Excess Hollywood: ‘Hitchcock’ a witty ode to his filmmaking process

Hitchcock” isn’t just a toast to the master of suspense: It’s an ode to filmmaking in general and to the struggles of the creative process. And with the larger-than-life character of the hilariously deadpan, ultra-witty Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) leading this true story, it’s also a gleefully entertaining look into his life — especially for film geeks.

Following the enormous success of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” in 1959, you’d assume he wouldn’t have any trouble getting backing for his next project. But after choosing to adapt the book “Psycho,” a story about a crazy, murderous motel owner, Paramount Pictures refused to fund such a film. Only when Hitchcock mortgaged his own house and financed the $800,000 production himself did they agree to distribute it.

At the age of 60, Hitchcock felt like he needed something fresh and unique to keep the edge in his movies. He wanted a return to the danger and excitement of his early work, when he wasn’t guaranteed success. And as “Hitchcock” shows the making of “Psycho,” it was clearly a difficult journey – which ultimately resulted in the biggest hit of his career.

But this film isn’t just about a behind-the-scenes glimpse of creating the legendary horror flick; equally important is the behind-the-scenes study of his marriage to Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Reville was the unsung hero of Hitchcock’s genius, a lifelong collaborator and partner whose support was invaluable yet never officially recognized.

While Hopkins mostly forgoes impersonating Hitchcock’s signature low voice, he giddily manages to fully embody the devilish spirit of the auteur. The slow manner of speech, hanging a pointed weight in his words. The droll sense of humor, cracking morbid or blunt jokes with the utmost seriousness. And the consuming obsession, both over his beautiful blonde leading ladies and the intense craftsmanship he put into his directing.

Hopkins has a ball with this role, delivering the kind of performance you wish lasted for hours because it’s so much fun. And Mirren is his perfect match, able to cleverly counter him with her own sharp retorts and take control of the situation when Hitchcock is too weak.

However, for anyone who loves Hitchcock and especially “Psycho,” it’s difficult not to wish there were a few more scenes on the set, focused on his directing style. The actors bare a stunning likeness to the real people (James D’Arcy in particular looks like the spitting image of Anthony Perkins) and watching

Hitchcock himself stab the knife at Janet Leigh (a seductive Scarlett Johansson) in the shower scene is wonderfully exciting.

Even so, newbie director Sacha Gervasi captures what would make Hitchcock himself proud: the magic of the movies.

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  • Updated Dec. 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm
  • Edited by Ryan McCarthy