Film Reviews

Review: ‘78/52’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs

(USA, 91 min.)
Dir. Alexandre O. Philippe
Programme: Nightvision (Toronto Premiere)

It’s one of the most iconic sequences in cinema history: 78 setups, 52 cuts, two weeks of shooting a protagonist washing herself in a bathroom. Psycho’s shower sequence is the apotheosis of Hitchcock’s craft and imagination, a brilliant glimpse into his genius.

78/52 is a celebration of this remarkable sequence, drawing upon the informed opinions of editors, filmmaker and fans to delve deep into the meaning and techniques behind this astonishing bit of cinema history. Walter Murch, Peter Bodganovich and Guillermo Del Toro provide some of the more deep dives, while Eli Roth and Elijah Wood deliriously nerd out about what the film means to them. Hearing from Jamie Lee Curtis is particular fitting given that her mother Janet Leigh was in the infamous shower scene, yet a more diverse, international coterie would have been welcome.

As mere celebration Alexandre O. Philippe’s film serves Psycho well, yet despite its feature length it feels at time that it’s afraid to get truly in to the weeds of technique and analysis. The film is a fine companion to the Hithcock/Truffaut, yet lacks some of the delightful preposterousness and lunacy of Room 237, as exegetical and technical analysis. Despite the calibre of interviewees, the film still feels more general than it needs to be. Still, 78/52 remains a welcome rumination, encouraging viewers to cherish this part of cinema history and more closely examine films with this type of passion and acumen.

78/52 screens:
-Thursday, May 4 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema at 9:30 PM
-Friday, May 5 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 3:00 PM

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!