Movie of the Month: August 2011

On August 25, 1960, only 12 days after the director’s 61st birthday, Alfred Hitchcock released his last black and white film.  Psycho is not only his scariest film to date, but it was also his most controversial.  The movie shocked audiences for a number of reasons, the first of which was the infamous shower sequence.  After seeing the movie and recognizing how vulnerable people are in the shower, Janet Leigh reportedly took baths for the remainder of her life.  The power of Psycho doesn’t come from the music (although it may contribute).  The primary reason that we are still frightened by it today is because Hitchcock shows the characters being attacked in the moment when they are most defenseless.

Alfred Hitchcock first had the idea to make Psycho after seeing the success of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill.  He wanted to make his own low-budget thriller.  It just so happened that it ended up being so good that it is arguably his best film.  The movie did not have the star power of his previous projects, North by Northwest and Vertigo.  Hitchcock instead used actors and actresses that required a smaller paycheck.  Each of the players ended up moving on to other notable films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Manchurian Candidate, and Bullitt.

The final shot of Psycho stands out in my mind as one of the most haunting that I have ever seen.  I won’t spoil the ending for those who have yet to see it, but I promise that it is one worth checking into.  In fact, the whole movie is a rewarding experience.  This is one of my three favorite Hitchcock films (the others being Vertigo and Rear Window), and without a doubt, my favorite horror film.  It is a masterpiece, low-budget or not, and it contains the most shocking thrills that the Master of Suspense ever gave us.  And if you don’t believe me, watch the trailer below:

Film Review: L’Avventura (1960)

Most movies unfold before the audience while Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura evolves.  After the first hour, a jumbled mystery becomes a disturbed romance.  Audiences meet Claudia, Anna, Sandro, and their friends, all taking the day off on the shore of a barren rock island.  They swim, they flirt, they argue, and then Anna goes missing.

The island is not home to any animal life, and its only residents are thousands of rough-edged boulders.  Claudia and Sandro, Anna’s best friend and Anna’s boyfriend, both refuse to do anything until Anna is found.  But after days of searching the island and towns close to the coast, what the two are really searching for becomes more obvious.

Most would say that it is love, but in all actuality, it is really just a search for something to do.  They are searching for the sake of searching.  Along the way, Claudia falls for the charms of Sandro, but neither lover is in love with the other, whether they realize it or not.  And as both fail to do anything worth-while, we find that they seem incapable of genuinely loving anyone.

Antonioni’s skill in making this intriguing film can be caught in one shot.  When Sandro and Claudia continue their search to an abandoned town, the camera is positioned in a view that seems to be peeking out of the shadows of a hotel.  Are we perhaps, seeing the view of Anna?  Is she hiding, never to be found by her seekers?  Then we move, as their car moves out of the city, we watch longingly, but careful enough to not show ourselves.  That one, single shot may be the answer to the film’s most compelling question.

Rating: 4.5/5

Please comment.  I’d like to know your thoughts on the movie and the review…