Victor S. K. P.’s review:
Norman Bates: I think I must have one of those faces you can't help believing.
At this point, about a century into cinema, it is hard not to hear about numerous, decade old masterpieces, and their greatness, from the mouths of the educated elders (aka, most of you.) And whilst it's not hard to believe that most films were, indeed, amazing films in their prime, it is much harder for a film to impress when its years, if not decades, past its era, as so many factors are against it. It could be technically dated (in this case, the film is black and white), the acting school might be different when compared to the modern one (and therefore, (un)pleasantly unusual), the directing and camerawork abnormal (sometimes frighteningly so), the editing could be choppy, and, perhaps most importantly, the film's themes and ideas might simply be outdated, since the world never stops changing. And, of course, the plot could have been referenced, and spoiled numerous times. Yet with all of these nuisances seemingly stacked up against it, Psycho, produced and directed by the deceased "master of cinema," Alfred Hitchcock, it managed not only to put my troubles at rest, but also impress. Greatly so.
The plot is, at first, rather simple, yet it immediately incorporates elements from several genres into it (such as romance, drama, and of course, horror). Marion (Janet Leigh) is a lady working with great amounts of money which she sorely lacks, to live as she would like. When suddenly a chance presents itself, for Marion to flee from her current life and troubles, she grabs it (rather literally), and escapes with a mighty fine amount of money, on her way to her lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), with whom she wishes to elope to another, hopefully better, life. However, during the drive to Sam (who lives in another town), Marion's problems stack up one, after another, before she finally arrives to, late at night, to the infamous Bates Motel, run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)... And this is where the film really gets going...
Being my first Hitchcock film, I had no expectations from Psycho, other than my hope, and belief, that it would be a great film. And, as I said, I was not at all disappointed. What impressed me most about Psycho is that Hitchcock is never in a rush. Indeed, the pacing is simply perfect, as he slowly weaves his story, and just in case the viewer might lose interest in the brilliance put before him, Hitchcock, in a matter of minutes, creates a thick fog of tension, seemingly from nothing. Indeed, though his characters might never be in a fatal state of danger, he manages to create what most directors nowadays can't, (even if those constantly play it in a "matter of life and death" manner.) Helped by the abrupt, chilling, and tension thick score, Hitchcock creates drama well before any horror elements are introduced.
But just as Hitchcock has total control over his viewer's emotions (for better or worse), he also seems to bring out the best in actors, for all the performances are simply excellent. Indeed, the cast delivers expertly written dialogue with admirable ease.
The most notable performance here is, of course, that of Anthony Perkins. This man's acting is simply superb. From simple "quick talk," to him doing something, well, slightly more psycho (the pun is deliberate), it's a performance that simply does not fail to impress, from start, and especially towards the climax.
What's also notable, is Hitchcock's creativity. He manages to recount the events that take place in a separate place through voice overs, managing to keep the plot moving forward in several places at once, without ever getting confusing.
Hitchcock is also rather merciless, both with his audience, and with his characters, which is, if anything else, refreshing. He develops characters well, and when he deems them sufficiently expanded upon, he doesn't seem to mind disposing of them just as quickly as he introduced them. He simply has no remorse. But if anything, this too, was a pleasant surprise, and definitely refreshing, since Hitchock operates seemingly without restriction (unlike most directors nowadays), expanding even more on tension, as each and every one of his characters, is rather expendable.
Psycho is rightfully considered an iconic masterpiece, and its greatness has not been lost over the years, and decades. The characters are all well developed, written, acted out, and above all, dispensable. Tension seeps through Psycho from start to finish, reinforced by great camerawork and a rather traumatizing soundtrack. This cult horror film also expertly incorporates bits of romance, and fueled by drama. This is the first creation of Alfred Hitchcock's I've seen from start, to finish, and I am, to say the least, impressed, as it is a genuinely promising start.
Oh, and the Blu-Ray visuals are sharp, and excellent, with a soundtrack that's more resonant than ever before.
★★★★★: Cinema at its very best.