Magazine article Screen International

'78/52': Sundance Review

Magazine article Screen International

'78/52': Sundance Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Alexandre O. Philippe. US, 2017, 91 minutes

The title 78/52 tells you something, but only in film nerd code. It refers to the number of camera set-ups and the number of cuts in Psycho's shower scene - a 45-second sequence which took director Alfred Hitchcock seven days to shoot. The tech-code title may not help the film find a mass audience, but the scene's dissection should be a huge festival hit and a VOD smash among movie geeks.

Alexandre O. Philippe brings the murder to a jury of Hitchcock's heirs - filmmakers, editors, composers and critics who take the film apart and voice their admiration. This includes everyone from the director Peter Bogdanovich to the editor Walter Murch to the composer Danny Elfman to Elijah Wood to Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of its star, Janet Leigh. Fortunately, wisecracks in the style of Mystery Theater 3000 temper the reverence, and Philippe's tribute to Hollywood's most famous stabbing is an archival feast.

No surprise, there are no revisionist Hitchcock haters in the mix. Yet reactions range as widely as the participants - we enjoy factoids about the first toilet ever shown in a feature and the painting that Anthony Perkins takes offthe wall to peer at Janet Leigh, plus pronouncements on the film's pivotal status in world history. Theories can get absurd. Was it mere coincidence that Leigh was stabbed to death just as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were divorcing, or as the birth control pill was introduced?

Guillermo del Toro offers a succinct assessment: "[Hitchcock] has broken the covenant of filmmaker and audience, and the audience cannot wait to see more."

More is certainly what Philippe gives us, and it's more than vengeful movie nerds heaping on the trivia: 78/52 offers plenty of context. By the time Hitchcock made Psycho, he had released colour spectacles like North by Northwest, and he hosted a weekly TV show that framed fright and suspense with his signature wit. He portrayed pure evil in Joseph Cotton's character in Shadow of a Doubt back in 1943. Nature would later go inexplicably haywire in The Birds (1963).

Psycho initially felt like a step backwards - in black and white, full of jump cuts. …

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