Friday, June 9, 2017

Sydney Film Festival: 78/52 (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe
Cast: Justin Benson, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo Del Toro, Danny Elfman, Bret Easton Ellis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Elijah Wood

78/52 is screening as part of the 2017 Sydney Film Festival program and will be shown on Friday June 9 (Dendy Newtown) and Monday June 12 (Dendy Opera Quays). Please see the Sydney Film Festival website for more information and purchasing tickets.

"The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world"
- Edgar Allen Poe

Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52 is a glorious ode to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho that is crucial viewing not just for fans of The Master of Suspense, but for all film lovers and aficionados.

Ground-breaking is not a strong enough word to describe the effect Psycho's has upon it's release in 1960. 78/52 explores the effect Psycho has had on the world of filmmaking by allowing notable film personalities (including Peter Bogdanovich, Elijah Wood, Danny Elfman and Bret Easton Ellis) and relatives of those who were directly involved in making the film, to narrate by providing their knowledge and opinions. Philippe's documentary shines a particularly strong light on the infamous Janet Leigh shower scene, which broke many cinematic rules in the most intriguing and unprecedented of ways.

Psycho is arguably the most popular of Hitchcock's films and it is understandably due in large part to the shower scene. In 1960, the Motion Picture Production Code (often referred to as the Hays Code) was still being enforced and the fact that this scene made it past the censors is an example of the brilliance of Hitchcock. The scene, which see's Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) brutally murdered by Mrs Bates in her motel room shower, is timelessly brutal, terrifying and shocking. With everything that was happening in the world in the early '60's, the scene was almost a sign of the times as it showed that you were never safe....not even in your own home or personal space and Hitchcock honed in on that nightmare.

As 78/52 exhibits, there were so many factors that made Psycho and the shower scene so monumental. From the way it was shot to avoid showing any actual violence or nudity, to it's simple, but easily recognisable score, the scene is extremely complex and flawless.

While many a book has been written about Psycho and even the 2012 film Hitchcock centred around it's production, 78/52 is an extremely thorough look at the film and gives a frame by frame examination of it's most popular scene. Both intriguing and informative, the film thoroughly presents it's case as to why Psycho and it's pivotal scene mean so much in a creative and original fashion. While watching the film, the importance of Psycho to so many people and specifically those in the film industry is evident by the amount of passion that is felt when the narrators speak of it. It is also particularly interesting hearing personal accounts by Marli Renfro (Janet Leigh's body double), Oz Perkins (Anthony Perkins' son), Tere Carrubba (Alfred Hitchcock's granddaughter) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Janet Leigh's daughter).

The way 78/52 is shot is reminiscent of the film it is honouring, as it is completely in black and white and it's primary location is a replica of the inside of the Bates house. The film is also edited beautifully, as it does what Psycho does and all good documentaries should builds up tension to when it breathtakingly reveals the main purpose for the film. The shower scene isn't discussed in detail straight away, but when it is you are blown away by how brilliant it truly is.

While 78/52 is definitely a film for Hitchcock fans, it is a documentary that any film lover should see. Alexandre O. Philippe's film is a completely different spin on the filmmaking documentary and does an excellent and captivating job at preserving and understanding this piece of film history.


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