2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: 78/52

Alexandre O Philippe parses the legendary shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.

Festival Section:

Sundance Program Description:

In 78 setups and 52 cuts, the deliriously choreographed three-minute shower sequence in PSYCHO ripped apart cinema’s definition of horror. With a shocking combination of exploitation and high art, Alfred Hitchcock upended his own acclaimed narrative structure by violently killing off a heroine a third of the way through his film, without explanation, justification, or higher purpose. PSYCHO played out like a horrific prank, forcing audiences to recognize that even the most banal domestic spaces were now fair game for unspeakable mayhem.

With black-and-white film-geek reverence, director Alexandre O Philippe breaks down this most notorious and essential scene shot for shot, enlisting the help of film buffs and filmmakers alike – including Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Eli Roth, and Peter Bogdanovich. 78/52 examines Janet Leigh’s terrified facial expressions and the blink-and-you-miss-it camera work, not just within the context of the film but also with an eye toward America’s changing social mores – revealing how one bloody, chaotic on-screen death killed off chaste cinema and eerily predicted a decade of unprecedented violence and upheaval.

Some Background:

  • Alexandre O Philippe
    Philippe’s sixth feature doc is his first at Sundance. Previous work has included other pop culture/fandom studies like DOC OF THE DEAD, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS, and THE PEOPLE VS GEORGE LUCAS.


  • Kerry Deignan Roy
    This is also Roy’s first Sundance project. She has collaborated with Philippe on several of his previous films.


  • Oliver Schwehm
    Schwehm is a documentary filmmaker and commissioning editor for ARTE. This marks his first Sundance project.

  • Chad Herschberger
    Herschberger is also the project’s editor. In addition to editing Philippe’s DOC OF THE DEAD and THE PEOPLE VS GEORGE LUCAS, he also worked on post for Sundance docs BEING EVEL (2015) and CHASING ICE (2012).

  • Annick Mahnert
    This is also Mahnert’s first Sundance film. She has a background as a sales agent and in producing genre films.

  • Robert Muratore
    Past Sundance docs:

    BEING EVEL (cinematographer)

    Muratore is also the project’s director of photography. He has produced and shot many of Philippe’s other films.

Executive Producers:

  • Felix Gill, Joey Porcelli, and Randy Pharo
    This marks the first Sundance credit for the project’s executive producers.


  • Chad Herschberger
    See above.

Why You Should Watch:
There’s immense cinephilic appeal to Philippe’s film, with his commentators’ appreciation for PSYCHO evident and infectious. Their close readings and reactions are fun, and provide insight about the social impact and context of Hitchcock’s indelible scene.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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