Thursday, March 23, 2017

You Don’t Do That to Someone You Love, Even if You Hate Them, or Thoughts on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho

Psycho (1998), Gus Van Sant’s color photocopy remake starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche is a curious experiment; it’s the same but different, the camera zooms in a different window with different actors and a different director, but with the original script (with some unnecessary modernizations) and following the original direction, tone for tone, beat for beat, and shot for shot. 
The Hitchcock cameo in front of Marion’s office now features the director in a conversation with Gus Van Sant; a move that most critics found hubristic.  The sexuality is also more overt, as well as the nudity; I mean if you’ve ever wanted to see Viggo Mortensen’s butt this is the movie for you, and the shower scene is of course, more explicit.  I can understand these updates, Psycho needs to be an R-rated film and I’d rather have them adding nudity and violence than throwing in a bunch of f-bombs and dumbing down an already perfect script.
Even at his thinnest, Vince Vaughn brings a beefy heterosexual menace to the character of Norman Bates.  He has a physical confidence that carries over to his lines, he doesn’t stutter and speaks more authoritatively.   I do think Norman needs a gay vibe, or at least the fragile sensitivity that Anthony Perkins brought to the role; it makes his underlying resentment of his mother and hatred of women all the more compelling.
As for Anne Heche, she ain’t no Janet Leigh.  However she does have a bird-like and looks good with her hair wet, and as you know the movie isn’t about Marion Crane.  Now Julianne Moore as Lila Crane is an upgrade, who knew Lila was a redhead?  Her first appearance with her cute yellow 90’s Walkman in Sam’s hardware store is charming, you don't know how much you miss color until you’re starved of it.  The colors in Bates Motel are washed out, moody, and depressed from that soft Vancouver light; here you have the blinding Arizona sunlight. 
Watch out for William H. Macy as Arbogast, speaking of perfect timing, and veteran character actor Robert Forster from Jackie Brown (1998) and Mulholland Drive (2001) as Dr. Richmond.  The soundtrack has also been tweaked by Danny Elfman, the only composer I would trust with Bernard Hermann’s legacy.
Black and white was a budgetary decision that Hitchcock made to keep complete editorial control of his movie, but the visual style of the 1998 remake, the glorious, saturated colors and the wardrobe choices make the film.  Even Saul Bass’ opening credits gets a dash of vivid green.  Again this is polarizing to audiences, you will either love those choices, or hate them.  But there is a comfort in telling and re-telling the same story over and over again.  The remake is polarizing, I don’t know of many people other than myself who will actually admit to liking it, however it makes for an interesting double feature with the original 1960  version.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).