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Entries in What You See in the Dark (4)


Yes, No, Maybe So: Hitchcock

After a seemingly abrupt transition from 2013's slate to November 2012, Fox Searchlight isn't wasting any time with their Alfred Hitchcock bio. The official site is up, a new poster (to your left) arrives so shortly after the teaser poster, it wasn't much of a tease at all. And, now, the trailer.

It feels like a long time since a Yes No Maybe So breakdown, right? We course correct now to parse Hitchcock --  the trailer for the film about the man, not the man himself or his films! We'd be here for years for the latter. Based on the two minute evidence do we want to investigate the whole two hours? Why and why not? 

You know how this works by now so let's join Alfred & Alma during the making of Psycho...


  • 'The Making of Psycho'... we wouldn't have such predictable allergic reactions to biopics if more of them would stay tightly focused on one chapter in someone's life. Cradle-to-grave is just so frought with cliff notes inelegance.
  • Psycho is my favorite Hitchcock film, so I'm happy to watch a "making of". Psycho wasn't always my favorite Hitchcock but it just kept climbing the charts over the years until there was no film left to hurdle. But honestly I'd be just as happy to watch "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Torn Curtain" -- pick a film any film -- because behind the scene and screen is a place I love to spend time.
  • This Shot!


More 'yes,' the trailer and some 'no's and 'maybe so's after the jump...

Click to read more ...


The Actress. A Book.

It took a surprisingly long time but three of my friends independently read the book What You See in the Dark these past two weeks. I had recommended it emphatically a few months back but dropped the topic when nobody bit. All three of them told me much they liked it in separate conversations. Some of you may recall that I interviewed the author Manuel Muñoz right here, hoping some of you would pick it up as well.

Since it was on my mind again, I thought I'd share a passage so I flipped the book open and skimmed until I found one of the passages about the Actress (who it won't surprise you to hear was my favorite character in the novel... although not by much, which surprised me).

The scene takes place as the Actress is contemplating a scene she'll be shooting the next morning and her mind wanders...

A supporting role. Nothing more. In the Director's previous picture, that one actress had appeared playing two roles. She hadn't done a particularly stellar job, some in the industry had said, but the Actress thought the performance more than adequate. She had sat in the theater with mild envy, the role too rich for words: A distraught wife is trailed silently throughout San Francisco by a police detective, from flower shop to museum to the foot of the glorious Golden Gate Bridge, where she finally hurls herself into the bay. The detective rescues her and later falls in love, only to lose her again to a successful suicide attempt. It played, the Actress thought, like an odd type of silent movie, and she felt maybe she had fooled herself into believing she could have fit perfectly into the part. Was it really requiring much beyond posing, or was there something about silent-movie acting that she didn't know? She wondered what the script must have looked like, that other actress -- who couldn't have been professionally trained -- skimming the pages until she found her first line.

No matter how small the role was going to be, it would have been foolish to say no to the Director. He was in the midst of doing something extraordinary and uncanny with some actresses, finessing their star wattage and burnishing it into a singular, almost iconic image. That was the way the Actress saw it anyway, mesmerized by how he was stripping out all  the trappings of the industry and pushing these women toward something beyond even acting, something nakedly cinematic -- poses, postures, gestures, as if the women were in magazine ads come to life for just split seconds at a time, just enough motion for the public to remember them as images and not characters. It was like opening up a jewelry box she had had many years ago as a young girl, fascinated by the tiny plastic ballerina in the center and its brief circle of motion. She had closed and opened that box endlessly even though the ballerina did nothing differently. But even now, in a black sedan carrying her over the Grapevine back toward the Valley, where she had grown up, the Actress could close her eyes and remember the golden lace of the ballerina's costume, the full circle of her deliciously patient twirl, her perfect timing with the delicate chime of the music box's single tune. And that was the way the screen worked, too, she had discovered. Every actresses's trajectory carried a moment like that, and the Director was staging them effortlessly.

After the jump a brief bit about the Actress's brassiere. 

Click to read more ...


"What You See in the Dark" Giveaway

If you don't love Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and much to my surprise I heard from two readers who don't at all, this past week has probably been a bit of a "???" on the blog. So much Psycho excitement. And all on account of a book. You know those, right? It's the oddest thing but they're made of paper and they have no moving pictures! 

If you missed my interview with "What You See in the Dark" author  Manuel Muñoz it's here. I had three copies to give away and entrants had to name their favorite thing about Psycho. I drew the winners randomly from the entries.

Congratulations to...

Lindsay in Oregon who loves Psycho because it always scares her.

Dan in Michigan considers himself a musicologist. His favorite thing about Psycho?

I've always obsessed about the meaning of that shot of the Beethoven Eroica Symphony.  That and the resemblance between Herrmann's score and the Shostakovich 8th Quartet.

I do know who Beethoven and Shostakovich are but otherwise I'm lost. I am unschooled in music.

And the third winner Joel in Illinois wrote simply...


LOL. I hope by 'favorite thing' he meant the score and not the stabbing. God, that score. A lot of people mentioned it actually. Because our "best shot" series is so much about the visuals Wednesday was a rare instance of a lot of Psycho talk that barely ever drifted to that indelible and influential score.


"What You See in the Dark," A Must Read

This Wednesday's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" topic is Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Try to look at it with fresh new eyes somewhen in the next 48 hours and join us for the conversation at 10 PM EST.

In other news, I have three copies of Manuel Muñoz's debut novel "What You See in the Dark" to give away. It's a haunting read that takes place in the small town of Bakersfield in 1959. It focuses on a sudden talk-of-the-town romance between a young couple as well as an older waitress who brushes up against Hollywood in the form of "The Actress" and "The Director" who are scouting locations for a movie (Guess which one? You got it.) I'll have an interview with the author up tomorrow. But if you'd like to enter the contest, here's what you do.

Send Nathaniel and e-mail by Thursday, 9 PM EST containing the following info.

  • your name and mailing address
  • one thing you love about the movie Psycho (1960)

I'll draw three winners randomly on Friday. This contest is open to all readers but especially recommended for those who like to curl up with literary fiction as much as they like to settle in with a classic movie.