Alexander O. Phillipe’s compulsively watchable documentary on the 3 minute show sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is finally getting a commercial release from IFC. And here they have cut a wonderful ‘talking heads’ sans talking heads trailer using the re-staging moments from the film. It pulls you in. And as all the critics quotes (curiously mostly nerd sites over more prestigious outlets) say, it is indeed an excellent examination of cinemas most famous murder. 78 Shots, 52 cuts, aka 78/52 comes to theatres and VOD on Oct. 13, 2017.
Director: Alexandre O. Phillipe (Doc of the Dead, The People vs. George Lucas)
A Documentary on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, specifically the shower scene.
Producers: Kerry Deignan Roy, Robert Muratore
Starring: Walter Murch, Elijah Whood, Karyn Kusama, Peter Bogdanovich, Danny Elfman, Jamie Lee-Curtis
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 129 min.
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller PSYCHO redefined the horror landscape.
In the process of bringing his cinematic vision to life, Hitchcock was afforded a whopping seven days to film the iconic shower scene. From the moment the shower faucet is turned on to the moment the Marion Crane meets her fate, a mere 146 seconds pass. In two minutes and twenty-six seconds, there are 78 setups and 52 cuts.
78/52 is an examination of that incredible cinematic execution, the psychology at play, and how it affected pop culture for years to come.
Throughout the doc, PSYCHO’s shower scene is broken down detail by detail – including precisely which melon was used to create the sound effect of the knife stabbing the skin. Artists and fans of all sorts discuss the impact and psychology of the work, all in tones that are equal parts reverie and delight.
There is an inherent joy in seeing the talent gathered for 78/52 just watch PSYCHO. Elijah Wood, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Guillermo del Toro are but a few of the fans that gather for the documentary. Repeatedly, the documentary pauses for a moment, and we can see studious delight on their famous faces as they watch Hitchcock’s twisted tale unfold before their eyes.
PSYCHO is a film about coveting through watching. So, what about it do these fans covet? What, in turn, do we?
The temptation with a documentary like this is to geek-out a little too hard. Hitchcock is a master who has inspired volumes. His works have been broken down frame-by-frame and studied to the enth degree. Could there possibly be more to say? Well yes, as it turns out.
As we close in on sixty years past the PSYCHO’s release, it’s easy to take for granted the films place in the lexicon. Like STAR WARS, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and JAWS, PSYCHO has become “something other”. It is a touchstone, cinematic shorthand, something people know even if they don’t know – but there’s the rub. So very many now do not know PSYCHO. With that in mind, the time is right to examine the work, and concentrate so much time on the most iconic scene in this truly iconic work.
For films like 78/52, the trick is to find the sweet spot. Remind people of things they may have heard before, bring ideas to the table that few may have considered, and wrap it all up with talk of impact and legacy on works that would follow. If the film doesn’t do enough, it gets met with a shrug. If the film does too much, it loses the audience. The happy medium is about as wide as a knife’s edge.
Happily, 78/52 knows just how to wield that knife.
If you have spent any time lost in the YouTube wormhole, and we all have, you have probably seen some of the car accident footage that has been uploaded and archived by witnesses, usually from cheap cameras mounted at the front windshield of their cars. It might surprise you (or maybe not, if you are a Reddit regular) that the vast majority of these clips come from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia. Why?
Director Dimitrii Kalashnikov opined at the Q&A of the film that trust is not a big thing in Russian public life, and more than half of Russian drivers have dash mounted cameras to avoid situations of other drivers lying about what happened, and also rampant police corruption.
The tagline for The Road Movie, a sumptuously curated and exquisitely edited collection of dash camera footage is “Everything can happen on Russian Roads,” and for 67 white knuckle minutes, he more than makes the case that the Russian (and surrounding regions of Belarus, Serbia and Bosnia) sense of humour about such absurdity is a remarkable one. In spite of all the crazy ass driving, coldly observed in wide-angle static single takes (the nature of the medium) — high speed roll-overs, road rage fist fights, head on collisions and several very likely fatal situations — the Slavic sensibility towards all this adrenaline pumping madness, is that of casual nonchalance. Shock is one thing, this is something else entirely: a cultural touchstone.
We rarely see the passengers in the cars, but we hear their reactions, and we see other witnesses in other cars or pedestrians on the street. Take an incident where a five tonne dump-truck goes up on two wheels and capsizes over a city curb. All the while, a posh woman in a white parka sporting a designer purse takes notes of this incredibly vivid occurrence, but then casually crosses the intersection on the walk signal (two crossings) and goes on with her life.
In another clip, we hear two men question what is the cause of thunderous rumbling before we see a tank roll out from behind a building. The reaction is the equivalent to ‘you have got to be shitting me…is it ours?’ When the see the tank is in fact rolling up to the public carwash for a power-scrub, it is ‘fuck this country.’ Laid-back Russian pop music grooves in the background.
What sets The Road Movie from just a simple YouTube super-cut is that Kalashnikov has a sense of timing, and a bigger story than just action and mayhem (although there is plenty of both). He has a way of trimming the found footage to precisely calibrated lengths and in effect, to have a conversation with the audience.
Each ‘single take scenario’ has a set-up, an incident, and a resolution, but the way they are assembled (like a good album) set a rhythm that keeps the audience on their toes, seek and searching around the frame at the beginning, will this be a fist fight story or a spectacular car crash? Just when you have a handle on things, he will hit you with a rapid montage, a flurry of stuff, and transition to a wedding gone wrong, a mentally unstable person jumping on the hood of the car, or a litany of other ‘stranger than fiction moments.’ The often incongruous audio, be it song or conversation, sets its own comedic soundtrack.
While the assembly is not quite as ambitious or ambiguous as last year’s other YouTube found footage psychology experiment, Fraud, it is far more hella-entertaining. Where else would you have up-close video of the massive meteorite that rocked Chelyabinsk in 2013 bumping up against a man pulling a sledge hammer out of his trunk to get another driver to move his car, or an epic boreal forest fire filmed from the inside?
I learned the wide variety of situations Russians can mould the word “BITCH” to suit, and that in spite of all the violence that happens on the byways of Russian life, the people have a no-fuss way to recover and move on, that is utterly at odds with the West. But I would certainly think twice about renting a car and hitting the open road in the world’s largest country, at least not unless I was hoping to be in the sequel.
One final note, I am sure that the collective effect of The Road Movie is amplified by seeing it on the big screen, where one’s eyes (and head) have to more actively scan the screen. Oscilloscope Pictures has picked up the 67 minute film, and hopefully will put it out in limited release. If you are not of the faint of heart, you had best seek this one out at a festival or moviehouse for the maximum experience.
My favourite video essayist on my favourite subject. Tony Zhou talks about film editing in general, and his own kind of cutting-intuition. As a nice piece of personal synergy, he uses some of my favourite films in the process: In the Mood For Love, Possession, Hana Bi, The Empire Strikes Back, For A Few Dollars More, Taxi Driver, and Hannah & Her Sisters. Enjoy.
Check out these links:
Barack Obama’s Spotify playalists for DAY and NIGHT
Kid asks dad for a “real” Thor hammer for his birthday
Mark Hamill’s awesome autographs
Creative Star Wars posters
129 Of The Most Beautiful Shots In Movie History
Kurt Halfyard told me to post this
Tianjin Chemical Explosion Visible From Space
Furniture and clothing made to look like human flesh and guts
The multiplex continues to bore Kurt and Andrew, who have no interest in costumed heroes or a uniformed Reese Witherspoon. So it is off to Argentina for the Oscar nominated anthology film, Wild Tales. Game of Thrones hits the half-way mark and Kurt may have finally convinced Andrew of a) just how tedious things in Meereen have gotten, b) how much Stannis Baratheon has come into his own this season, and c) the power of a good long shot.
The watch-list creates a divide in taste on music and documentary form with Brett Morgan’s Montage of Heck. The strengths and weakness of Wes Craven’s The New Nightmare are discussed, along with a tangent on lost concept over-spill resulting from sold out movies. Don’t Look Now, but there is more Nic Roeg discussion on the Cinecast. As is the case of Kevin Costner, Shawn Levy and the race to the middle(brow). Finally, Alex Gibney’s Scientology doc, Going Clear is compared and contrasted with PTA’s The Master, for dos and don’ts in filmmaking.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
The BFI continue their great work of restoring and releasing classic British films and world cinema with a double bill of Sergei Eisenstein’s great Battleship Potemkin and John Grierson’s Drifters, cleaned up and presented on dual format DVD & Blu-Ray. The reason these two films are being packaged together isn’t just the similar ocean-bound setting, but the fact that Grierson was heavily influenced by Potemkin in his film (which was his debut) and the very first screening of the Russian masterpiece in the UK was a private London Film Society event in 1929 where it was shown back to back with Drifters.
Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Screenplay: Nina Agadzhanova
Starring: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Aleksandrov
Running Time: 69 min
BBFC Certificate: PG
I’m not going to go into great detail on why this film is deemed such an important and great work of cinema. So much has been written already and I couldn’t do it justice. What I will do is comment on my personal feelings on watching it (for only the second time).
I actually only first saw Battleship Potemkin in its entirety last year, which is rather shameful for someone that has been such a film nut for twenty-odd years and has worked as a video editor for the last 8 years. Having studied film through my media production degree I’d seen the Odessa Steps sequence dozens of times and heard much of the importance of Eisenstein’s montage techniques, so I kind of felt like I’d already seen it or that it was something to be analysed, not necessarily watched and enjoyed.
How wrong I was.
With only a desk, a glass of water, a few props and some cursory notes, Spalding Gray would sit before a live audience and tell them his story. Whether about his knowledge of death and sex before age fourteen or his mind-altering experiences in Thailand, his physical ailments or the suicide of his mother, what transpired in each monologue was half theatrics, half confession. Late in his career, when he grew tired of telling his own story, he would invite audience members on stage and interview them, hoping to uncover the germ of theatre in their unassuming candor. His role as ‘poetic journalist’ remained the same, his title as master of the monologue preceding him wherever he went.
This cottage industry of telling his story kept him busy throughout the eighties and nineties, onstage and onscreen, affording him the chance to work with some of the finest filmmakers working at the time, including Jonathan Demme and Steven Soderbergh who both saw something cinematic in his monologues worth pursuing in that medium. Under very different circumstances, Soderbergh returns again to tell Spalding’s story, this time as a documentary in tribute to his friend that six years ago took his own life. The film, And Everything Is Going To Be Fine, never addresses the tragic event, nor does it try to consolidate a life with anything other than Spalding’s own voice. Piecing together archival footage of interviews and performances, Soderbergh has forged a new monologue, a summation of the life of Spalding in his own words (albeit rearranged). Would you like to know more…?
We probably do enough plugging for other sites and podcasts around here, but it’s only comparable to how much we plead and insinuate ourselves into other places around the web looking for plugs of our own. But one podcast I’ve recently started to become more and more of a fan is The MatineeCast over at The Dark of the Matinee hosted by “The Mad Hatter.” Each weekly episode is co-hosted by a different someone in the movie critic/industry/blog world and each starts with the same set of “ice-breaker” questions that give the audience a feel for the guest that week. Full disclosure: I am slated as a guest on the show at some point in the next 60 days or so.
This week’s episode was a little more special as Hatter was able to track down Oscar Winner Walter Murch. Being an Academy Award winner for both sound design and film editing it’s easy to get into pretty interesting territory with a guy like this. The guy really is a legend. Jumping into the discussion at one point is another (much less prolific) film editor and the conversation dives head first into various editing tactics and examples of some favorite moments in film editing history. The whole podcast wraps up with an audience Q&A after a screening of Apocalypse Now (Redux) (for which Murch won an Oscar in sound and was nominated for editing). It’s a quick and interesting listen and recommended whole heartedly as a guy who is fascinated by the art of editing. An art which many believe is actually the true director of a film.
You can stream the show directly from the web site as well as glancing over the show notes. If iTunes is more your speed, you can subscribe here. Enjoy the listen and leave your thoughts, questions or complaints in the comments section over at Dark of the Matinee. Besides the podcast it’s a pretty good daily blog read as well.
Having just rewatched both The Exorcist and The Shining within the past couple of weeks, and seeing how both films use some off-the-wall strange editing strategies and cinematography, it certainly had me thinking about populist-art house horror that goes beyond the cheap scares and laughs and attempts to burrow a bit – both on a personal (as every good horror films should) and cinematically (both advancing the genre, and yet also standing a bit alone, high on the mountain, impenetrable to the whims and fads of the genre). Neither film is in a hurry to scare its audience, setting for a long, slow build up to establish geography, emphasize key locations and spend some not-all-that-related-to-plot moments with its characters. Friedkin (and his pair of editors) cut away from possessed Regan right in the middle of her outburst, once even to a domestic scene (I believe) to someone reading a newspaper in the kitchen. Kubrick makes a lot of use of slow zooms, something not all that common in american studio produced cinema (horror or otherwise) but is indeed something Kubrick used a lot, particularly in his film prior to The Shining, Barry Lyndon. Furthermore, Kubrick splits the perspective between possessed Jack and his terrorized family, something perhaps unusual in a stalking-horror movie (really, the last act of The Shining) where the victims generally are unaware of when the killer will pop out. It is strange to see the bathroom sequence (“Heeeerrrrre’s Johnny!”) shown simultaneously from the POV of Jack and the POV of Wendy. It still works, but I digress. Suffice it to say that the slow-burn horror film experience, with a bit of austerity thrown in for good measure is probably my bag of horror filmmaking (no insult to the [Rec]s and the Evil Deads of the genre).
So then I was re-watched There Will Be Blood, which often uses the syntax of a horror film, with all of the mining accidents, the mud and oil functioning as pretty naked allusions for the blood-ties of family and society and the violence therein. Daniel Plainview is the monster in this case, slowly winding his way towards insanity and perhaps in his own mind, an uphill battle against obsolescence as society moves out of the prospecting frontier and into a commercial society (certainly the temporal cut, in the final 20 minutes of the film between 1903’s desert landscape and 1929s verdantly groomed mansion is jarring to say the least.) It was interesting to note that P.T. Anderson also favours some slow zooms. Anderson is usually discussed within the context of similarity to his hero Robert Altman (dare to compare Short Cuts and Magnolia), but there is a Kubrickian remove in There Will Be Blood, that perhaps (a little) tends to have detractors of the film label it shallow or showy, certainly something that was the case with Kubrick’s The Shining, a film that has risen remarkable in stature since its release in 1980, a film so open to interpretation and consideration of its own themes that it has been labelled alternately as the meltdown of the nuclear family in the Carter years (here), or an ironic take on White Man’s Burden and his destruction/usurping of Indian lands and society (here), or my personal favorite (and points for creativity and rock-solid conspiracy-theory-fu!) an admission of guilt for Kubrick filming the faked moon landings concurrently to 2001: A Space Odyssey (mandatory entertainment here and here). But I am digressing again.
Lastly, Brad Anderson’s Session 9 owes a LOT to The Shining, with its huge mental asylum standing in as an overwhelming character, much like The Overlook Hotel. Here we have a mundane collection of jobbers (again, not unlike the Torrence family care-taking task, or for that matter, Donald Sutherland’s church restoration in Don’t Look Now – perhaps another influence on Session 9) sent in to clean out asbestos (perhaps a metaphor for the collective and dangers skeletons in the closet) but dealing with the strange, and hallucinatory evil of a place. Now where Session 9 fails is actually on aesthetics, it being shot at the dawn on HD-Digital filmmaking, everything looks quite ‘VIDEO’ and not in the interesting Michael Mann fashion or the invisible David Fincher mode, but rather rendering their Gothic asylum as a mundane, paint-peeling office building. I felt that the primitive video look was a bit of a deal breaker in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, compared to the more handsome and aggressive cinematography and editing in 28 Weeks Later, but that is another, familiar argument in these parts) Still, watching Peter Mullan (an underrated character actor if there ever was one!) melt down by the stress of his job and his bickering crew is a solid tension builder, but the cross cutting of psychiatric evaluation tapes of a schizophrenic former patient, and strained domestic home-life scenes of Mullan’s young family work like gangbusters in association. And maybe that is the key, some sort of overriding association of the mundane and the supernatural (like say relaxing beach holiday and large man-eating sharks?) that makes a slow-burner, even austere, horror movie click in such a way to make them a heck-of-a-lot more rewatchable than the more manic entries in the field.
What we’ve been reading – October 5th through October 7th:
- Hollywood’s latest crisis.
As André Bazin would tell you, the studio system was the entity that really perfected "invisible editing," and these days it seems it can't even demand common craftsmanship of its dumbass romantic comedies. A bad sign, to be sure.
- Wallowing in Artistic Misery at the New York Film Festival
AO Scott on "Festivaling"
- Festivals feel the political heat
The debate about whether a film-maker should be held responsible for the actions of their government stepped up a gear at Toronto. Canadian film-maker John Greyson pulled his short film, Covered, out of the festival in protest at the City to City sidebar being devoted to film-makers and films from and about Tel Aviv, amid claims the Israeli government had influenced Tiff’s programme…