Not getting an inch closer to Hitchcock
The name Alfred Hitchcock confused me as a child. His name popped up in so many places. Sometimes he appeared as a TV presenter. But he was also a name that was slapped on to just about any collection of horror stories. And in one case, the child detective book series Three Investigators, he was even a character in the story, appearing under his own name as some kind of wise guy in the background.
Who was he? Did he even exist for real? I wasn’t entirely convinced he did. He seemed cartoonish – this big, old man who was hired to “present” just about anything – even long after he had died. (By the way they still publish horror stories “presented by” Alfred Hitchcock. I wonder how we’re supposed to believe he’s had anything to do with them. Someone summons his spirit at ghost sessions, asking him to do the selection?)
The version of Hitchcock we get in the new movie Hitchcock is no less cartoonish than my childhood memories.
Strutting around with an enormous fake stomach attached to him and with the face of a constipated toad, Anthony Hopkins looks more like a wax figure on the run from the cabinet than like a real human being. We learn a little bit more about his wife and companion Alma, who if we’re to believe this did an enormous amount of uncredited work on his movies. But we don’t get an inch closer to the master himself.
Frankly this is the worst kind of movie to write about. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either. It’s strikingly unremarkable, and has the feel of a forgettable TV-production rather than a theatrical release.
About film making
The film is its best whenever it’s about the process of making a film (in this case Psycho), from the arguing with the film business people to the setup of the clever marketing campaign. I love to see the casting, the camera work and the collaboration between Hitchcock and Alma in the editing room. But all of this could have been done as well – or better – in a documentary. Then we wouldn’t have to put up with a rather silly side story about Alma looking for consolation outside of her marriage and a bunch of dream sequences where Hitchcock talks to the Ed Gein (the source of inspiration for Psycho), which leads nowhere.
I don’t know if Hitchcock led a life interesting enough to deserve a biopic movie. There’s no guarantee there’s a compelling story to be told, just because you’re a good director. But provided that the story of his life was worth sharing, I think it would have worked better in a different genre. Rather than doing this absolutely harmless comedy, they could have explored the darkest corners of Hitchcock’s psyche. That might have worked better than this flavourless dish that I surely will have forgotten everything about in a week’s time.
Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, US 2012) My rating: 3/5
Some of my colleagues in the Swedish network Filmspanarna also watched Hitchcock. Here’s what they made of it (in Swedish):