Mention the name Alfred Hitchcock, and one of his greatest films, and that of cinema's, in Psycho, will inadvertently crop up. But who would have thought that there was just so much drama behind the making of a film blessed with an instantly recognizable iconic scene, that the production of this film forms the basis in which the biography of Alfred Hitchcock the director could be told. Adapted from the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, this bio-pic by director Sacha Gervasi is reference filled for the Hitchcock buff from the get go, and of course, those who have not seen Psycho, would do themselves a favour before watching this film.
Sir Anthony Hopkins dons prosthetics to play the heavyset director, whom we get introduced to while at the peak of his established career with the success of North By NOrthwest. Needing another film to differentiate himself from the many copycat filmmakers now flooding the industry to make the kind of movies that he does, we go on a filmmaking journey from rights, to production, and what I thought was a very quick climax in the final act with the independently run marketing and promotional efforts of the film, and its subsequent release.
Alas we get very little in terms of the private life behind the public Hitchcock brand and figure. Those expecting somewhat of the usual elements in a biographical film, such as childhood, career highs and lows, will be a tad disappointed because everything we can possibly learn about Hitchcock the man, is centered around Psycho. Which may interest the casual fan, but not so the aficionado who would probably be armed with facts and figures, probably taking pleasure from seeing notable anecdotes brought the the big screen by screenwriter John J. McLaughlin and director Gervasi, which were used by the truckloads, making it feel, just as Hitchcock would have you in the Psycho film proper, as if you're there and participating as well.
But for all that Hopkins could master to play the directing maestro, it is Helen Mirren who steals the show as Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville, who for more than three decades have stood by her husband dutifully, playing the role of his biggest supporter, fan, and critic, as well as being part of the key creative force that's behind the Hitchcock brand. The irony then is perhaps scenes where she tangents off from Hitchcock, much to his jealousy, to spend time with another screenwriter who enlists her help to polish up his script. This new found freedom of being recognized for her talent is liberating for anyone who has stood under the limelight of another, and it does say something when this sub-arc collapses and converges with the main narrative thread to give us that narrative charge to the finale.
I always have interest in films that tell of the old Hollywood days, where studios wield considerable might with their system of control over the entire chain of production and distribution, and censors being quite the pain in the butt more so than those of today. Even Hitchcock himself had to wrangle with the censor board, as Psycho became quite the poster child for compromises that had to be made, and how it triumphed over certain contentious issues regarding nudity and violence. Then there's the artistic production values with sets and design, as well as actors of today having to portray their luminous counterparts of yesteryear, bringing them back and mimicking them to the best of their abilities.
This is more of a film about the making of Psycho, with the accidental tale of Alfred Hitchcock the man and his wife Alma thrown into the mix. It provided glimpses of his professionalism, and will undoubtedly pique your interest further to devour other Hitchcock materials out there. For starters, that box set that I've got would be the right place to start with. But for the uninitiated who are interested to watch this film, get your hands on the original Psycho movie first, then drop by to witness key moments that had occured to make that vision a reality. Stay tuned for an end credits stinger as well. A definite recomend!