Saturday, March 20, 2010

Psycho

Speaking of terrifying things happening in the shower, my film students watched Psycho this week. Some thoughts.

For one thing, I was excited to see that a movie made 50 years ago (Jesus, how is it already 2010? Shouldn't I have a flying car or at least a flying skateboard by now? More seriously: shouldn't I have learned to drive a car by now?) can still be terrifying. And one nice thing about teaching this movie in China is that only a few people in this high school class knew that (spoiler alert!!!!) Marion was going to be killed in the shower. But those that did know started making stabbing motions and high-pitched screeching sounds as soon as Marion started getting ready to take a shower, so that might have ruined the surprise a little bit.

Of course the fact that so few of them knew what was going to happen also meant that a lot of them found the movie really disturbing. I'm talking shell-shocked students sitting in silence after I brought the lights up after the screening. More than one student came up to me later and said, "Why would you show that to us?" I don't know, Sunny. I don't know.

So, for the record, so far in this course the only movies I've discussed are Psycho, Mulholland Dr., and the Pixar short "Presto," about a cute rabbit who just wants to eat his carrot!! I think I will continue to alternate children's movies with increasingly alienating art films. I look forward to our end-of-semester double feature of the complete works of Stan Brakhage and Space Jam. (Rejected alternatives: Salò and Operation Dumbo Drop, Hostel and Hotel for Dogs, The Amazing Panda Adventure and rotoscoped footage of poachers skinning a panda, which is a film I'm sure an MFA student has made at some point.)

Anyway, we spent today discussing the plot of the film and watching the shower scene in slow motion (Jon's film class: just when you thought it couldn't get more disturbing!). When I asked for comments about the movie at the very beginning, one girl raised her hand and she said she thought it was horrible. This is a problem I've run into before, so I spent a few minutes teaching the difference between "horror", "horrible", and "horrifying."

"So," I concluded, "did you think the movie was horrible or horrifying?"

"Horrifying," she said.

And then another student raised her hand and said, "well I thought it was horrible."

Ladies and Gentlemen, if I say I'm a fantastic teacher, you'll agree. Come to think of it, I should show There Will Be Blood. That'll teach 'em how we get things done in America.