Monday, 18 October 2010

Bernie n' Hitch

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of watching the fantastic 50th anniversary re-master of Hitchcock’s Psycho at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square.

There's no point recounting in detail the greatness of this film, which has been written about and dissected to near-exhaustion, except to say that:

• it looked and sounded astonishing, re-enforcing my opinion of Hitchcock as a relentlessly forward-thinking director with its envelope-pushing (though tame by today’s standards) overtones of sexual violence

• Martin Balsam’s death is still more shocking for me (as it was when I first saw the film on television as a boy) than the shower scene

• the extremely wordy, explanatory coda is still utter, utter rubbish (though perhaps it's all part of the master’s sardonic ‘humour’).

Also, the nuances of Perkins' vulnerable, delicate performance never fail to amaze me – particularly weighed against the gruesomely unsubtle, telegraphed nuttiness essayed by gurning sweatbox Vince Vaughn in the otherwise interesting Gus Van Sant remake.

Of course the film’s score is as vital to its success as Jaws’ screeching strings and Suspiria's wailing prog rock – and hearing it through the Empire’s booming 5.1 sound system was indeed a special treat.

Norma Herrmann, who was married to the film's legendary composer Bernard Herrmann from 1967 until his death, introduced the screening - talking wittily and insightfully about the making of the film and sharing some delightful insights and stories. It was particularly sweet to hear her talk of ‘Bernie n’ Hitch’ and how much they would’ve enjoyed the special screening, noting that sartorial elegance was not their forte. ‘The pair of them could make a Saville Row suit look like it came from Primark’, she said.

That’s as may be, but as the Psycho screening – and the preceding selection of masterful tracks from their other works together – proved, there was nothing shabby about their cinematic collaborations; tailored to perfection, pin-sharp, and timelessly iconic.

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