The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Not getting an inch closer to Hitchcock

with 26 comments

Thitchcockhe 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

filmspanarna

Some of my colleagues in the Swedish network Filmspanarna also watched Hitchcock.  Here’s what they made of it (in Swedish):

Fiffis filmtajm
Filmparadiset
Fripps filmrevyer
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Jojjenito
Mode+Film
Plox
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Written by Jessica

February 13, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Hitchcock

26 Responses

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  1. Yes, I’d rather see a well done documentary. Even thou the constipated toad looked funny sometimes flashing his gums whenever he could.

    johan

    February 13, 2013 at 8:22 am

    • It was a little funny, but a doc would have been more rewarding, especially since I knew so little about him on beforehand.

      Jessica

      February 13, 2013 at 10:49 pm

  2. And you have un-constipated many a toad in your days? 😉 Grading is such an interesting field — we have the same rating, but my text is considerably more positive (to my mind at least)…

    Sofia

    February 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

    • Well… It’s a very, very weak 3. But in the end I decided to be kind, mostly because of the about-the-making-of-Psycho parts, which I found interesting, and because of Helen Mirren, which I thought was pretty good.

      Jessica

      February 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm

  3. I compared him to a fat talking duck but it boils down to the same: He didn’t really look like a human being. I basically think the same as you but I have to keep the “lower grade tradition” alive. 😉

    Agree, a documentary would have been more appropriate.

    Jojjenito

    February 13, 2013 at 10:57 am

    • Fat talking duck is another way to describe it.We definitely saw the same movie. We do have a little different traditions in rating. I always think about all the terribad movies there are out there which I luckily mostly avoid to ever watch.

      Jessica

      February 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    • There is a feature length documentary on the Blu-Ray version of Psycho that goes through more or less all the notes of this film. That was the one I saw the day before our screening.

      Joel Burman (@joelburman)

      February 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      • You didn’t seem to be overly impressed by it though… Maybe the book the film is based on is better.

        Jessica

        February 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

        • Well to be honest I’m a little bit jaded of pat on the back behind the scenes docs. I prefer them when they have an edge to them. Most behind the scenes features on Terry Gilliam films feel like standalone films worth watching by themselves.

          Joel Burman (@joelburman)

          February 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm

  4. “The face of a constipated toad”. 🙂 🙂
    You win the Best-Describing-Of-An-Actor-In-A-Fat-suit-Award!

    Fiffi

    February 13, 2013 at 11:11 am

  5. Funny text. You describe my feelings of the movie exactly! 🙂

    It was interesting to see that you categorised it as a comedy! I saw it as a drama, but for sure there was some comedic moments (as there usually are in dramas).

    Anyway, here we have evidence exhibit A that we have different rating scales. As you so eloquently write “I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it either.” and that is the basic definition of a rating 2 on my scale. Thus, my lady, I gave it a 2/5.

    Henke

    February 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    • Thanks Henke! I’m glad you’re on board with me. We do have slightly different scales, which is reflected here. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we’re aware of it.

      Jessica

      February 13, 2013 at 10:53 pm

  6. Hey,

    I stumbled onto your blog through twitter and found your write-up about “Hitchcock” very appealing and well written.
    It also served proved useful as I haven’t seen the film quite yet and I have just started a marathon of Hitchcock’s films in my blog.
    I find your thoughts about making a film based on the director’s darkest parts of his psyche a lot more interesting than what seems to be a very banal comedy.

    Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on film – Niels

    The Blog of Big Ideas

    February 14, 2013 at 2:57 am

    • Hello there and welcome to my blog! Sorry about the late reply. A Hitchcock marathon sounds like a great idea. I have a lot to catch up on myself.

      Jessica

      February 17, 2013 at 8:19 pm

  7. I haven’t seen this Jessica but I’m glad you mention the comparison with a tv production. That’s how it always struck me and one of the main reasons I’ve avoided it so far. I will get around to it eventually.

    Mark Walker

    February 14, 2013 at 11:02 am

    • There’s really no rush to see it. It’s ok as a bit of distraction. Yet another airplane trip movie.

      Jessica

      February 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm

  8. I think I got to know Alma just a tad better than I knew Hitchcock, they should’ve included her in the title! “Anthony Hopkins looks more like a wax figure on the run from the cabinet than like a real human being” Yep, that’s one of my biggest beef with this film.

    ruth

    February 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    • I think so too. Maybe they should have gone the whole way, making her to the main person altogether. Now she remains a bit flat too, though less of a wax figure than Hitchcock.

      Jessica

      February 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm

  9. Great post, Jessica. Definitely agree here. This was way too light and they didn’t focus on Hitch enough. Didn’t like his makeup either. Mirren was superb, though.

    fernandorafael

    February 16, 2013 at 8:46 am

    • Thanks Fernando! And yes, I agree on Mirren. She was fine. I think the script was underwhelming.

      Jessica

      February 17, 2013 at 8:23 pm

  10. I totally agree. Although the scene where Hitchcock is standing in the lobby orchestrating the music while the shower scene in Psycho plays for the audience in the theater behind him was among the best movie scenes of 2012.

    Mark Hobin

    February 17, 2013 at 7:14 am

    • Well… while I liked his reactions, I thought the audience reactions were a little bit over-the-top in that scene to be completely honest. I guess it was the idea though, knitting into the comedic tone of the film.

      Jessica

      February 17, 2013 at 8:36 pm

  11. This movie also let me cold, there just wasn’t much to latch onto and the only thing it made me want to do is watch Psycho…

    Nostra

    April 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

    • Exactly! Well I guess that’s not a bad thing though, if it inspires people to watch more hitchcock.

      Jessica

      April 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm


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