Watching Alfred Hitchcock’s inimitable scare-fest Psycho last night on TV thrilled me more than it ever has in the past.
Why? Well, for one thing, I didn’t like it.
Yes, that’s thrilling. Really. Because last night, the reason became apparent.
It’s a negative movie. It’s oddly structured. The dialogue is bizarre. And Hitch spends a heckuva lot of time showing you these seemingly “mundane” details, like Janet Leigh packing and unpacking her suitcase and Anthony Perkins cleaning up the bathroom after he has dispatched her.
All of this is deliberate. I’m not saying Hitchcock wasn’t in command. But it’s almost as if the great director was trying to call attention to ordinary activities that aren’t normally seen in the movies.
That helps develop character…and I think that’s why the film’s so effective. Perkins’ obsessive mopping and post-murder preparations reveal how deeply disturbed he is, while Leigh’s behavior suggests an interior schism over the money she’s stolen. It’s all brilliantly done, and it’s an incredibly watchable movie, despite all of the minutiae.
Yet I still don’t like it. It seems more experimental to me than many of the master’s other pictures, a grim, stark-looking study rather than a finished product. Again: I don’t think anything is loose, here; Hitch was in control through and through. But for me, it’s hard to watch. I’d rather sit down to a viewing of The 39 Steps, you know?
Something where you don’t feel like you have to take a shower afterward.