Tue 7 May 2013
There is a woman behind any great man, or so they say. According to the story told in ‘Hitchcock’ this may never have been more true than in the case of the famous master of suspense that was Alfred Hitchcock. His wife Alma Reville was a talented script-writer, a focused and sharp assistant-director, and above all a dedicated wife who not only did all she could to support in many ways the genial director, but also made sacrifices and put intentionally in shadows her own self to ensure his indisputable success. Sacha Gervasi‘s first(!) long feature film is apparently the saga of making the masterpiece of the horror genre called Psycho, but for me is before all a film about Mrs. Hitchcock.
One thing that Hollywood knows to do well is movies about Hollywood. This is the case again with Hitchcock, a film which radiates love for cinema, succeeds to be funny and is a reverence at the same time towards one of the directors who was a darling and a maverick of the film industry at the same time, dominating the suspense, horror and spy films genre in the 50s. We see him here at the top of his creativity, after a series of successes which he knows he must avoid repeating in style in order to stay relevant when crossing the threshold of the age of 60. This is not simple even for the legendary Hitch, as the (Hollywood) system would rather have him go on the safe path of blockbusters, and much of the story in the film is about taking artistic and personal risks in order for him to make the movies he wants. His eccentricities and oddities are presented in details and with delights, yet they hide his more serious search for artistic truth and a fight against aging and the drought of creativity he fears will come with the years. Hitch takes an enormous bet, but we all know the results. Psycho as well as his next film The Birds are the two peaks of a fascinating filmography.
The cast is fabulous, but here in my view lies also the weaker point of the film (all relative, of course). I was not thrilled by Anthony Hopkins‘ rendition of Hitch. One of the actors I always thought can do no wrong is over-exaggerating in this film the physical dimensions of the character. 17 years ago he succeeded to be more Nixon than Nixon himself in Nixon, and one year later he repeated the performance in Surviving Picasso. In both movies he played the characters from inside, understood and lived them. In this Hitchcock his act has a dose of unexpected artificiality. This only makes even more blatant the superb acting of Helen Mirren, radiating inner strength and intelligence in one of the best roles of her career (and what a career she has!). Scarlett Johansson is what we expect in the juicy role of Vivian Leigh, Hitchcock’s blonde du jour in Psycho. The biggest surprise comes however from James D’Arcy who is such a perfect clone of Anthony Perkins that I suspected for a few seconds that some special effects were used to built a computerized image of the late actor. The Hitchcock wrapping imagined by Sacha Gervasi for the whole film works quite well. The personal troubles of the character are not completed elucidated, this film is not a deep analysis of the creative processes of the great director, but the film is overall fun, and this is the essence of the work of Hitchcock – challenging the viewers but eventually delivering entertainment, not cinema theory. Hitchcock is fun.