Friday, May 20, 2016

A Man Hiding in the Corner With a Camera, or Thoughts on Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock

Anthony Hopkins has the celebrated ability to fully immerse himself into his roles, often to the extent that he essentially becomes them, at least in the public’s eye.  He hasn’t portrayed Hannibal Lecter since 2001 but he will always be remembered for that role.  For Hitchcock (2012), Anthony Hopkins inhabits a fat suit, and has the dolorous accent and mannerisms down.  But the real Hitch was even more jowly.
And that’s my primary criticism with this movie; I know the source material intimately.  I’ve read Robert Bloch’s original novel and Francois Truffaut’s series of interviews and know every one of his cameos (my favorite being the one where he sits on the bus next to Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief 1955).  This movie is about the making of Psycho (1960) with Helen Mirren as Hitch’s wife and collaborator, Alma Reville.  I think it took a special kind of woman to be married to Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren did a marvelous job, basically because I don’t even really know what Alma Reville looked like, much less how she spoke or carried herself.  I know how Hitch spoke, how he walked and talked, and even a genius like Anthony Hopkins will never be able to fully inhabit that role to my satisfaction.
But putting all my cinematic baggage to the side and indulging in a second viewing, I can tell you that this movie would make a perfect double feature with Psycho, or even a couple seasons of Bates Motel.  In Psycho, Hitch made a non-supernatural horror movie and Hitchcock (2012) portrays his struggle against the studio heads and the censors.  Psycho was the first movie to show and flush an actual toilet, and a considerable amount of screen time is devoted to the writing and filming of that iconic shower scene.
Hollywood royalty Danny Huston, (John’s son, Angelica’s brother) plays Whitfield Cook, playwright and Alma’s boyfriend.  HItch’s first love was directing, the filmmaking process, and he spent an unhealthy amount of attention obsessing over his leading ladies.  The film is intercut with Ed Gein interacting with Hitch, as if he is both haunted and inspired by him, as played by Michael Wincott who you may remember from The Crow (1994) and Alien Resurrection (1997).
There’s a clever Roddy MacDowall cameo in a photograph as he is considered for Norman Bates.  James D’Arcy’s sensitive and awkward performance captures the essence of Anthony Perkins in a few quick scenes.  Scarlett’s portrayal of Janet Leigh is adequate and undemanding, but Lost in Translation (2003) is one of my all time favorite movies, so she will always get a pass from me.  Helen Mirren is the real star and story in this movie, as Alma she is always propping Hitch up, helping with casting decisions, keeping him on a diet, and subjugating her life and career for her legendary husband.

Psycho is Hitch’s most popular movie but I would argue that Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954) and North by Northwest (1959) are his greatest films.  (Along with my personal favorites; Strangers on a Train (1951), Rope (1948), The Trouble With Harry (1955) and To Catch a Thief (1955)).  It’s interesting that a second Hitchcock movie was released by HBO in the same year with Toby Jones as Hitch, covering similar territory but focusing on Tippi Hedren and The Birds (1963).


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.