The shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho still has the power to shock. That’s a strange thing when you consider how old the film is, how black-and-white it is, how long we’ve lived with all of the sideshow butchers and demented Texan chainsaw owners that filled movies in its wake.
This fact says a lot about the virtuosity that Hitchcock brought to the 52-second stretch of celluloid, every white-tiled facet of which is, uh, dissected in this fascinating documentary by Alexandre O. Philippe. Hitchcock himself dismissed the scene as a nasty joke, but everyone from Danny Elfman and Walter Murch to Guillermo Del Toro and Illeana Douglas appears here to explain how it changed nearly everything about cinematic storytelling and mechanics.
There may, in fact, be slightly too much film-school-style close reading in 78/52, at the expense of questions about certain explosive social implications, hinted at when Karen Kusama remarks that the scene represents “the first modern expression of the female body under assault”, and when Peter Bogdanovich contends that in it Hitchcock was “killing off” the idea of the top-billed woman that had dominated Hollywood only a couple of decades before. Still, as with the original, you can’t look away.