Review: ’78/52′

Hot Docs 2017

2 mins read

(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

Jason Gorber is a film journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the Managing Editor/Chief Critic at and a regular contributor for POV Magazine, and CBC Radio. His has written for Slashfilm, Esquire, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Screen Anarchy, HighDefDigest, Birth.Movies.Death, IndieWire and more. He has appeared on CTV NewsChannel, CP24, and many other broadcasters. He has been a jury member at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, Calgary Underground Film Festival, RiverRun Film Festival, TIFF Canada's Top 10, Reel Asian and Fantasia's New Flesh Award. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years.

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