Thu December 6, 2012
Hopkins is Hitch.
Director: Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil)
Screenplay:John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) from Stephen Rebello book.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs), Helen Mirren (The Queen)
by John DeSando
“That blonde woman of mystery you’re after. She’s a fantasy. She doesn’t exist.” Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) to Alfred Hitchcock
A chance that the representation of the eccentric Alfred Hitchcock would be just caricature is high, given his odd appearance, distinctive speech, and off-center personality. Fortunately Anthony Hopkins imitates him enough to be a believably historical character and to invest his own forceful personality.
Hitchcock is a satisfying glimpse into the genius’s marriage to Alma (Helen Mirren) and the creation of his greatest screen triumph, Psycho. The unreality is Mirren's glamorous; Alma was plain.
Because of Hitchcock’s mid-20th century appearances on his TV show, he may be more recognizable, even now, than Steven Spielberg. Anthony Hopkins and director Sacha Gervasi stay close to the facts as I know them, from his preoccupation with blonde leading ladies to his reliance on Alma’s advice about actors, scripts, and edits.
The shenanigans surrounding the censorship of the shower scene in Psycho and the multiple cuts (so to speak!) that make it iconic are faithfully presented. Lessons can be learned about the power of the early censoring agency and the details like nudity and plunging a dagger into a woman that could keep a film out of the theaters. That week to complete the shower scene is an effective primer for those who don’t understand the patience necessary to make a classic film.
New to my understanding of the director is his affection for Alma, almost tearful on our side and his, and the civil way he treated Janet Leigh. No need to show his callous treatment of The Birds’ Tippi Hedrin, whose career he shortened when she refused his advances.
Let me close by saying a kind word about Helen Mirren as long-suffering Alma—Mirren plays her for an intelligent forgiving companion with her own emotional needs partially fulfilled by writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who obviously loves her but gets no chance to make love to her.
As for the film itself, it’s less a love letter to the director than a depiction of a gifted man who became the master of suspense not without his own measure of personal drama:
“And so, gentle viewer, Psycho—the picture everyone predicted would bring me to wreck and ruin—was such a hit that Alma and I got to . . . Well, let’s just say that we got to keep our house—and the swimming pool. And the same critics who despised it went on to call it one of my greatest achievements. Of course, for me, it was just another “moo-vie.’” Hitchcock
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org.
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com