Psycho

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

Director(s): Gus Van Sant
Production: Paramount Pictures
  Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 9 nominations.
 
IMDB:
8.5
Metacritic:
97
Rotten Tomatoes:
97%
R (Restricted)
Year:
1960
109
5,706 Views

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!

Norman:
The rain didn't last long, did it? [Pause] You know what I think? I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.

Marion:
Sometimes, we deliberately step into those traps.

Norman:
I was born in mine. I don't mind it anymore.

Marion:
Oh, but you should! You should mind it!

Norman:
Oh, I do, [laughs] but I say I don't.

Marion:
You know, if anyone ever talked to me the way I heard — the way she spoke to you...

Norman:
Sometimes — when she talks to me like that — I feel I'd like to go up there, and curse her, and-and-and leave her forever! Or at least defy her! But I know I can't. She's ill.

Marion:
She sounded strong.

Norman:
No, I mean... ill. She had to raise me all by herself after my father died. I was only five and it must have been quite a strain for her. She didn't have to go to work or anything like that. He left her a little money. Anyway, a few years ago, Mother met this man, and he talked her into building this motel. He could have talked her into anything. And when he died too, it was just too great a shock for her. And, and the way he died. I guess it's nothing to talk about while you're eating. Anyway, it was just too great a loss for her. She had nothing left.

Marion:
Except you.

Norman:
A son is a poor substitute for a lover.

Marion:
Why don't you go away?

Norman:
To a private island, like you?

Marion:
No, not like me.

Norman:
I couldn't do that. Who'd look after her? She'd be alone up there. The fire would go out. It'd be cold and damp like a grave. If you love someone, you don't do that to them - even if you hate them. You understand that I don't hate her. I hate what she's become. I hate the illness.

Dr. Richmond:
I got the whole story, but not from Norman. I got it from his "mother". Norman Bates no longer exists. He only half-existed to begin with. And now, the other half has taken over, probably for all time...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 them 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 life, 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 as jealous of him. Therefore, if he felt a strong attraction to any other woman, the mother side of him would go wild. [to Lila] 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!

Sam:
Why was he... dressed like that?

District Attorney:
He's a transvestite!

Dr. Richmond:
Ah, not exactly. A man who dresses in women's clothing in order to achieve a sexual change or satisfaction is a transvestite. But in Norman's case, he was simply doing everything possible to keep alive the illusion of his mother being alive. And when reality came too close, when danger or desire threatened that illusion... he dressed up, even to a cheap wig he bought. He'd walk about the house, sit in her chair, speak in her voice. He tried to be his mother. And, uh, now he is. Now that's what I meant when I said I got the story from the mother. You see, when the mind houses two personalities, there's always a conflict, a battle. In Norman's case, the battle is over; and the dominant personality has won.

Sheriff Chambers:
And the $40,000? Who got that?

Dr. Richmond:
The swamp. These were crimes of passion, not profit.

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