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Alfred Hitchock Never Read the Novel “Psycho”

Alfred Hitchock Never Read the Novel “Psycho” (photo)

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“Hitchcock” by Francois Truffaut was one of the very first books about film I ever bought, the summer after my junior year of high school. I read it over and over. I practically memorized parts of it. I’ve still got my copy: it’s yellowed and frayed, the way a great book should look. If you haven’t read it — well if you haven’t read it you need to get a freaking copy right now. But the book is a lengthy interview of Alfred Hitchcock conducted by Truffaut in 1962, in which the French critic and director lays out his theories about Hitchcock’s work, and Hitchcock responds with his own thoughts and anecdotes about his storied career. It’s awesome: funny, insightful, and a truly illuminating work of film criticism. This book literally changed my life when I was 16. I started looking at Hitchcock’s work — and all films — differently. The subtitle calls it “The definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock.” I don’t disagree.

So I beyond excited to find that Filmdetail had linked to MP3s of Truffaut’s original audio files from his conversations with Hitchcock. Over on their site you can listen to (or download!) twenty-five different half-hour long chunks of their conversation, including portions on “Notorious” and “The Birds.” That’s over twelve hours of audio. It’s like the greatest podcast series in history, made some thirty five years before the invention of podcasting.

I’m going to listen to the whole thing, but just to get a taste, I turned on the segment on “Psycho” and read along with my copy of “Hitchcock” by Truffaut. Viewed and listened to side-by-side, you get to see how much Truffaut massaged the manuscript to make the conversation flow more naturally — because he didn’t speak English, the entire 12.5 hours were conducted through translator Helen G. Scott — and even where he fleshed out or completely changed his own comments. For example, on page 282, Truffaut asks Hitchcock “Would you say that ‘Psycho’ is an experimental film?” to which Hitchcock provides his very famous answer about the fact that when he made “Psycho” he didn’t care about the acting or the subject matter, merely the fact that he was able to evoke a physical response in the audience (“They were aroused by pure film.”) But the original audio reveals that Truffaut didn’t ask about experimental film at all. What he really asked (at around the 24 minutes mark) was “Do you have anything else to say about ‘Psycho?'” In other words, Hitchcock didn’t come to that incredibly famous description of his film over the course of the conversation; he had it fully formed in his mind already and was simply waiting for the opportunity to share it!

My other favorite moment is this exchange from the very beginning of that same conversation about “Psycho” (obviously the emphasis added is mine):

Francois Truffaut: I read the novel, “Psycho,” which I thought was, frankly, very poor. In fact, worse than bad. In fact, I am surprised it was even written at all. It’s so absurd and even almost dishonest, since there are constant descriptions of Norman sitting down next to his mother and talking to her. And this convention works very well in cinema and not at all in a novel. Isn’t that your opinion?”

Alfred Hitchcock: Sure. Well I probably — you see, when I look for an idea sometimes I read the novel right through and sometimes I don’t. I don’t think I ever read that thing.

FT: Someone gave you a reading of it?

AH: Yes. Or I might have read it very quickly once, that’s all. And never looked at it again.

FT: But what attracted you to this one then?

AH: I think the murder in the bathtub coming out of the blue.

I’d love to see a “Harry Potter” fans reaction to that statement. And I can only imagine what other fascinating tidbits the rest of the conversations contain. All I need is, like, a twelve hour subway ride to find out.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.