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article imageReview: ‘78/52’ invites Hot Docs audiences into the shower with Hitchcock Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 1, 2017 in Entertainment
Hot Docs presents ‘78/52’, a fascinating analysis of the famous and often replicated shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’.
Movies are an ingrained element of our culture and an acknowledged form of communicating, directly and indirectly. Cinematic messages can be obvious and built into the narrative, or they can be hidden in the plot and images; sometimes deeper meanings are intended to be understood by some viewers and concealed from others… censors, for instance. Alfred Hitchcock was a master auteur known for circumventing the Motion Picture Production Code with creative framing and the art of inferring rather than showing. One of his greatest and still admired constructions is the shower scene in Psycho, which is thoroughly examined in 78/52.
In 1960, Hitchcock literally changed the way people went to the movies. When Psycho was released in theatres, he required that no one be allowed to enter the show after it began — this was the first time such a request was made of audiences who were accustomed to coming in part way through a film and catching up with what they missed in the subsequent screening. Of course, he wanted to preserve the picture’s many secrets as well as avoid latecomers wondering when Janet Leigh would appear. Yet the shower scene was so much more than a way to shock audiences. It’s meaning and structure has been frequently analyzed, but this documentary is one of the most in-depth examinations to date.
Cinephiles will already be aware of many of the elements discussed in the film, but there’s some lesser known tidbits included for even the most informed fan. Conversely, uninitiated admirers of Hitchcock’s work will find the whole film fascinating and accessible. Historians, horror aficionados, filmmakers, critics and actors, including Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood and Jamie Lee Curtis, comment and explore the most minute elements of the scene and its creation. They discuss its implications for the genre as a whole, as well as Hitchcock’s motivations for painstakingly orchestrating such a scene, which lasts mere minutes but took a week to shoot. From Hershey’s chocolate syrup to the reason there’s an unusual cut away from Marion’s corpse, Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary is a great follow-up to his equally engaging exploration of the zombie genre.
The Toronto premiere of 78/52 is screening as part of the “Nightvision” program at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe
More about 7852, Documentary, Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho, Alexandre O Philippe
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