Archive for June, 2010

The Bates Motel Sign; the house on the hill; a swirling shower drain; Norman Bate’s tortured visage; Bernard Herrmann’s score. All of these images and sounds have become iconic, woven into the popular lexicon, so unmistakable, even without context.  If by sheer dumb luck you have never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), you are likely to be familiar with some aspect of this film. (Like the theme for Jaws, Bernard Herrmann’s theme for Psycho is forever entwined with the action it’s amplifying.) This month Psycho hits the 50 mark, and despite many shallow imitations, a few sequels, a remake, and many, many movies attempting to tap into the sheer audacity and precision of its filmmaking, Psycho still retains the power to shock, even in contrast with the best modern horror picture. Perhaps, it’s that Psycho taps directly into the heart of the movie-going experience: voyeurism at its base level. We seek entry into other worlds, other lives, from the safety of the theater seat or living room couch. Norman is fellow who likes to watch, and the audience, in turn, becomes an accessory to this act, implicated— in a strange, passive way—in its fallout. 

For better or worse it remains Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film, which, in and of itself, is astounding considering the sheer number of influential and ground breaking works Hitchcock directed over his prolific career.

Happy Birthday, Psycho, you don’t look a day over 50.

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Travel The World…


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There’s something wonderfully fatalistic in the oeuvre of Catherine Deneuve. Even in the more optimistic of her film work—The Umbrella’s of Cherbourg (1964) for example—there is always the threat of ruin, that her steely resolve will somehow dissolve, fade away as the final credits roll. It’s that filmic resolve that sometimes gets labeled as “emotionally distant”, which is wholly unfair and misses the point of her amazing abilities as an actress. On the contrary, she has an extraordinary range, both when playing a character and in her choice of roles. From the emotionally fragile woman slowly coming undone in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965),  to an actress and theatre director in Nazi occupied France in François Truffaut’s The Last Metro (1980), to an aging vampire, of all things, in Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983), Denevue is describing emotional wreckage that is more subtle, less overtly traumatic.

And then there is her work with director Luis Buñuel: Belle de Jour (1967) and Tristana (1970), a pair of films that, quite succinctly, encapsulate that range previously spoke of. The bored housewife of Belle Je Jour is certainly the most famous, but it is her turn as the optimistic orphan girl turned calculating woman in Tristana that is the weightier, the more deeply resonate of the two.

It is the elegance, and, OK, here comes that word, timelessness, of Catherine Deneuve that leads me to compare her with other actresses like Grace Kelly and Isabella Rossellini; that indefinable charm that far exceeds pure beauty, that makes her films endlessly watchable.  


















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