Seventy-eight camera setups, fifty-two edits, three minutes, the slashing strings of Bernard Herrmann’s score: that’s the centerpiece of “Psycho,” Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 conceptual fake-out on horror and audience identification. It’s also the heart of Alexandre O. Philippe’s loving, talky and sometimes even quite funny experimental documentary, “78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene,” an exceptionally literal title, leavened by the inclusion of that “slash” right up front. The close reading includes comments from thirty-nine filmmakers, editors and other technicians like Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Leigh Whannell and Karyn Kusama.
“This was the first modern expression of the female body under assault,” Kusama observes, “and in some ways its most pure expression.” As in Rodney Ascher’s “Room 237,” that deep dive into theories about Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Philippe’s formal play extends upon the practice of the critical video essay to find its own way into the hypnosis of film, montage and fear. Plus, master of sound and image Walter Murch has his own way into the heart of the scene’s sound effects. Also of note: Marli Renfro, who was Janet Leigh’s body double, and, essentially the star of the reconstruction-deconstruction we’re witnessing. With Jamie Lee Curtis, Oz Perkins, Elijah Wood, Danny Elfman, Bret Easton Ellis. 91m. (Ray Pride)
“78/52″ opens Friday, November 10 at the Music Box.
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Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.