13th October 2017 8.45pm at Vue West End
15th October 2017 12.30pm at Picturehouse Central
The screeching reek! reek! reek! The shadow of a kitchen knife. A naked woman in the shower. All were ingrained into film culture within only three minutes, 78 set-ups and 52 cuts. Everyone possesses a scrap of knowledge about the making of Psycho – knifing melons for the sound effect, chocolate syrup used as blood etc. But documentary filmmaker Alexandre O Philippe goes beyond – delving into the history, the context, and a frame-by-frame analysis of the most famous scene in cinema.
Unlike most documentaries dealing with filmic analysis, 78/52 is entertaining. It’s not only for movie nerds who’ve never seen real sunlight. The project takes its time before reaching a full-on discussion about the shower scene – preparing the analysis with the history, Hitchcock’s personal intentions (never making them clear), and its impact on movie culture. The documentary is largely guided by sharp, black-and-white interviews with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Guillermo del Toro, renowned film editor Walter Murch, and many others (including critics and academics). They offer analyses steeped in intellectual discussion, but the viewer never feels stupid.
The film excels in its detailed comparisons with earlier movies and the countless pictures inspired by the shower scene – bringing it right up to the modern day with examples like Game of Thrones and Scream Queens. Although the influence is obvious, Philippe enables the audience to realise the vast scope of its influence on cinema culture, and culture full stop.
There are some superfluous reconstructions, particularly at the beginning, that don’t really suit the rest of the documentary. The interviews and archive footage are enough; these reenactments build up the story of the shower scene, but come across as cheesy.
78/52 is a thrilling and intelligent essay into Hitchcock’s most infamous sequence. There are many laughs about the peculiar production stories, as well as first reactions to the scene from the interviewees. Philippe moves away from the solemn intellectualism of Mark Cousins (The Story of Film) and Kent Jones (Hitchcock/Truffaut) and proves that in-depth film analysis can be great fun – it’s not just an activity for the devoted movie buff. Philippe’s audience is engrossed – there is so much to know. And like the swirling blood in the plughole, they suck it all in.
78/52 is released nationwide on 3rd November 2017.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for 78/52 here: