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"Psycho" @ 50, "Tiffany's" and the "Modern Woman," "Reel Injun"

Breathless turned 50 just once this year, but Psycho's celebrating its anniversary twice — first with a re-release in the UK back in April and again right now with an eleven-part "Director's Spotlight" series on Alfred Hitchcock at PopMatters. Along with two pieces on Psycho (Francesc Quilis and Despina Kakoudaki) and "Hitchcock 101," a sort of series within the series, Michael Curtis Nelson considers Blackmail and "the Birth of the British Talkies" and Benjamin Aspray notes the "Difference of Laughter Between British and American Hitchcock."

At Cinematical, Mel Valentin reviews one of the umpteen books David Thomson's seen published in the last year or so: "Ambitiously subtitled How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America How to Love Murder, The Moment of Psycho revisits the cultural, social, and financial constraints Hitchcock faced when he tried to get Psycho greenlit after the cancellation of two other projects." And at filmjourney.org, Robert Koehler recommends "Johan Grimonprez's fascinating film on Hitchcock, doubling, paranoia, the Cold War and catastrophe culture, Double Take," which "may be some kind of masterpiece of cinematic history storytelling, media analysis and the 'in-between' film — in between fiction and non-fiction, between cinema and television, between journalism and music."

Updates, 6/16: "Sunday morning June 16, 1960, Psycho opened at two midtown Manhattan theaters, with crowds already lined up on Broadway," blogs J Hoberman for the Voice. "To have been among the fortunate few who did see Psycho cold in late June 1960 — a tense month that followed the Soviet downing of an American U-2 spy plane, the ensuing collapse of the Eisenhower-Khrushchev disarmament summit, continued Red Chinese shelling the off-shore islands Quemoy and Matsui, anti-US riots in Japan, and the expulsion of Cuban diplomats — was a once in a lifetime experience. The critic William Pechter described the unique atmosphere of excited dread, spectators united before the screen in fearful anticipation.... Village Voice film critic Jonas Mekas was off that summer shooting a movie. A succession of friends and colleagues held down his column: film historian Herman G Weinberg, experimental filmmaker Maya Deren, and a marginally employed, 32-year-old cinephile named Andrew Sarris. Making his first appearance in the Voice, Sarris made the most of it. He gave Psycho its first all-out rave and tweaked Deren to declare Hitchcock 'the most daring avant-garde filmmaker in America today.'" Sarris's full review follows.

"When Alfred Hitchcock was asked what appealed to him about Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel Psycho that he wanted to turn it into a movie, he reportedly said: 'The suddenness of the murder in the shower, coming, as it were, out of the blue.'" Ali Arikan: "He was obviously fascinated with the idea of death being just round the corner, the flimsiness of mortality in the grand scheme of life. The elemental effect of the shower scene, 50 years to the day since it was first shown to American audiences, is still profound."

Time Out Chicago's Ben Kenigsberg: "[P]art of the fascination of Psycho is the way it simultaneously plays like a Hitchcock film — deepening the idea of bringing murder into the American home, the subject of movies like Shadow of a Doubt — and stands as sui generis in his work, both in the way its violence serves as punctuation and the way it unfolds in two near-discrete halves.... Psycho has always been a film about shape-shifting, and no amount of viewings can exhaust its brilliance."

The Atlantic Wire rounds up more takes on the anniversary.

 

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S @ 49


Next year sees another half-century anniversary: "With the release of Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1961, being a single woman with an active sex life was suddenly a condition to aspire to," writes Mary Kay Schilling in her brief piece on Sam Wasson's new book, Fifth Avenue, 5 AM: Audrey Hepburn, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' and the Dawn of the Modern Woman. "'Before Hepburn, there was the prude and the slut, and the reality of in-between had no cinematic correlation,' says Wasson. 'If Monroe had played her, she would have just been a hooker. That was when I got the power of the movie, and the genius of casting Audrey Hepburn.'" In the New York Times, Janet Maslin finds that the "book winds up as well-tailored as the kind of little black dress that Breakfast at Tiffany's made famous" but also that it's "crammed with irresistible tidbits."

 

OPENING TODAY


Mike Hale in the NYT: "In his documentary Reel Injun the Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes a road trip to places that resonate in American Indian history, including the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Crow Agency in Montana and the Navajo Nation, and an imaginative journey through the shifting stereotypes Hollywood has used to obscure that history: the noble native, the brutal savage, the groovy wise man."

 



Bill Weber in Slant: "The debate over the evolution of the movies' depiction of native peoples is not always on the mark; while Dances with Wolves is a source of disagreement, no voices note the The Searchers's ambivalent presentation of John Wayne's racist killer. Reel Injun's concluding celebration of Zacharias Kunuk's Atanarjuat as an authentic 'inside job' seems like a preordained ending, but the film has force in former American Indian Movement head John Trudell's reiteration of a phrase introduced to the movie-going mainstream in Little Big Man: 'We're the Human Beings.'"

More from David Fear (Time Out New York) and Andrew Schenker (Voice). At MoMA through Sunday.

 

IN OTHER NEWS


The Tony Awards were presented last night and, as Patrick Healy reports in the NYT, "In nearly every acting category in which a Hollywood star was nominated, that star won. Among them was Catherine Zeta-Jones, who added a Tony to the Oscar already on her mantel, this one for best actress in a musical for A Little Night Music. And the film actors Denzel Washington and Viola Davis won best actor and actress in a play for their galvanizing portrayals of a troubled 1950s married couple in August Wilson's Fences, which also won for best play revival.... A visibly surprised Scarlett Johansson won the first acting award of the evening, best featured actress in a play, for her Broadway debut in the revival of Arthur Miller's View From the Bridge." Memphis won best musical "and the British production Red took best play and five other Tonys, one of the highest totals for a play in recent years."

Nathaniel R live-blogged the evening.

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