Psycho [1960]

Numerous critics had already sharpened their knives even before Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot color "re-creation" of the 1960 black-and-white Hitchcock classic was released, chiding the Good Will Hunting director for defiling hallowed ground. This intriguing cinematic curiosity, though, is hardly as sacrilegious as critics would lead you to believe. If anything, Van Sant doesn't take enough liberties with his almost slavish devotion to the material, now updated with modern references. At times, you wish Van Sant would cut loose with a little spontaneity, a little energy, a little something. Unfortunately, when he does venture outside Hitchcock's parameters, with inserted shots of storm clouds during the murder sequences, it's to little effect. Granted, he liberally splashes color throughout the film (especially in the case of the infamous shower scene), and this is a great-looking movie, but in his obsession with adding a new physical dimension to the film, there's little insight into these characters that Hitchcock hadn't already provided. Vince Vaughn, a robotic and giggly Norman, doesn't crawl under your skin the way boy-next-door Anthony Perkins did, and Anne Heche is admirable if not very sympathetic in the Janet Leigh role. Van Sant does score a minor coup, though, in his casting of the supporting roles: Julianne Moore provides a welcome shot of energy as Heche's irritable and curious sister, William H. Macy is a perfect small-time detective, Viggo Mortensen is studly enough to make you understand why Heche would want to run away with him, and James LeGros walks away with his one brief scene as a used car salesman. And Danny Elfman's gorgeous rerecording of Bernard Herrmann's score is a potent supporting character unto itself. Students and fans of the original film will get a kick out of the modern revisions, but don't expect anything of Hitchcockian caliber; watch it for the sum of its intriguing parts, but not the whole. --Mark Englehart

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Dr. Fred Richmond:
Like I said... the mother... Now to understand it the way I understood it, hearing it from the mother... that is, from the mother half of Norman's mind... you have to go back ten years, to the time when Norman murdered his mother and her lover. Now he was already dangerously disturbed, had been ever since his father died. His mother was a clinging, demanding woman, and for years the two of them lived as if there was no one else in the world. Then she met a man... and it seemed to Norman that she 'threw him over' for this man. Now that pushed him over the line and he killed 'em both. Matricide is probably the most unbearable crime of all... most unbearable to the son who commits it. So he had to erase the crime, at least in his own mind. He stole her corpse. A weighted coffin was buried. He hid the body in the fruit cellar. Even treated it to keep it as well as it would keep. And that still wasn't enough. She was there! But she was a corpse. So he began to think and speak for her, give her half his time, so to speak. At times he could be both personalities, carry on conversations. At other times, the mother half took over completely. Now he was never all Norman, but he was often only mother. And because he was so pathologically jealous of her, he assumed that she was jealous of him. Therefore, if he felt a strong attraction to any other woman, the mother side of him would go wild.

Dr. Fred Richmond:
When he met your sister, he was touched by her... aroused by her. He wanted her. That set off the 'jealous mother' and 'mother killed the girl'! Now after the murder, Norman returned as if from a deep sleep. And like a dutiful son, covered up all traces of the crime he was convinced his mother had committed!

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