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A Long Hard Look at Psycho Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton of Bookpleasures.com
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Dr. Wesley Britton

Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE

 
By Dr. Wesley Britton
Published on December 24, 2010
 

Author: Raymond Durgnat
Publisher: British Film Institute  
ISBN-10: 0851709206
ISBN-13: 978-0851709208

It’s a long hard look alright, and therefore a book for those willing to dissect Psycho with a very detailed, multi-layered scalpel.



 
 
 
Author: Raymond Durgnat
Publisher: British Film Institute  
ISBN-10: 0851709206
ISBN-13: 978-0851709208

Click Here To Purchase A Long Hard Look at Psycho (BFI Film Classics)
 
This re-issue of the late Raymond Durgnat’s 2002 analysis of Psycho is apparently intended to ensure this volume is readily available for new readers, presumably students in film schools who might otherwise not find affordable copies to keep up with their assigned reading.     After all, Raymond Durgnat is considered a significant essayist in theoretical movie critiques. This is demonstrated in Henry K. Miller’s new foreword which traces Durgnat’s role in film criticism and how he evolved over decades  of his studies of movies in general and Psycho in particular. Then, Durgnat himself discusses what his focus is—and isn’t—in his look into Psycho, pointing to his emphasis on the tale, not the teller. In short, this isn’t a book about Alfred Hitchcock but rather one film and our responses to it.
 
After these introductory sections only doctoral candidates need skim, Durgnat analyzes, beginning with the credit sequence, what the viewer sees on the screen and what the imagery and sounds might suggest to various audiences. Shot by shot, he describes the techniques used, the cultural contexts of viewer’s expectations, and compares and contrasts these scenes with other movies produced both before and after Psycho.    While he does point out some of the production history and differences between script and film, Durgnat’s thrust is what each scene might convey to viewers and only occasionally emphasizes what the director intended. From time to time, he makes a witty point or two in between the verbiage. For example, while describing the birds taxidermist Norman Bates has collected, Durgnat observes:
 
“According to the script, Norman thinks the birds are looking accusingly at him. (Makes sense.) A couple of critics think they're looking at Marion (which also makes sense). I tend to think that their fierce sharp eyes aren't looking at anyone, as they're dead. Are these different readings mutually exclusive? Or 'subjective variation within a functional consensus'? Or even, 'same difference': whoever they're looking at on the screen (in the text), in our minds they're looking at us?”
 
Later, Durgnat discusses how all meaning—suspense, twists, surprises, dramatic ironies, nuances—have change for the second time viewer. This book is for, of course, these very viewers who have seen or will see Psycho multiple times. For such readers, Durgnat encourages his audience to compare notes with him as all responses to Psycho are more or less equally valid. Responses to this study have been and will continue to be uneven-- and best debated in the classroom. It’s a long hard look alright, and therefore a book for those willing to dissect Psycho with a very detailed, multi-layered scalpel.
 
 
Click Here To Purchase A Long Hard Look at Psycho (BFI Film Classics)