Two for the Master

The shadow of Alfred Hitchcock looms large in cinema. So much so that it’s hard to divorce his stylistic innovations from movies that may or may not have been influenced by him. Take Blow the Man Down, a recent release currently available on Amazon Prime (full review to come Thursday, May 14). I have no idea if filmmakers Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy sought to channel the Master of Suspense while making Blow the Man Down. Still, their macabre sense of humor, emphasis on meal times as an act of horror, and exploration of small-town America seem to point in that direction. Were these decisions conscious? Or has Hitchcock ingrained himself so deeply into the grains of cinema that it’s impossible to sift him out?

Two recent documentaries pose similar questions, Hitchcock/Truffaut and 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene.

The former is the better of the two. Directed by Kent Jones, Hitchcock/Truffaut focuses on the relationship between Hitchcock and François Truffaut and the book produced. It’s primarily a talking-heads documentary, but the talking heads are pretty good: Wes Anderson, Olivier Assayas, Arnaud Desplechin, David Fincher, James Gray, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Richard Linklater, Paul Schrader, and Martin Scorsese. I reviewed the doc favorably in 2015 (Boulder Weekly review here).

The latter is similar but less so. Zeroing in specifically on the shower scene in Psycho (the title refers to the number of shots, 78, within the 52-second long scene), director Alexandre O. Philippe finds plenty to discuss in one of the cinema’s most dissected scenes. Philippe interviews no less three dozen talking heads—from Marli Renfro (Janet Leigh’s body double in Psycho) to editor Walter Murch—most of them planted in front of a television. They watch the scene, and we watch them watching.

The beauty of Hitchcock/Truffaut is that it only scratches the surface of either filmmaker. The movie sends you back into the world hungry to watch movies galore and unlock their secrets. 78/52 does the opposite. It exhausts the material and drains it of its spooky magic.

Hitchcock/Truffaut is available to stream on Kanopy78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scenes is available on Hulu.