Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Original vs Remake - Psycho

As Halloween draws near, lets all remember the film that really did scare audiences out of their seats. All it took was a shower scene (I bet you've guess it), mother issues and a brilliant score.

Please be aware this post contains SPOILERS.

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. And Gus Van Sant's pointless remake of the same name.

In recent years there have been a few things said about Hitchcock, his controversial ways of treating his actress', they way he worked and his subject choice in films. Both BBC's The Girl and Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins tried to explore these issues. Both set around the filming of different films and both expressed very different images of the great director. No matter what he was like as a person though, I will always admire him as a great director. Which why I feel sick to the stomach when I hear talk of his iconic films being 'remade'.

Why ruin a classic? I don't think the argument 'to bring it to a new audience' is good enough or actually a good enough reason at all. A new audience can appreciate older films. The 'old' audience will just hate the 'new' version. If people don't like 'black and white' films, then that's just what they are like. I find it hard to change people's minds who say that. Those who love and appreciate film will make the effort but there is no use in forcing people.

Psycho (1960) was adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch who was inspired by the real life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein. The tale of the making of Psycho is sordid but that's what Hitchcock went for. Anyone out there seen 'Marnie'? You'll know what I mean.

Psycho begins with Marion Crane, a secretary who steals money from her employer and hits the road. She plans to meet her boyfriend, who is in on the scam, later. She hides out, or plans to hide out at The Bates Motel. She meets the owner, Norman (Anthony Perkins). He seems friendly and normal. He lives with his mother at the house that overlooks the motel. Of course things do not go to Marion's plan.

Killing off the lead actress, even before the film is half way through was big deal back then. Janet Leigh was nominated for her supporting role at the Oscars, as well as Hitchcock for Best Director. He lost out to Billy Wilder for The Apartment. Not only having a famous actress take a small but defining role made the film a success, but casting 'against type' for the (SPOILER) serial killer himself Norman made the ending all the more a surprise. Unfortunately, after the film was released, Perkins was inundated with villain roles, type casting him forever.

Everyone remembers the infamous shower scene where (SPOILER) Marion is knifed to death by Norman Bates' mother, supposedly. The music for this scene, makes it a chilling memory that no one can forget. As well as other famous scenes in the film, the second most chilling is the last shot of Norman Bates (SPOILER) sitting in a jail cell, after being arrested for the murders, staring into the camera, being both his own voice and his mother's.

Having a classic like this, remade in 1998 by Gus Van Sant seemed pointless to me. Supposedly, the film is shot for shot. I saw the remake years ago when I was 15 or 16. It was at a low key Halloween party. Watch a 'scary' film and eat lots of popcorn. I can't remember the other choice of film but I did get excited when I saw 'Psycho'. That's because the film fanatic in me thought it was Hitchcock's. I was severely disappointed to find it wasn't.

My first thought was 'this looks so cheap' and 'what the hell is Vince Vaughn doing in this?'. My opinion didn't improve either as I knew what was going to happen. There were a few jumpy moments and I'm sure it isn't shot for shot exactly. There updates in technology used as the film is set in the then present day and there is more explicit content too. During the murder scenes, surreal dreams were intercut, another unnecessary aspect of the remake.

Where Hitchcock's film was highly successful, critically and commercially, Van Sant's failed utterly.

The cast was not impressive, even though I am a Julianne Moore and William H Macy fan. They played Marion's sister who looks for her and the P.I who's sent to recover the stolen money. Vince Vaughn was a 'casting against type' actor but he's not a strong actor. Although I am glad to hear he's taken on a serious role in season two of True Detective.

Hitchcock's Psycho has spawned two strange sequels, a failed TV movie and now a successful TV series, Bates Motel set in modern day and bares next to no connection to the original film or source material. I watched the first episode and didn't think it worth my time.

Classics like Psycho should be left alone. Preserved, not forgotten and destroyed, in that order.

In this round of original vs remake, I think it's painfully obvious, it Hitchcock's win.

Monday, 20 October 2014

BFI Film Festival - White Bird in a Blizzard

A late evening showing of Gregg Araki's White Bird in a Blizzard, adapted from the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke, may have seemed like an odd way to end a day but it was strangely peaceful.

After the delights of Kaboom, I was looking forward to this next venture, especially after the trailer. It felt to me, a little bit drama, a bit of suspense and then that touch that Araki seems to have where even the most traumatic experiences seem peaceful, for this film, its the disappearance of a parent.

With a great cast, a brilliant atmospheric soundtrack (yes, I said that) set in 1988 and 1991, to me this was period piece that felt understated, no overly obvious cultral references were screaming out and that gave room for the (I thought so) simple story. A teenage girl relates her memories from when her mother disappeared one day when she was 17. To me, this film was not about the actual disappearance, it was more about memories and lack of true emotions, especially from the main character. That's what made it such an intriguing film. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen.

Kat (Shailene Woodley) narrates the story, stating what is said on the poster, 'I was 17 when my mother disappeared'. Her mother (a brilliant character from Eva Green) is crazy, repressed bitter women. Kat relates memories of her parents, some she wasn't even present for and later, more recent ones that give a background and set up for the present. Then one day her mother is gone. Her father (Christopher Meloni) is quietly distraught or in shock, sometimes its hard to tell. But Kat carries on as normal, apart from her strange dreams where she sees her mother. It's a very visual film, especially in flashbacks and the dreams sequences. I don't want to give too much more away about the story, it's something that you should watch and interpret (unless you've read the book) for yourself.

As the film is set in late 80's and early 90's, I loved everything Woodley was wearing. Mixed with the amazing soundtrack, I was in throwback heaven.

After this film, I am very much looking forward to seeing Araki's next film, as the more I see, the more impressed and immersed I am in his style.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

BFI Film Festival - Spanish Affair

I admit, this breaks my 'rule of three' rule, sort off. The poster ruins it but, in a way, I can still argue that this is really about 3 people, plus so many lies.

I read that this film had broke records at the box office in Spain and thought the premise sounded amusing. Most of the people going into the screening were speaking Spanish and I started to worry because, to quote Ron Burgundy, 'I don't speak Spanish'. I thought for a horrible moment there was no subtitles. I calmed down once I had reached my seat when I heard a few English voices.

From the first few lines, people (mainly the Spanish viewers) were laughing their heads off. I thought I missed something but again, more laughter. I didn't get it. It seemed that most of the jokes were very, Spanish. A little bit into the film, I understood what the jokes were but throughout the film, there were a lot of references that, I think, only a Spanish audience would know. Despite this, I still really enjoyed it and I was laughing out loud at the universal jokes.

Spanish Affair is Directed by Emilio Martínez-Lázaro, the film starts with Amaia, who has been jilted by her fiancé, Anxton, but her friends still decide to take her on her hen night. They choose a bar far outside of their home town in the Basque country and Amaia gets very drunk and argues with the barman, Rafa. But of course, they end up back at his place. In the morning he decides to follow her to win her over. Rafa ends up having to pretend to be Anxton for Amaia's father, so that he doesn't know she was jilted. What follows is classic romantic comedy, lies, pretending to be other people and of course a wedding. 

The rule of three refers to Rafa, Amaia and her father. Plus lots of lies. 

I'm not actually a fan of romantic comedies but after Obvious Child, which was one but better, I wanted to see this film. It was typical but not for me as there were, as I said, quite a few references to very Spanish things. The actors were all hilarious and the setting was beautiful and it was a laugh. I can see why it was so successful in Spain and I'm hoping that means theres a release date for the UK.