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Movie Breakdown: 78/52 (Noah)

October 27, 2017

Film

Pre-Screening Stance:

There’s a wash of these types of films these days – talking head pieces about single moments that have helped to shape or define culture – and though I never tire of endless movie trivia to recite to my friends when intoxicated, I’m most certainly curious as to what makes a film about only the shower scene in Psycho.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s a tendency in these sort of micro-breakdowns of films and filmic moments where the director and the assemblage of famous (or not-so famous) talking heads imply that whatever moment we’re looking at helped to redefine, well, everything. It’s a distracting tendency, one that glows with the amber hues of nostalgic remembrance, placing import where in most cases, import never existed. Alexandre O. Phillipe’s documentary 78/52 (the number of set-ups and cuts it took for director Alfred Hitchcock to call the shower scene in Psycho complete) avoids these pitfalls, instead using its “cast” of famous horror directors (Mick Garris, Karyn Kurasama, Eli Roth, etc.) and editors (Walter Murch!) and horror nerds (Bret Easton Ellis, Elijah Wood) to explore the scene, shot by shot by shot, slowly picking apart the genius that Hitchcock was able to layer into a now iconic moment. The film acts as a running commentary, with each participant being placed in front of a screen, interviewed and then shown the scene (maybe the entire film) and Phillipe documents them discussing what each individual moment entails. These are very informed film scholars and directors and dorks parlaying years of experience into a crystalline, near academic dissections of the scene. It could be boring but Phillipe layers in enough movie fun facts with the theoretical explorations of what this film meant, what each shot entailed, and what every tiny flicker of editing added up to, so boredom never becomes an issue. Instead this sumptuously black-and-white documentary highlights a moment that actually opened up the boundaries of film and laid the groundwork for a whole new international genre.

One Last Thought:

The film starts with a sort of seedy recreation of an older woman driving to the Bates Motel and getting in a shower and getting Janet Leighed and it’s not good or explained or ever looked back on. It is not indicative of the rest of the film.

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