Psycho (1960)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
>Psycho (1960) on IMDb
A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Psycho is probably the film that represents Alfred Hitchcock the most in popular culture. With the proto-slasher killer and the now legendary shower scene where Janet Leigh gets butchered naked. Psycho is now encrusted in the common minds as Hitchcock’s masterpiece and his trademark of Horror.  Well that is part right and part wrong. First, Hitchcock was not a dedicated horror filmmaker has much as a storyteller that mastered thrills and suspense. Is Psycho his masterpiece? We can count at least five films as his masterpieces; Rear Window, North By Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds. However, is Psycho his ultimate masterpiece? Some might say yes to that answer but recently, 2012, Vertigo was recognized as the greatest film of all time by the Sight and Sound poll held each decade since 1952. However, is you ask me, and I believe that if you are reading those lines you are asking me, Psycho might be the most personal masterpiece Hitchcock ever directed. With the floating sexuality from the beginning of the traveling in the hotel bedroom where Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam are having an affair to the shower scene, sex is present. Then you have the thrill, the build-up to the first murder, the fear of the policeman that suspects Marion of getting away in a hurry and follows her to the point where seh trades car, Hitchcock was affraid of cops since a childhood memory that his father asked the police to jail him for a moment so he would behave. There are themes of Hitchcock’s obsessions that are recurring but also completely succesful in their execution.

Let’s now discuss the thing that is almost synonymous with Psycho, the shower scene. In his discussions with François Truffaut, Hitchcock admitted that it was the only reason he wanted to do the film. I doubt that a bit since the film is so perfect in every one of its elements that, yes the scene is outstanding and his use of montage, jump cuts, traveling into Leigh’s eye to show us she looked at the money before life gets out of her, and the shot of the knife entering the flesh that was shot in reverse so that the knife never penetrates the wet skin, but still the build up leading to that scene is a lesson in cinema. That scene took many days to shot and the use of many angles makes it geometric and puts us into the shower side by side with Marion. As if we were taking the shower with her and witnessing the scene getting soaked. When the killer gets in and attacks then kill Marion, the story shifts from the point of view of Marion to Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) that comes and washes meticulously the crime scene. This long afterwards of cleaning and getting rid of the body and the car is also as interesting as the assassination scene itself. When he gazes the car slowly sinking into the swamp, the montage from the car to his face has a comic mesure that makes us his acolytes.

Janet Leigh
Anthony Perkins

Saul Bass 

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