Ask about Psycho and without exception everyone will cite the iconic shower scene. So ingrained is it into pop culture that even people who’ve never seen the film know of it and its been referred to in everything from The Simpsons to, well just about anything and was even used as a template for editing some of the fight sequences in Scorsese’s Raging Bull. With 78 set ups and 52 cuts/edit points it demonstrated the power of editing and suggestion. Director Alexandre O.Phillipe has made a documentary about a sequence in a film that has had a lasting effect on cinema for decades and here he assembles a host of notable contributors (Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo Del Toro, Walter Murch & Richard Stanley) and others who seem to be an anomaly none more so than Mick Garris, director of Psycho 4 : The Cash In ….um…we mean…The Beginning.
The film alternates between detailed analysis of the sequence to how it was shot. Hitchcock was always pushing boundaries with the censors and it was the inclusion of a lavatory being flushed that caused much irritation to the censors and it was this invasion by the film makers into a private space that was one of the many groundbreaking and taboo busting moments of the sequence. It was in many ways the end of a certain era and the pushing at the doors of a increasingly permissive decade.
For fans of classic films this is an essential watch and has some brilliantly realised sequences although at times the experts overegg it a little because whilst it still retains its power today Bogdanovich’s claim that he felt he had been raped after seeing it are a little OTT. Bernard Herrman’s screeching violins on the sound track which added so much to the film beam iconic too but the documentary has too much chamber music clattering away through the background of much of the film which becomes irritatingly omnipresent and there’s a certain irony when one commentator mentions silence on the soundtrack being as important.
What is compelling is the Editors who comment on the construction of the scene which is essential viewing for any film school student. If there’s any problem with the film it’s that it entirely overlooks the controversy about the claim by Saul Bass that it was he who directed the sequence (he didn’t) that has lingered on for years. That aside this is an utterly compelling analysis of what is arguably the most famous sequence in cinema.
Here’s the trailer…….