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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Psycho (1998)

A secretary (Anne Heche) steals $400,000 from her employer (Rance Howard) and runs off to join her lover (Viggo Mortensen) in another state. On the way, she stops at a desolate motel run by an odd young man (Vince Vaughn) with a sick mother ... the worst mistake of her life. Gus Van Sant's shot for shot remake of the landmark 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film (even to using Joseph Stefano's original script) has been much maligned. I'm not about to defend it (well, not much) but although it is a failure, it's an ambitious failure. Most remakes find ways to change the original (or why else do it?), update them, add to them, subtract from them, etc. But Van Sant follows what theater has been doing for centuries, simply presenting the piece as originally written (more or less). The film is in color which detracts from the darkly moody atmosphere of the 1960 film and the color scheme is rather garish, bright greens and oranges (even the blood in the shower scene has an orange tinge). Only one scene is eliminated from the original (a visit to the sheriff at the church service) while Van Sant inserts some strange intercuts and a misguided shot of Vaughn playing with himself. Vaughn is disastrous as Norman Bates and Heche totally lacks the vulnerability that Janet Leigh brought to Marion Crane. On the plus side, Julianne Moore and Mortensen are better actors than their 1960 counterparts (Vera Miles, John Gavin) and bring more depth to their sketchily written roles. Alas, the film was such a critical and financial disaster that it's unlikely anyone will do a shot for shot remake based on the original script again but it was an noble experiment. Danny Elfman reuses Bernard Herrmann's original score. With William H. Macy, Robert Forster, Philip Baker Hall, Rita Wilson, Chad Everett, James Le Gros, James Remar and Flea.

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