they turned that lead to gold. The golden glory that is Psycho. 

And that's pure bullshit.

Psycho was a work of imagination, not a documentary. Norman Bates crawled out of the nightmare factory of Bloch's mind, not a police report. He's a vastly different character than the real Ed Gein, and far more interesting. He made Bloch's novel (and Hitchcock's film adaptation) far more interesting as a result.

To put it another way, screw the auteur theory. Genius or not, Hitchcock can't hog the credit for Psycho; he has to share it with two genius writers, namely Bloch and Stefano. Rebello says Alma deserves her share of credit. Share away! But don't cut out Bloch and Stefano. Some of you young folks might not even remember who they are. But that's all the more reason not to snip them out of film history.

Good evening.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Our cult tastes better. The secret ingredient is why!

If you craft a religion as a money-making venture, there's nothing like basing it on a "secret" teaching to ensure your bottom line. Yep. Writing your core beliefs on a napkin and locking 'em away in a safe is definitely the way to go. No awkward discussions about logical contradiction and all that. No rude questions about facts and sources. It's a revelation. It's in a safe. When you give us all your money and take all the seminars, courses, workshops and eventually get to the 42nd level, we'll tell you what the napkin says, pal. In the meantime, empty your pockets. Thanks.