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Of all the genres, films about films I find the most entertaining. My favourite would be the Truffaut classic La Nuit Americaine  (Day for Night) in which Graham Greene makes an appearance and stars Jacqueline Bisset who made a fortune in real estate. Not far behind would be Le Mepris with the young and ravashing Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance. Yesterday I re-watched Hitchcock which covers the making of Psycho.

It has a strong cast of AntonyHopkins as Alfred Hitchcock, Helen Mirren as his wife Alma and Scarlett Johanssen as Janet Leigh. Hitchcock had made North by Northwest and Paramount were hoping for something more mainstream than Psycho. He was denied finance and made the film as an independent. The film also depicts the marital tensions. Hitchcock was convinced his wife was having an affaire with a scriptwriter whilst she took exception to the attention he gave to his blonde leading ladies. Aside from this he has problems with the film censorship body, the Sherlock Committee.

Antony Hopkins was especially good as Hitch. He caught the man with his dark suit, white shirt and tie, his voyeurism, his technical ability as filmmaker, his dislike of a Hollywood that never gave him an Oscar but only a lifetime achievement award. The Oscars are the subject of criticism for lack of diversity but for me they lost all credibility  in failing to award Oscars to Hitchcock, Kurosawa and Bunuel. Ever seen All the King’s Men? If you have and it wo  an Oscar it would be less times than The Thirty Nine Steps, Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, The Birds, Rebecca and indeed Pyscho. The Master of Suspense might have scared his audience but they flocked in numbers to see his films.

His films often had a deft sexual leitmotiv. In Psycho Norman Bates is obsessed with his dead mother. The Bates Motel must be the most famous hotel in films. Janet Leigh is exiting her life, luxuriating in the shower, seemingly washing away her troubles, when the blade slashes. In one of the best scenes at the opening night, Paramount would not grant a  premier, he imitates in the foyer of the picture house the slashing manoeuvres.

if I had a criticism it would be that the film was too narrow in covering only the making of Psycho. It would have been interesting to have some background on his Leytonstone childhood, his apprenticeship with Fritz Lang, the move to Hollywood. Had I ever interviewed him I would love to know why he never cast Catherine Deneuve, a classic icy Hitchcockian blonde.

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About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts