And you thought I was crazy for actually publishing on the Internet for all eternity an article that argues that the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy is superior to the original trilogy! Maybe it's not so much my sanity you should question but my will to live and the state of my wish for an early death.
Yes, you read that title right. Gus Van Sant's literal remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" contains some elements that are superior to the original.
Janet Leigh is very much an underrated actress. A closer perusal of the long list of diverse films on her resume reveals a versatility that may surprise those who dismiss Leigh as just a pretty face and great body. That said, Anne Heche is an innately better actress.
Anyone who caught Heche's tour de force performance on the soap opera "Another World" will likely nod their head in agreement with my contention that Heche reinvented the soap opera cliché of the good and evil twins. Heche's movie career has rarely fulfilled the astonishing promise shown in that masterful, award-winning run on "Another World."
A sure sign that those in charge of the Razzie Awards are prone to make their decision based on the public perception of quality rather than the actual content of the film itself can be found in the fact that Heche was nominated for Worst Actress for Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" remake. In fact, Heche delivers a performance as Marion Crane that easily surpasses Janet Leigh's interpretation.
Heche's body language and vocal intonations subtly indicate a much more multifaceted emotional state of mind than the rather empty slate the audience is required to write upon themselves. Of course, this lack of emotional complexity could be more attributable to Hitchcock's control than a failure on Leigh's part.
Van Sant also gives freer rein to Vince Vaughn to flesh out Norman Bates than Hitchcock allowed Anthony Perkins. Yeah, I know: Perkins's Norman Bates is one of the all time iconic horror movie psycho killers. That doesn't mean it's a particularly multifaceted performance.
Vaughn has the distinct advantage of audiences coming into the movie already aware that Norman Bates is the titular cross-dressing murderer, so he acquired the latitude to allow Norman to be less normal and more creepily off-kilter right from the beginning.
The construct of the original was dependent upon audience ignorance of what takes place at the Bates Motel in order to achieve the first of its many shocking twists and revelations. As a result, Perkins is hindered in a way Vaughn is not. This disconnect contradicts the idea that a shot-by-shot remake is pointless and serves to point up another aspect of the remake that is superior to the original.
Hitchcock simply could not allow Perkins to play Norman Bates authentically because of his vital role in creating what can accurately be described as a false consciousness. In other words, Perkins's Norman Bates is required to be a marketing ploy for most of the movie, whereas Vaughn is allowed to penetrate into and reveal more of the true nature of Norman right from the beginning.
The difference here results in the "unoriginal" shot-by-shot remake paradoxically purifying the story of "Psycho" by breaking free from the game of manipulating audience expectations that Hitchcock chose to play.
Word count limitations require that I turn this examination of the superior elements of Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho" into separate articles. Part II will take you on my journey into cinematic blasphemy past the point of excommunication and into the realm of putting me on trial for cavorting with the devil as I dare to go beyond even the point of madness that was my suggestion that C-3PO is a thousand times more unbearable than Jar Jar Binks.
Part II of this article will stake the claim that Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" shower scene outdoes Hitchcock's original version which almost instantly became the most recognizable, well known and admired series of quick cut edits in movie history.
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- Gus Van Sant
- Norman Bates
- Janet Leigh
- Anne Heche
- Anthony Perkins