Psycho versus Psycho
…or Psycho x 5 as was last week’s reality, at the Leicester Square theatre; screened with www.cigaretteburnscinema.com. Let me start with a brief description of the concept: 1 main screen showing Alfred Hitchcock’s original and 5 smaller screens showing the Gus Van Sant 1998 remake. Of course, this only makes sense as the remake is so slavishly close to the 1960 version. However, it did require months of work (editing) and given Psycho 1998 is ten minutes shorter, the occasional blank screen whilst the colour version “caught-up” with the black and white. I’m not going to start talking about the many and various merits of Psycho – it’s been critiqued to death and there’s a good (probably) film with Anthony Hopkins in, about to be released that can give you a bunch of that knowledge. What I will do is talk about some interesting scenes, reveal a lot of the plot and give some thoughts on the remake. The last point is possibly unfair, given the sound was from the original, but it is what it is.
Firstly, I didn’t find it that hard to concentrate on both – I picked my secondary screen and stuck to it. Usefully, I happened to see Psycho (1960) in the cinema a few weeks ago, so I could give more attention to the remake. One of the consistent differences between the two is the shots that are mirrored; Perkins facing left, Vince Vaughan facing right for example. Most notably of course, the remake is in colour. I liked the quite vivid colouring and felt that it added a great sense of seediness and sleaziness to the whole thing, most notably the shots of the motel, with the neon.
More specifically, I managed to note a few key scenes had changed quite a lot. Certainly the build-up to the shower scene is more graphic, with Norman Bates being seen to masturbate whilst he looks at Anne Heche‘s Marion Crane in the shower; something that is only alluded to in the Hitchcock. Shortly thereafter, we all know what happens to the female lead, although with Gus Van Sant, we get to see the knife marks on Marion’s back and more noticeably, where Hitchcock slowly zooms out from Marion’s eye, in the remake the camera rotates around the eye, echoing the blood-stained water draining down the plug hole.
In the end, having watched the two of these movies side by side, I really loved it. It does however beg the question of why movies could, should, would be remade and if so, what ought to be brought to them? And in picking Psycho – such a revered movie – was it a wise choice given only minor tinkering and the slavish, almost fetishised replication? Personally, I don’t mind that it’s been reworked or even the reworked version, but I do feel that setting it in perhaps the 70s or 80s would have been more effective. Until someone else chooses another iconic movie and takes almost a frame by frame remake, this is going to stand alone: a one-off piece of controversy and for many, derision.