In this weekly series "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", we look at a pre-determined movie and select what we think is the best (or at least our favorite) shot.
Let's stare this down right away.
The best shot in Alfred Hitchcock's immortal Psycho (1960) comes from arguably the most famous single scene in cinema's 100+ year history. It's that devastating slow clockwise turn (mirroring blood swirling down the drain) paired with a slow zoom out. Marion Crane is dead or thereabouts. Dying in the shower allows her final posthumous tears.
In what is arguably Hitchcock's most brilliant decision in a film filled with them, this moment turns the movie's fabled voyeurism (and explicit understanding of cinema's very nature) back at the audience. We've been staring at Marion Crane, foolish bird-like Marion, for 49 minutes watching her squirm in her "private trap". We couldn't (didn't want to?) save her. Now it's her turn to stare back.
How much death does the cinema need?
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Are we, the audience, raving maniacs?
I didn't really want to talk about the shower scene -- it's but four minutes of one hundred and nine brilliant ones and I'll never top Manuel Muñoz's chapter on it in "What You See in the Dark" anyway --but it's difficult to avoid as the film's pivot point and centerpiece.
Here's something you don't hear often: I find the second far less discussed murder even more frightening.
This is the single image in the film that always scares me most. Perhaps it's the speed of the attack. Perhaps it's the mounting dread now that we know what "Mother" is capable of. I'd blame it on that sick repeat-view feeling you get when you know exactly what horrors await but in truth this shot scared me the most the first time I saw the film, too. I've settled on the notion that it's the overhead view that lends it its eery potency. We're no longer peering into the privacy of a shower (perverse but entirely human). Hitchcock has elevated us to a more god like view. But here's his new diabolic cruelty. We still won't be able to stop what's coming; Omniscience without accompanying power is a sick sick trick.
I've seen Psycho several times now and it never loses an ounce of its potency. Here on sixth (?) view, I found myself enjoying the way the film is constantly rewarding audiences for returning. It's like the master constructed it knowing that we'd return again and again.
This shot early in the film (albeit too mundane to pretend as "best"), as Marion pulls away leaving three men staring at her was my personal favorite this time. It reminded me of a clever line I knew would arrive shortly after Marion's murder.
Someone has seen her. Someone always sees a girl with 40,000 dollars.
They're watching Marion from the trunk of her car (where she'll eventually end up) and we're watching her from the front, always urging her closer (Hitchcock rewards us next with a lip biting close-up). She's surrounded. How did she ever think she was going to get away with it?
They all go a little mad sometimes...
Check out what these other voyeurs spied with their little eyes.
- Serious Film "ten seconds of suspense"
- Amiresque Norman's menace and vulnerability.
- Film Actually Norman's arrested development. "A boy's best friend is his mother."
- The Red Headed Invasion Marion is "Okay" (I love this shot, too)
- Ahora peephole pleasure (this image is a favorite for many of the participants!)
- Tom Clift "the dark swamp of the human psyche (our first shot of this particular variety in this series)
- Musicinephiles Marion isn't fooling anyone.
- Victim of the Time a shot that more than justifies that cinematography notion. Great unexpected choice.
- Okinawa Assault it's story time!
- Movies Kick Ass "the pleasure of watching" -- I must say, I've never found the opening scene more erotic than during this particular viewing for some reason. So I'm glad someone mentioned it.
- Encore's World Norman, at one with his surrounding. It's the only home he's ever known.
- Cinephilia & Sass "a skull with empty eye sockets" ... but not the one you're thinking of.
- Kyle Unscripted sees Hitchcock's visual wit equalling the clever lines "Mother isn't herself today"
- Pussy Goes Grrr on Hitchcock's playfulness and Vera's enigmatic reaction shots.
- Dial P For Popcorn common relatable fears and Lila Crane
- The Owls Are Not... two people, one body.
Trivia: Did you know that Psycho was not nominated for Best Editing at the Oscars? Speaking of going a little mad.
Next Wednesday: Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (1994) In Two Weeks: Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991). I originally announced Akira (1988) because we'd never done an animated film. But I was horrified to discover that Netflix does not offer it (and I know that's how the majority of participants rent their movies) so we're switching to the Disney film that I had promised to write about. How is it that I've talked about The Little Mermaid so often and rarely Beauty?