Ignore that atrocious title and go see this anyway: Alexandre O. Philippe’s close reading of the 'Psycho' shower scene is as refreshingly fun and perceptive as his documentary’s name—referring to Alfred Hitchcock’s 78 camera setups and 52 edits over the course of three violent minutes—is eggheaded and clinical. Those 180 seconds are, of course, legendary, not only for implying a brutality never seen in mainstream movies before the summer of 1960 but for killing off the main character in the film’s first act (shame on you if that’s a spoiler), plunging audiences into a narrative freefall that was scarier than any possessive mom with a butcher knife.
'78/52' assembles a murderers’ row of testifying directors, such as Guillermo del Toro and Richard Stanley ('Hardware'), as well as a peppy squad of visual technicians and even Anthony Perkins’s son, Oz, himself a filmmaker but more importantly a storyteller blessed with his father’s dry wit. Every subtext and nuance is milked for maximum impact: What was that painting on the bedroom wall? Which melon did they use to get the precise sound of the stabbing? Why does this scene still matter? It’s a film class, yes, but the most invigorating one you’ll take.
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