Review: ‘Hitchcock’ (M) *** and a half

THE late Mervyn Jones, manager of Greater Union’s Canberra cinemas, once demanded that the editor of “The Canberra Times” stop publishing my reviews after I bucketed “Frenzy”, Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film. Mervyn and I were friends until his retirement, the editor kept me on and I still don’t resile from that review.

Conjecture about Hitch’s relationships with his mostly blonde female leading ladies may have been fodder for gossip columnists but his marriage to Alma Reville was not. Alma was once his boss, but while his talent for self promotion may have propelled him to fame, her creative association in his film-making was of crucial significance after they co-wrote the screenplay for “Juno and The Paycock” in 1929.

Director Sacha Gervasi’s film gives Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, making the screen quake with the intensity of the pair’s professional and domestic relationships, priority above the conception, gestation and parturition of Hitch’s last success, “Psycho”.

At bottom, “Psycho” manifested Hitch’s skill as a showman no less than his creative talent (which in any of Hitch’s six subsequent feature films never surpassed “Psycho”). Hitch’s manipulation of public expectations ensured that the world knew about it before it ever hit the screen.

As an example of the anatomy of making a box-office success, Gervasi’s treatment is a little flaccid. To express that dichotomy differently, “Hitchcock” both entertains and disappoints. Hopkins and Mirren are its salvation.

At all cinemas

 

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