“Hitchcock,” director Sacha Gervasi’s lively stroll through the id of a murder-obsessed genius, is a lot more fun than “The Girl,” HBO’s recent portrait of the artist as an old pervert.
It’s 1959 and the 60-year-old Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) is worried that he’s outlived both professional relevancy (“Television has cheapened me,” he says) and the love of his wife and collaborator Alma Reville (Helen Mirren, compelling as ever).
The Master of Suspense wants a leaner, meaner follow-up to large-scale projects like “North By Northwest,” especially if it rekindles the camaraderie of his early, experimental endeavors with Alma.
“I just want to feel that kind of freedom again,” he tells her.
He finds inspiration in Robert Bloch’s tawdry bestseller “Psycho,” a murder novel based on real-life mummifier Ed Gein.
The horrific novel also taps into Hitchcock’s darker impulses. Soon, Gein (Michael Wincott) is visiting the filmmaker in nightmares and visions, and he’s happy to offer guidance when Hitch suspects Alma of infidelity.
Too speculative and loose with facts to count as biography, “Hitchcock” works slightly better as a loopy fever dream about artistic creation, but even there it cuts only so deep.
Best enjoyed are its behind-the-movie “Psycho”-dramas and witty impersonations. Scarlett Johansson is an engaging Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy nails the jittery tics of Anthony Perkins, and Toni Collette makes the most of the underwritten role of Hitchcock’s loyal assistant Peggy Robertson.
Danny Elfman’s mischievous score riffs on Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” masterpiece and, like Gervasi, stops just short of kitsch.
Hopkins, in a fanciful performance, makes an almost cuddly Hitch, well-suited (and fat-suited) to Gervasi’s playful if blade-thin vision of a Technicolor Hollywood heading for the ’60s.
Gervasi brings the same droll affection that made his 2008 heavy-metal documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” such a charmer.
That’s not to say “Hitchcock” isn’t pleased with its cleverness. Fretting about “Psycho,” Hopkins’s Hitchcock is haunted by an earlier flop.
“What if it’s another ’Vertigo?” he says.
We know it won’t be. And we know “Vertigo” will be judged a classic. And we know to feel smart about knowing.
“Hitchcock,” from Fox Searchlight Pictures, opens Friday in select theaters. Rating: *** (Evans)
Everyone remembers the “wilding,” the wolf packs, the incomprehensible violence: The rape and beating of a Central Park jogger in 1989 remains among New York’s most disturbing, unforgettable crimes.
But our memories -- and the criminal case against five black and Hispanic teenage boys -- are thoroughly dismantled in “The Central Park Five,” the powerfully unsettling and angry new documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon.
Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise, ages 14 to 16, falsely confessed and served between six and 13 years for the crime, convictions that were vacated in 2002 when a serial rapist’s confession was corroborated by DNA evidence.
Now grown, four of the five appear onscreen (McKray is interviewed offscreen), providing their first full, public accounts of the arrests, the coerced confessions, trials and years of emotional devastation.
Also interviewed are family members, former mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins and various journalists and historians, effectively recounting an era of massive urban crime that contributed to the lynch-mob mentality.
“Central Park Five” is less stylistically ambitious than Amy Berg’s upcoming, eerily similar “West of Memphis” (about Arkansas’s wrongly accused “West Memphis Three”). The New York story adheres to the familiar Burns’ format -- talking heads, archival news footage and photos.
But “Central Park Five” is also more righteous and less elegiac than we’ve come to expect from Burns. Prosecutors and detectives who pressed the case declined to participate (a civil lawsuit against the city is pending), and so we can only imagine their defense against the willful ignorance and outright corruption detailed here.
The documentary will air on PBS next April.
“The Central Park Five,” from IFC Films/Sundance Selects, opens in New York Friday and Los Angeles November 30. Rating: **** (Evans)
Harsh on the surface but far from mean, the French film “Rust and Bone” is about two floundering souls who try to pull each other back from the abyss.
Marion Cotillard plays Stephanie, a recent double amputee. The Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts is Ali, a down-and-out drifter with a five-year-old son, who works in security jobs until he finds a more lucrative outlet in extreme fighting.
Once they connect, it’s hard to see how they’ll get past Ali’s awesome lack of emotional intelligence. (Since Stephanie has stipulated “no obligations,” he doesn’t understand why she bristles when they go to a club and he picks up another woman.)
But of course it’s his roughness -- his lack of pity for her plight -- that appeals to her.
The look is bleak. Though the picture takes place in Antibes, on the Cote d’Azur, this isn’t the France of four-star vacations but of low-grade food and big-box stores. Ali’s sister (Corinne Masiero) works at one of them, sneaking home yogurt that’s passed its expiration date to feed her family.
The director, Jacques Audiard (“Read My Lips”), doesn’t underscore the horror of Stephanie’s accident; he shows her stumps (achieved with CGI effects) matter-of-factly. He treats the brutality of Ali’s fighting without hysteria.
Aside from a late-breaking crisis, the film is short on melodrama. It isn’t pushy. A tough skin and a gentle heart -- that’s not a bad combination.
“Rust and Bone,” from Sony Pictures Classics, is playing in New York. Rating: *** (Seligman)
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(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and London Weekend.