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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Hitchcock

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Anthony Hopkins stars in a scene from the movie "Hitchcock."
The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed, "There is not great genius without a mixture of madness." Case in point: "Hitchcock" (Fox Searchlight), an absorbing portrait of the legendary film director during the making of his biggest success, the 1960 horror classic "Psycho."

The "Master of Suspense" gets quite a dressing-down in this adaptation of Stephen Rebello's 1990 book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," directed by newcomer Sacha Gervasi. The famously corpulent director (Anthony Hopkins, unrecognizable under layers of prosthetics) was, apparently, a psychological mess—a compulsive voyeur who fantasized about his leading ladies and terrorized his staff.

Hitchcock was also, it seems, a control freak who suspected the motives of just about everyone, even his devoted wife, Alma (Helen Mirren).

Intriguingly, Alma seems to have been his muse—and the power behind the throne. A talented editor in her own right, this endlessly patient spouse knew how to sober "Hitch" up and save the day. The tender story of their tempestuous yet faithful marriage is a high point of the film.

In 1959, Hitchcock was the world's greatest director with a string of stylish thrillers to his name, most recently "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest." But he was always searching for his next hit, and Hollywood was changing fast.

"Audiences want to be shocked," Hitchcock observes. "They want something different."

To meet the challenge, he settles on "Psycho," a sensational novel by Robert Bloch, based on the real-life case of notorious serial killer Ed Gein. The lurid story is rejected by the studio, so Hitchcock opts to go it alone, financing the movie himself and crafting a sensational publicity campaign.

At one point, he orders this staff to purchase every copy of "Psycho" in the United States to prevent the public from knowing the plot—and the ending.

"Hitchcock" goes behind the scenes of the production, with stars playing stars, including Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, whose character was destined to die in that famous shower scene; and James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins, playing Norman Bates, the twisted motel owner who is dominated by his mother.

Even the ghost of Gein (Michael Wincott) pops up on set, to ask Hitchcock tauntingly why he would make such a shocking film.

Why indeed. Raised a Catholic and reconciled to his faith before his death in 1980, Hitchcock can be said to have done a great disservice with "Psycho." As this film shows, he battled the Hollywood censors to allow an unprecedented degree of explicitness: In addition to the infamous shower scene, "Psycho" was also the first mainstream movie to show an unmarried couple in bed together.

There were long-term implications to Hitchcock's "victory;" his triumph over the censors contributed to the breakdown of the long-standing production code that had regulated movie content since the 1930s.

The film contains graphic recreations of movie-making violence, a scene of implied adultery, sexual innuendo and some profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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