Film review: Hitchcock The Master of Suspense uncovered
Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Fox Searchlight, Sacha Gervasi-directed release, Hitchcock, is either the vainest of Hollywood vanities — a behind-the-scenes making of a film, turned into a full-length feature film, or an engrossing glimpse into the life and mind of one of the greatest of film directors, Alfred Hitchcock.

You choose your poison; as film enthusiasts like my eldest son, Quintin, loved the treatment. In fact, he lamented the fact that not more emphasis was placed on the technical and logistical intricacies of the making of this ground-breaking horror/suspense film, and a substantial amount of screen time was devoted to uncovering Hitchcock’s problems on the domestic front while filming his masterpiece, Psycho.

With a screenplay written by John McLaughlin, adapted from Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the film purports to be an intimate glimpse into the man, Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), his relationship with wife, film editor and collaborator, Alma (Helen Mirren), as contextualized during the time leading to, the filming of, and the release of, Psycho. Janet Leigh of the infamous Psycho shower scene is played by Scarlett Johansson, while James D’Arcy essays the role of Anthony Perkins, who was the film’s Norman Bates, and Jessica Biel is the actress Vera Miles. How Paramount refused to finance the film forcing Hitchcock to dip into his own money, how the censors would curtail’s use of a toilet in one scene, and how they insisted the shower scene could be shot, how Paramount also restricted the release and compelled Hitchcock to do his own film promoting — these are all grist for this impeccably shot film treatment, an incisive portrait of Hollywood in the early ’60s.

Ultimately, the film succeeds or fails on how Hitch and Alma are portrayed. While not much was known of Hitch the private person, even less is known of Alma, and the integral role she played in his film career. To their credit, both Hopkins and Mirren are nothing less than superb, turning the film into a revelatory exposé of just how dependent the two were on each other. Hopkins is perfection as the droll, sarcastic, dead-panned, Hitchcock; prosthetics allowing him to take on the shape and face of Hitchcock while constantly reminding us that this is Hopkins immersing himself into the role. Mirren is the wonderful surprise, displaying Alma’s love and affection while showing the steel, resolve and dedication one would need to be Hitchcock’s life companion and soulmate. She fully deserves her SAG nomination for Best Actress.

So, as I mentioned in the outset, one’s full enjoyment of the film would hinge on just how much of a film buff one is. There isn’t much in terms of drama, resolution or intricate plotting in this film. Rather, it’s an entertaining, informative look into a film that changed the game, and the man who moved heaven, hell, and his heart, to create it.

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