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The Garden of Earthly Pain and Pleasure

Categories: NER Classics

Alfred_Hitchcock_NYWTSJohn A. Bertolini considers criticism of Hitchcock’s Psycho in NER 31.3 (Bertolini’s essay was published as the classic movie turned 50 in 2010):

As Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has now arrived at the age of fifty, the moment seems propitious for a reconsideration of the film’s significance and staying power. In The Moment of Psycho, David Thomson has used the occasion to situate this film in cinema history, and indeed in America’s larger cultural history. But Thomson’s unpleasant little book makes some rather large claims regarding the impact on movies of Hitchcock’s virtuoso exercise in cinematic anxiety. He charges Hitchcock with making a “breakthrough” in Psycho that led all of us, and filmmakers in particular, to take “bloodletting, sadism, and slaughter” for granted, to treat sex and violence ironically or mockingly, because they “were no longer games,” “but were in fact everything.” “Everything”? As Hitchcock himself might ask, “Whatever does the gentleman mean?”

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