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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Hitchcock

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Anthony Hopkins stars in a scene from the movie "Hitchcock."
The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed, "There is not great genius without a mixture of madness." Case in point: "Hitchcock" (Fox Searchlight), an absorbing portrait of the legendary film director during the making of his biggest success, the 1960 horror classic "Psycho."

The "Master of Suspense" gets quite a dressing-down in this adaptation of Stephen Rebello's 1990 book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," directed by newcomer Sacha Gervasi. The famously corpulent director (Anthony Hopkins, unrecognizable under layers of prosthetics) was, apparently, a psychological mess—a compulsive voyeur who fantasized about his leading ladies and terrorized his staff.

Hitchcock was also, it seems, a control freak who suspected the motives of just about everyone, even his devoted wife, Alma (Helen Mirren).

Intriguingly, Alma seems to have been his muse—and the power behind the throne. A talented editor in her own right, this endlessly patient spouse knew how to sober "Hitch" up and save the day. The tender story of their tempestuous yet faithful marriage is a high point of the film.

In 1959, Hitchcock was the world's greatest director with a string of stylish thrillers to his name, most recently "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest." But he was always searching for his next hit, and Hollywood was changing fast.

"Audiences want to be shocked," Hitchcock observes. "They want something different."

To meet the challenge, he settles on "Psycho," a sensational novel by Robert Bloch, based on the real-life case of notorious serial killer Ed Gein. The lurid story is rejected by the studio, so Hitchcock opts to go it alone, financing the movie himself and crafting a sensational publicity campaign.

At one point, he orders this staff to purchase every copy of "Psycho" in the United States to prevent the public from knowing the plot—and the ending.

"Hitchcock" goes behind the scenes of the production, with stars playing stars, including Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, whose character was destined to die in that famous shower scene; and James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins, playing Norman Bates, the twisted motel owner who is dominated by his mother.

Even the ghost of Gein (Michael Wincott) pops up on set, to ask Hitchcock tauntingly why he would make such a shocking film.

Why indeed. Raised a Catholic and reconciled to his faith before his death in 1980, Hitchcock can be said to have done a great disservice with "Psycho." As this film shows, he battled the Hollywood censors to allow an unprecedented degree of explicitness: In addition to the infamous shower scene, "Psycho" was also the first mainstream movie to show an unmarried couple in bed together.

There were long-term implications to Hitchcock's "victory;" his triumph over the censors contributed to the breakdown of the long-standing production code that had regulated movie content since the 1930s.

The film contains graphic recreations of movie-making violence, a scene of implied adultery, sexual innuendo and some profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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