PUBLISHED: 09:31 08 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:31 08 February 2013
Like Lincoln, the title suggests a biopic when actually both concentrate on brief but crucial sections of their subjects' lives - from the director of Anvil! The Story of Anvil comes Psycho! The Making of Psycho.
Hitchcock is a thoroughly nice film about an exceedingly nasty one.
Last year Sight and Sound, the no-fun film magazine, gathered together their once-a-decade confederacy of dunces to decree that Vertigo was the greatest film ever made.
The judgement on that film here is more realistic and accurate – its director describes it as “stillborn”, a film that didn’t work for audiences.
To some extent this film is also stillborn. Arriving unadorned by the Oscar nominations it was surely designed for and usurped by the yuletide BBC production The Girl that had Toby Jones filling the great silhouette.
I think this is the pick of the two but The Girl had the better story – the director’s twisted relationship with Tippi Hedren. Here, the drama is centred on Alfred’s determination to risk everything and mortgage his house to make Psycho, and the rift in the relationship with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) who is viewed here as roughly his creative equal.
It is all very interesting but a general audience may struggle to find them dramatic and the film chooses a larky, light tone, realising that it doesn’t have enough substance for anything else.
The meat of the film should have been the way it explicitly links Norman Bates to the killer and grave robber, Ed Gein, on whose story the film is loosely based. Psycho is a cultural as much as a cinematic landmark because it really was the moment the gateway parted, allowing all our repressed horror and deviancy to gush into the mainstream.
Quite what motivated Hitch, who had just come off his greatest success, North by Northwest – surely the epitome of sophisticated screen entertainment – to risk everything in his quest to turn on the sewer is a fascinating question but the way the film chooses to dramatise it is a bit foolish. They have Hitch referring to a ghostly Gein figure (the always menacing Michael Wincott) as a kind psychiatrist confessor figure.
It is a slight piece but enjoyable, thanks to a stellar cast. Anthony Hopkins makes a lovely Hitch, though it is a little disconcerting that when you first see him in his all his make-up and padding he looks exactly like Toby Jones’s unadorned TV incarnation. But what he really nails is the sense of Hitchcock as being an enormous baby who has swapped the romper for a mortician’s suit.
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel and Michael Shulbarg
Length: 98 mins