Psycho I-IV

One of the most underrated American film franchises is the Psycho franchise.  The original Psycho franchise consists of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, Psycho, followed by Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986) which was directed by Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins, and last by not least, Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990).  The four Psycho films attempt to offer a continuous story line into the world of the Bates Motel and the owner, Norman Bates.  The four films take us into the world and mind of Norman Bates and show us how Norman became the deranged killer of the Bates Motel and how the actions of Norman Bates are manipulated by his mother.  Is Norman’s mother the cause of the killings that occur in the Bates Motel, or is Norman responsible for his own actions? Is Norman a ruthless sociopathic killer, or is he someone who we should sympathize with due to his troubled childhood upbringing as a result of the unconventional, almost incestuous relationship with his mother?

In Hitchcock’s Psycho, there isn’t much background into who Norman Bates is.  In the first film, Norman seems like an average man who runs his own motel business and happens to live with his mother in a victorian style home, overlooking the motel.  We are made to believe that Norman’s mother is actually the one who commits the murders in the motel and Norman covers up her deadly deeds.  As the film progresses and nears the end, we come to realize that Norman’s mother is dead, in fact, her corpse sits on a rocking chair in the basement of the Bates home.  Norman was in fact responsible for the killings committed in the motel.  As Norman committed the killings, however, Norman was dressed up as his mother, as if Norman’s mother was the one that killed and not Norman.  Norman’s mother would kill and Norman would cover up.  Norman’s mind would transform into his mother and would act as if he were his mother committing the crimes.  After the killings occurred, Norman would return to his actual state of mind, whichever that may be.

A question that arises is, is it really Norman’s mother, using Norman as a living human vessel, who is actually killing or is Norman actually killing and is using the excuse of being a traumatized child who can’t help himself but kill?

The four Psycho films takes us deeper and deeper into the mind and background of Norman Bates and how he become the way he is.  The four films have a connection with each other, that is, Norman is tormented by his mother.  We all know that Norman’s mother is the cause of the messed up mind of Norman.  As the films progress, however, we can’t help but feel sorry and sympathize with Norman.  We end up feeling bad for him. My favorite of the Psycho films would have to be Psycho IV: The Beginning.  In this film, we get to see exactly what happened during Norman’s childhood and what made Norman tick as he grew up.  We get to see who Norman’s mother was and how she treated Norman.  This film tells us exactly why Norman is the way he is.

Psycho IV: The Beginning is the last of the franchise.  I don’t consider the television film Bates Motel (1987) to be part of the franchise, nor the Gus Van Sant remake.  The television film doesn’t follow the world and the storyline created by the previous four films.  Psycho IV: The Beginning is a swan song, not only for the Psycho film franchise, but also for Anthony Perkins, the person responsible for creating the killer of Norman Bates and being an influential character for slasher film serial killers on the loose. This would be the final time that Anthony Perkins would play Norman Bates as a result of his battle with AIDS.


Youth Without Youth

Dominic and Veronica

Dominic and Veronica

  Francis Ford Coppola’s 2007 film, Youth Without Youth, is a cinematic masterpiece.  The film was made after a 10 year filmmaking hiatus for Mr. Coppola after completing The Rainmaker.  After a 10 year absence, however, Coppola reminds the cinema community that he is a master of cinema and a master at the artistry and craft of filmmaking.  With the film Youth Without Youth, Mr. Coppola creates a true cinematic experience and experiment utilizing sound, image, narrative and acting.  Mr. Coppola is fully aware of the essential tools needed to create a film and creates a film experience under his artistic creation.  The auteur label correctly applies to Mr. Coppola and the film Youth Without Youth is the work of an auteur.

  Youth Without Youth stars Tim Roth and Alexandra Maria Lara.  Tim Roth plays a 70 year old Romanian professor by the name of Dominic Matei.  The film begins in 1938 Romania, before the Nazi takeover.  We first see Dominic waking up from some type of dream.  Dominic looks old and frail.  He sits up on his bed and a voiceover of Dominic is heard.  Is it Dominic talking, thinking to himself or is it his conscious?  Dominic’s voice states that Dominic is a failure, he was not able to finish his life’s work.  Man is nothing.  From that point we realize how Dominic feels.  He feels worthless and a failure.  Roll the opening credits.

  The dream imagery in the beginning of the films sets up what the film is about.  It is about nostalgia, memories, lost hope and love.  Human emotions that are felt by mostly everyone human.  After a 10 year filmmaking hiatus for Mr. Coppola, is this a chance to reminisce on filmmaking and cinema?  The dream sequence is visually displayed in a very surreal, descriptive way, the way dreams are.  First a clock is heard and then seen ticking on screen.  It is an old clock, an analog clock.  A snake is also seen.  The gears and the mechanisms of a clock appear all of a sudden, the clock starts to tick counterclockwise.  Time is moving backwards.  Is Dominic dreaming of a past in his old age, is he dreaming of nostalgia or is the past haunting him, like the snake?  A pocket watch opens and the inside reads, “with love forever.”  Pages are flipped as if searching for something.  The words on the pages are written in a foreign language, sanscript.  Perhaps the meaning of the words on the pages are difficult to comprehend, like some events that Dominic may be dreaming of or may experience later on.  A young woman is seen.  She wears older clothing, clothing from before 1938.  It is Dominic’s lost love, Laura, who abandons Dominic for being too obsessive and lost in his own work.

  After the dream and after Dominic expresses his depression, Dominic wanders out into the cold, snowy night in his pajamas toward a bar.  He appears lost and confused.  A man stops him and tells him the time and asks why he is out in his pajamas.  After experiencing confusion, Dominic returns to his apartment and explains that he must go to Bucharest.

  Youth Without Youth is a film about is a film about memories and nostalgia.  There comes a time when the masters of cinema, Coppola being one of them, create a film that ends up being nostalgic about the creator’s work in cinema.  It acts as an examination of the filmmakers culminating works and achievements in cinema.  Youth Without Youth is also a film that makes the viewer question their own memories and ideas and place in society.