Film Review: 78/52

Alexandre O. Philippe’s 78/52 is a most entertaining documentary. The film is at its best when focusing on contributors’ reactions to the famous scene.

Writer-director Alexander O. Philippe looks as the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho. The filmmaker speaks to filmmakers, actors, writers, and those more closely involved in the making of the sequence…

 

78/52, the title of Philippe’s documentary, refers to the number of set-ups (78) and cuts (52) in one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history. The scene is certainly worthy of a feature-length discussion. For the most part, the documentary does its subject matter justice.

The film starts off by positioning the scene in its socio-historical context. The wider discussion of Alfred Hitchcock does not add much to proceedings. This is particularly the case given many viewers will be fans of the filmmaker. However, Philippe has a point to make in locating the scene in terms of censorship rules and the Hayes Code. Naturally, this facet plays an important role in the way in which the scene was shot.

Philippe talks to a variety of parties in the 78/52. It is interesting to hear the views of various actors and directors. Nevertheless, more insightful are the opinions of editors and composers, given how important these aspects of filmmaking are to the sequence. Also, interviews with Hitchcock’s granddaughter Tere Carrubba, body double Marli Benfro and Jamie Lee Curtis shed invaluable detail. SpectreVision’s Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, and Josh C. Waller inject fun with their observations, whilst a little less Marco Calavita would have been welcome.

The real meat of the film is the analysis of the actual sequence. Philippe gets most of the participants to watch it and react on screen to various elements. 78/52 focuses on one of the most important examples of editing in film history. And the importance of editing is also key to the documentary. The filmmaker shifts from differing viewpoints in an enthusiastic manner.

Philippe gets the balance right overall in covering the various aspects related to the scene. 78/52 is a great watch for any viewers who have seen Psycho. Die-hard fans may want the film to go into microscopic detail.

78/52 was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017, and will be released in UK cinemas on 3rd November 2017.

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