Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Peeping Norman and the Evil Eye - Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Psycho is one of my favorite movies. The wealth and depth of images, sounds, and scenes is overwhelming (with the exception of the exposition at the end in the scene with the psychiatrist). So many images to choose from. And the shower scene, one of the most famous in all of cinema, is exceptional in its lighting, music, editing, framing, directing, acting.

I find interesting that the movie begins on Friday, December 11th, two weeks before Christmas (a little bit of trivia: December 11, 1959 was a Friday). But the only Christmas decorations that I am aware of are seen when Marion is in her car getting out of Phoenix and she accidentally runs into her employer. You can see the street decorations through her windshield. 

The movie ends roughly one week later, that is, six days before Christmas (the premier was June 16, 1960 according to imdb).

This leads us to some religious iconography and symbolism in the movie (Hitchcock was raised Catholic).  One of the Christian symbols is the Eye of God or the Eye of Providence (used during the Renaissance and in the U.S. one dollar bill). It is represented as an eye inside of a triangle emanating rays of light. It is a symbol also used in the Masonic ritual. It represents the omnipresence and omniscience of God, who watches over all things. It is also associated with the Trinity (hence the triangle).

For its part, the Evil Eye is a look that is believed to cause injury or bad luck to the person at whom it is directed. It also refers to the power attributed to certain persons of inflicting injury or bad luck by such a look.

All of which brings us to the image that I chose from Psycho.

Norman, after some hesitation, puts Marion in cabin number 1. After she retires to her cabin, he peeps on her through a small hole in the wall. We only see one of Norman's eyes. It is a simple constructed image, but full of symbolism. For me, this image is a multiple representation of Norman's inner struggle. The eye (god's eye?), which actually has the form of a triangle, sees Marion preparing for her bath. It is all-seeing and all-desiring. But the rays of light are coming from Marion's room, not emanating from Norman's eye.  Further, he looks at her with desire, absorbing her light.  This image is preparing us for the shower scene and Marion's demise. Hence, his eye is really a "dark eye", or as they say, he is giving her the evil eye, wanting what he cannot have. This is almost instantly reinforced with the brilliant zoom to the water drain, Marion's eye while she is on the floor and the circular movement of the camera away from her, a cleansing of her sins if you will.

After Mother dispatches Marion, while Norman is cleaning the cabin, we see another iconography of the Christian religion, in the form of a cross. It is made by a fixture in the bathroom and the mop used to clean, almost like a cross on a tomb.

(You can also see crosses throughout the movie, for example, in the windows.)

Further, Hitchcock spends an inordinate amount of time showing Norman cleaning the room.  During this cleaning we also see Norman washing his hands from Marion's blood (reminiscent of Pontius Pilate).

I also like the subtlety with which Hitchcock lets us in the know of the double nature of Norman's psyche. For example:

You can see his reflection in the window. Also, Marion is positioned almost right under the lamp, with the light showering her.  Although when they enter the parlor, there is a bird of prey just behind Norman in attack position (not so subtle here). 

And the final image of Norman, as it dissolves into the last frames of the picture, is masterful in its intimacy and with Mother speaking directly to us and finally and truly revealing herself (without the need of the exposition by the psychiatrist).  

This is one of the great movies of all time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Battle Los Angeles

I went to the movies last week with some friends and we chose this movie. In one phrase, and as my dad says, it was very average ("bastante regular"). It reminded me somewhat of Starship Troopers, although Battle LA was not as entertaining. I have only what question: what happened with character development? Pacing? The movie was explosions all the time, with little space to breathe.

A very average 4 stars (from 10 stars).