Screen Education (2009) - Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' and 'the Art of Pure Cinema'
- article: Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' and 'the Art of Pure Cinema'
- author(s): Peter Wilshire
- journal: Screen Education (2009)
- issue: issue 54, pages 131-136
- journal ISSN: 1449-857X
- keywords: Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV), Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, Bernard Herrmann, Doris Day, François Truffaut, Grace Kelly, Gus Van Sant, James Stewart, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Joseph Stefano, Kim Novak, Martin Balsam, Motion picture producers and directors, Motion pictures, North by Northwest (1959), Paramount Pictures, Peter Bogdanovich, Production and direction, Psycho (1960), Psycho III (1986), Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), Rear Window (1954), Richard Franklin, Robert Bloch, Saul Bass, Simon Oakland, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vera Miles, Vertigo (1958)
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) is one of the famous director's most popular and enduring films. There have been three sequels: Psycho Il (Richard Franklin, 1983), Psycho III (Anthony Perkins, 1986) and the made-for- television Psycho IV: The Beginning (Mick Gam's, 1990). In addition, there was also a much-maligned 1998 colour remake directed by Gus Van Sant, essentially shot for shot, scene for scene, and word for word.
However, when Psycho was first released in 1960, it was a significant departure for a director of Hitchcock's stature. During the 1950s, Hitchcock had become known largely for his glossy Hollywood productions that contained all-star casts. These productions included Rear Window (1954) with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, Vertigo (1958) with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, and North By Northwest (1959) with Gary Grant. In stark contrast to these films, Psycho is a gritty, low-budget, black-and-white horror film that doesn't have the afore- mentioned big Hollywood stars. Moreover, Psycho can also be viewed as one of Hitchcock's most experimen- tal films. Significantly, Hitchcock regarded Psycho as his most powerful demon- stration of what he referred to as 'the art of pure cinema'.1 The director described this as the assembly of pieces of film to create fright.2 The essence of Psycho is the way in which Hitchcock brilliantly uses filmic technique to manipulate the viewer's emotions and expectations.
The origins of 'pure cinema'
The term 'pure cinema' originated from theoretical and aesthetic debates among French critics in the 1920s. Some of these critics believed that the cinema was a distinct art form because it could encompass all the other art forms - literature, music, dance, drama, painting, poetry and photog- raphy. But other critics who were advocates of 'pure cinema' insisted that cinema could only draw on charac- teristics unique and specific to the film medium. There- fore, the notion of pure cinema taken to its extreme meant that only visually ...
- ↑ William Rothman, The 'I' of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History, and Aesthetics, 2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p.263.
- ↑ Alfred Hitchcock & Sidney Gottlieb, Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2003, p.68.
- ↑ Marilyn Fabe, Closely Watched Films, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2004, p.145.
- ↑ See the documentary Dial H Hitchcock: The Genius Behind the Showman (Ted Haimes, 1999).
- ↑ Stephen Rebello, 'Alfred Hitchcock Goes Psycho', American Film, April 1990, p.42.
- ↑ Herrmann also contributed music to a number of other famous Hitchcock films including Vertigo, North By Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much, as well as two of his lesserknown films, The Trouble With Harry (1955) and The Wrong Man (1956).
- ↑ François Truffaut, with the collaboration of Helen G. Scott, Hitchcock, revised edition, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1984, p.266.
- ↑ See 'The Making of Psycho', a documentary on the DVD Collector's Edition of Psycho, Universal Studios, 1998.
- ↑ See Truffaut with Scott, op. cit., p.277.
- ↑ ibid., p.269.
- ↑ Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors, Ballantine Books, New York, 1997, p.533.