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Slavoj Zizek: IS THERE A PROPER

WAY TO REMAKE A HITCHCOCK


FILM?

InanylargeAmericanbookstore,itispossibletopurchasesomevolumes
oftheuniqueseriesSHAKESPEAREMADEEASY,editedbyJohnDurbandand
publishedbyBarron's:a"bilingual"editionofShakespeare'splays,with
theoriginalarchaicEnglishontheleftpageandthetranslationinto
commoncontemporaryEnglishontherightpage.Theobscenesatisfaction
providedbyreadingthesevolumesresidesinhowwhatpurportstobea
meretranslationintocontemporaryEnglishturnsouttobemuchmore:as
arule,Durbandtriestoformulatedirectly,ineverydaylocution,(what
heconsiderstobe)thethoughtexpressedinShakespeare'smetaphoric
idiomsay,"Tobeornottobe,thatisthequestion"becomessomething
like:"What'sbotheringmenowis:ShallIkillmyselfornot?"Andmy
ideais,ofcourse,thatthestandardremakesofHitchcock'sfilmsare
preciselysomethinglikeHITCHCOCKMADEEASY:althoughthenarrativeis
thesame,the"substance,"theflairthataccountsforHitchcock's
uniquenessevaporates.Here,however,oneshouldavoidthejargonladen
talkonHitchcock'suniquetouch,etc.,andapproachthedifficulttask
ofspecifyingwhatgivesHitchcock'sfilmstheiruniqueflair.
Orwhatifthisuniquenessisamyth,theresultofour(spectators)
transference,elevationofHitchcockintotheSubjectSupposedtoKnow.
WhatIhaveinmindistheattitudeofoverinterpretation:everythingin
aHitchcockfilmhastohaveameaning,therearenocontingencies,so
thatwhensomethingdoesn'tfit,it'snothisfault,butourswedidn't
reallygetit.WhilewatchingPsychoforthe20thtime,Inoticeda
strangedetailduringthefinalpsychiatrist'sexplanation:Lilah(Vera
Miles)listenstohimenrapturedandnodstwotimeswithadeep
satisfaction,insteadofbeingshakenbythefinalconfirmationofher
sister'smeaninglessdeathwasthisapurecontingency,ordid
Hitchcockwanttosuggestastrangelibidinalambiguityandrivalry
betweenthetwosisters?OrthesceneofMariondrivinginthenighton
herescapefromPhoenix:justbeforereachingtheBatesmotel,whenshe
listenstotheimaginedvoicesofherbossandthemillionairewhobought
thehouse,furiousatherdeception,herexpressionisnolonger
angiushedwhatweperceiveisastrangemanicsmileofadeeply
perversesatisfaction,anexpressionwhichuncannilyresemblesthevery
lastshotofNormanmother,justbeforeitdissolvesintotheskulland
thenthecarappearingoutoftheswamp.So,inaway,evenbefore
actuallymeetinghim,MarionalreadybecomesNorman:afurtherfeature

thatconfirmsthispointisthatherexpressionemergeswhensheis
listeningtothevoicesinherhead,exactlylikeNormaninhislast
shotOrthesupremeexamplethescenewhenMarionchecksinatthe
Batesmotel:whileNormanhashisbackturnedagainsther,inspectingthe
rowofkeystotherooms,shefurtivelylooksaroundtogetanideawhich
citytoputdownasherresidence,seesthewords"LosAngeles"aspart
ofanewspaperheadlineandwritesthemdown.Wehaveheretwo
hesitationscoinciding:whileMarionhesitatesastowhichtowntowrite
(whichlietotell),Normanhesitatesastoinwhichunittoputher(if
it's1,thismeansthathewillbeabletoobservehersecretlythrough
thepeephole).When,aftersomehesitation,shetellshim"LosAngeles,"
Normanpicksupandgivesherthekeyofthenumber1unit.Ishis
hesitationasimplesignthathewasconsideringhersexualattraction
andthenfinallyoptedtopursueher,orisitthat,atamorerefined
level,hedetectedinherhesitationthatsheisabouttotellhimalie,
andthencounteredherliewithanillegalactofhisown,findinginher
smallcrimethejustificationforhisown?(Orisitratherthat,upon
hearingthatsheisfromLA,hethinksthatthegirlfromsuchadecadent
towncanbeaneasypick?)AlthoughJosephStefano,whowrotethe
scenario,claims1thecreatorshadinmindonlythegrowingsexual
attractionthatNormanfeltforMarion,thereremainstheshadowofa
doubtthatthecoincidenceoftwohesitationscannotbepurely
contingentThisiscalledtrueloveintheory.So,outofthistrue
love,IclaimthatthereISauniqueHitchcockiandimension.
TheHitchcockiansinthom
Myfirstthesisisthatthisuniquedimensionisnottobesought
primarilyatthelevelofthenarrativecontentitsoriginallocusis
elsewherewhere?Letmebeginwithcontrastingtwoscenesfromtwonon
Hitchcockianfilms.Thereisonememorablesceneintheotherwisedull
andpretentiousRobertRedford'sARiverRunsThroughIt.Ofthetwo
preacher'ssons,weareallthetimeawarethattheyoungerone(Brad
Pitt)isonapathtoselfdestruction,approachingcatastrophebecause
ofhiscompulsivegambling,drinkingandwomanizing.Thethingthatkeeps
thetwosonstogetherwiththeirfatherisflyfishinginthewild
MontanariversthisSundayfishingexpeditionsareakindofsacred
familyritual,atimewhenthethreatsofthelifeoutsidefamilyis
temporarilysuspended.Sowhentheygofishingforthelasttime,Pitt
achievesperfection:headroitlycatchesthebiggestfishever;however,
thewayheproceedsispresentedwithashadowofconstantthreat(Will
thedarkriverbendwherehespotsthegreattroutswallowhim?Willhe
reappearafterheslipsintothefastwater?)again,itisasifthis
potentialthreatannouncesthefinaltragedy,whichoccursshortly
afterwards(Pittisfounddead,withhisfingersbroken,onaccountof
hisgamblingdebts).
WhatrendersthisscenefromARiverRunsThroughItratherordinaryis
thattheunderlyingthreateningdimensionisdirectlyreinscribedinto
themainnarrativeline,asanindexpointingtowardsthefinal
catastrophe.Incontrasttoit,PeterYates'outstandingBreaking
Away(1979),agentlecomedy/dramaaboutthecomingofageoffourhigh
schoolkidsinBloomington,Indiana,inthefinalsummerbeforetheyface

theinexorablechoicesofjobsorcollegeortheArmy,resistedthis
temptation.Inoneofthememorablesmallsequences,Dave,oneofthe
kids,onaracingbicycleengagesinahighspeedhighwayduelwitha
semitrailertruck.Theuneasyeffectisherethesameasinacoupleof
scenesinvolvingswimminginanabandonedquarry,inwhichkidsjumpinto
deepdarkwaterwithbitsofsharpstoneshiddenbeneaththesurface:
Yatessuggeststheconstantpossibilityofsuddencatastrophe.Wewait
fortheterribleaccidenttohappen(forDavetobehidandcrushedby
thetruck;foroneofthekidstodrowninthedarkwaterortohitsome
sharpstonewhenjumpingintoit)nonedoes,butthehintsofone(its
threateningshadowevokedjustbythegeneralatmosphereofthewaythe
sceneisshot,notbyanydirectpsychologicalreferences,likethe
uneasinessfeltbykids)makethecharactersseemstrangelyvulnerable.
Itisasifthesehintslaythegroundfortheveryendofthefilm,when
welearn,fromthelegendonthescreen,that,afterwards,oneofthem
diedinVietnam,anotherhadadifferentaccidentThistensionbetween
thetwolevelsiswhatIwanttofocuson:thegapthatseparatesthe
explicitnarrativelinefromthediffusedthreateningmessagedelivered
betweenthelinesofthisnarrative.
LetmeintroducehereaparallelwithRichardWagner(isnotthering
fromWagner'sNibelungenthegreatestMacGuffinofalltimes?).Inhis
lasttwooperas,thesamegestureisperformed:towardstheend
ofGoetterdaemmerung,thedeadSiegfried,whenHagenapproacheshimin
ordertosnatchtheringfromhishand,threateninglyriseshishand;
towardstheendofParsifal,inthemidstofAmfortas'slamentand
refusaltoperformtheritualisticunveilingoftheGrail,hisdead
fatherTiturelalsomiraculouslyliftshishand.Featureslikethis
attesttothefactthatWagnerwasaHitchcockianavantlalettre:in
Hitchcock'sfilms,wealsofindthesamevisualorothermotifthat
insists,imposingitselfthroughanuncannycompulsionandrepeating
itselffromonefilmtoanother,intotallydifferentnarrativecontexts.
BestknownisthemotifofwhatFreudcalledNiederkommenlassen,"letting
/oneself/falldown,"withalltheundertonesofmelancholicsuicidal
fall2apersondesperatelyclingingbyhishandontoanotherperson's
hand:theNazisaboteurclingingfromthegoodAmericanhero'shandfrom
thetorchoftheStatueofLibertyinSaboteur;inthefinal
confrontationofTheRearWindow,thecrippledJamesStewarthangingfrom
thewindow,tryingtograbthehandofhispursuerwho,insteadof
helpinghim,triestomakehimfall;inTheManWhoKnewToo
Much(remake,1955),onthesunnyCasablancamarket,thedyingWestern
agent,dressedasanArab,stretcheshishandtowardstheinnocent
Americantourist(JamesStewart)andpullinghimdowntowardshimself;
thefinallyunmaskedthiefclingingfromCaryGrant'shandinToCatcha
Thief;JamesStewartclingingfromtherooffunnelanddesperatelytrying
tograspthepoliceman'shandstretchingtowardshimatthevery
beginningofVertigo;EvaMarieSaintclingingfromCaryGrant'shandat
theedgeoftheprecipice(withtheimmediatejumptoherclingingtohis
handinthesleepingcar'sberthattheendofNorthbyNorthwest).Upon
acloserlook,webecomeawarethatHitchcock'sfilmsarefullofsuch
motifs.Thereisthemotifofacarontheborderofaprecipice
inSuspicionandinNorthbyNorthwestineachofthetwofilms,there
isascenewiththesameactor(CaryGrant)drivingacaranddangerously

approachingaprecipice;althoughthefilmsareseparatedbyalmost20
years,thesceneisshotinthesameway,includingasubjectiveshotof
theactorcastingaglanceintotheprecipice.(InHitchcock'slast
film,TheFamilyPlot,thismotifexplodesinalongsequenceofthecar
thatrushesdownthehill,sinceitsbreaksweremeddledwithbythe
villains.)Thereisthemotifofthe"womanwhoknowstoomuch,"
intelligentandperceptive,butsexuallyunattractive,withspectacles,
andsignificantlyresemblingorevendirectlyplayedbyHitchcock's
owndaughterPatricia:RuthRoman'ssisterinStrangersOnaTrain,
BarbaradelGeddesinVertigo,PatriciaHitchcockinPsycho,andeven
IngridBergmanherselfpriortohersexualawakeninginSpellbound.There
isthemotifofthemummifiedskullwhichfirstappearsinUnder
CapricornandfinallyinPsychobothtimes,itterrifiestheyoung
woman(IngridBergman,VeraMiles)inthefinalconfrontation.Thereis
themotifofaGothichousewithbigstairs,withtheherowalkingupthe
stairswhere,intheroom,thereisnothing,althoughhepreviouslysawa
femininesilhouetteonthefirstfloorwindow:inVertigo,itisthe
enigmaticepisodeofMadeleineseenbyScottieasashadeinthewindow
andtheninexplicablydisappearingfromthehouse;inPsycho,itisthe
appearanceofthemother'sshadowinthewindowagain,bodieswhich
appearoutofnowhereanddisappearbackintothevoid.Furthermore,the
factthatinVertigothisepisoderemainsunexplainedopensupthe
temptationtoreaditinakindoffuturanterieur,asalreadypointing
towardsPsycho:istheoldladywhoisthehotelclerkofthehousenota
kindofstrangecondensationofNormanBatesandhismother,i.e.the
clerk(Norman)whoisatthesametimetheoldlady(mother),thusgiving
inadvancetheclueontheiridentity,whichisthebigmystery
ofPsycho?Vertigoisofaspecialinterest,insofaras,init,thesame
sinthomofthespiralthatdrawsusintoitsabyssaldepthrepeatsitself
andresonatesatamultitudeoflevels:firstasapurelyformalmotifof
theabstractformemergingoutofthecloseupoftheeyeinthecredits
sequence;thenasthecurlofCarlottaValdes'hairinherportrait,
repeatedinMadeleine'shaircut;thenastheabyssalcircleofthe
staircaseofthechurchtower;and,finally,inthefamous360degrees
shotaroundScottieandJudyMadeleinewhoarepassionatelyembracingin
thedecrepithotelroom,andduringwhichthebackgroundchangestothe
stableoftheJuanBatistaMissionandthenbacktothehotelroom;
perhaps,thislastshotoffersthekeytothetemporaldimensionof
"vertigo"theselfenclosedtemporalloopinwhichpastandpresentare
condensedintothetwoaspectsofthesameendlesslyrepeatedcircular
movement.Itisthismultipleresonanceofsurfacesthatgeneratesthe
specificdensity,the"depth"ofthefilm'stexture.
Herewehaveasetof(visual,formal,material)motiveswhich"remain
thesame"acrossdifferentcontextsofmeaning.Howarewetoreadsuch
persistinggesturesormotifs?Oneshouldresistthetemptationtotreat
themasJungianarchetypeswithadeepmeaningtheraisinghandin
Wagnerexpressingthreatofthedeadpersontotheliving;ortheperson
clingingbyanother'shandexpressingthetensionbetweenspiritualfall
andsalvationWearedealingherewiththelevelofmaterialsignswhich
resistsmeaningandestablishesconnectionswhicharenotgroundedin
narrativesymbolicstructures:theyjustrelateinakindofpresymbolic
crossresonance.Theyarenotsignifiers,neitherthefamousHitchcockian

stains,butelementsofwhat,adecadeortwoago,onewouldhavecalled
cinematicwriting,ecriture.Inthelastyearsofhisteaching,Jacques
Lacanestablishedthedifferencebetweensymptomandsinthom:incontrast
tosymptomwhichisacipherofsomerepressedmeaning,sinthomhasno
determinatemeaningitjustgivesbody,initsrepetitivepattern,to
someelementarymatrixofjouissance,ofexcessiveenjoymentalthough
sinthomsdonothavesense,theydoradiatejouissense/enjoy
meant/.3AccordingtoSvetlana,Stalin'sdaughter,thelastgestureofthe
dyingStalin,significantlyprecededbythecastoftheevilgaze,was
thesamegestureasinWagner'slastoperas,thegestureofthreateningly
raisingthelefthand:
"Atwhatseemedliketheverylastmoment/Stalin/suddenlyopenedhis
eyesandcastaglanceovereveryoneintheroom.Itwasaterrible
glance,insaneorperhapsangryandfulloffearofdeathandthe
unfamiliarfacesofthedoctorsbentoverhim.Theglancesweptover
everyoneinasecond.Thensomethingincomprehensibleandterrible
happenedthattothisdayIcan'tforgetanddon'tunderstand.He
suddenlyliftedhislefthandasthoughhewerepointingtosomethingup
aboveandbringingdownacurseonusall.Thegesturewas
incomprehensibleandfullofmenace,andnoonecouldsaytowhomorwhat
itmightbedirected.Thenextmoment,afterafinaleffort,thespirit
wrencheditselffreeoftheflesh."4
What,then,didthisgesturemean?TheHitcocockianansweris:nothing
yetthisnothingwasnotanemptynothing,butthefullnessoflibidinal
investment,atickwhichgavebodytoacipherofenjoyment.Perhaps,
theirclosestequivalentinpaintingaretheprotractedstainswhich
"are"theyellowskyinthelatevanGoghorthewaterorgrassinMunch:
thisuncanny"massiveness"pertainsneithertothedirectmaterialityof
thecolorstainsnortothematerialityofthedepictedobjectsit
dwellsinakindofintermediatespectraldomainofwhatSchellingcalled
geistigeKoerperlichkeit,thespiritualcorporeality.FromtheLacanian
perspective,itiseasytoidentifythis"spiritualcorporeality"as
materializedjouissance,"jouissancewhichturnedintoflesh."
Hitchcock'ssinthomsarethusnotmereformalpatterns:theyalready
condenseacertainlibidinalinvestment.Assuch,theydeterminedhis
creativeprocess:Hitchcockdidnotproceedfromtheplottoits
translationincinematicaudiovisualterms.Heratherstartedwithaset
of(usuallyvisual)motifsthathauntedhisimaginationthatimposed
themselvesashissinthoms;then,heconstructedanarrativethatserved
asthepretextfortheiruseThesesinthomsprovidethespecificflair,
thesubstantialdensityofthecinematictextureofHitchcock'sfilms:
withoutthem,wewouldhavealifelessformalnarrative.Soallthetalk
aboutHitchcockasthe"masterofsuspense,"abouthisuniquetwisted
plots,etc.,missesthekeydimension.FredricJamesonsaidofHemingway
thatheselectedhisnarrativesinordertobeabletowriteacertain
kindof(tense,masculine)phrases.ThesamegoesforHitchcock:he
inventedstoriesinordertobeabletoshootacertainkindofscenes.
And,whilethenarrativesofhisfilmsprovideafunnyandoften
perceptivecommentofourtimes,itisinhissinthomsthatHitchcock
livesforever.Theyarethetruecauseofwhyhisfilmscontinueto
functionasobjectsofourdesire.

TheCaseoftheMissingGaze
Thenextfeatureconcernsthestatusofthegaze.ThesocalledPost
Theorists(cognitivistcriticsofthepsychoanalyticcinematheory)like
tovarythemotifofhowwritersofthe"Theory"refertomythical
entitieslikethe(capitalized)Gaze,entitiestowhichnoempirical,
observablefacts(liketheactualcinemaviewersandtheirbehavior)
correspondthetitleofoneoftheessaysinthePostTheoryvolume5is
"TheCaseoftheMissingSpectator."PostTheoryrelieshereonthe
commonsensenotionofthespectator(thesubjectwhoperceivescinematic
realityonthescreen,equippedwithhisemotionalandcognitive
predisposition,etc.)and,withinthissimpleoppositionbetween
subjectandobjectofcinematicperception,thereis,ofcourse,noplace
forthegazeasthepointfromwhichtheviewedobjectitself"returns
thegaze"andregardus,thespectators.Thatistosay,crucialforthe
Lacaniannotionofgazeisthatitinvolvesthereversalofthe
relationshipbetweensubjectandobject:asLacanputsitinhisSeminar
XI,thereisanantinomybetweentheeyeandthegaze,i.e.thegazeis
onthesideoftheobject,itstandsfortheblindspotinthefieldof
thevisiblefromwhichthepictureitselfphotographsthespectator
or,asLacanputsitinhisSeminarI,whoseuncannyevocationofthe
centralsceneofTheRearWindowissustainedbythefactthatitwas
heldinthesameyearthatHitchcock'sfilmwasshot(1954):
"IcanfeelmyselfunderthegazeofsomeonewhoseeyesIdonotsee,not
evendiscern.Allthatisnecessaryisforsomethingtosignifytome
thattheremaybeothersthere.Thiswindow,ifitgetsabitdark,and
ifIhavereasonsforthinkingthatthereissomeonebehindit,is
straightawayagaze."6
Isthisnotionofthegazenotperfectlyrenderedbytheexemplary
Hitchcockiansceneinwhichthesubjectisapproachingsomeuncanny
threateningobject,usuallyahouse?Thereweencountertheantinomy
betweentheeyeandthegazeatitspurest:thesubject'seyeseesthe
house,butthehousetheobjectseemssomehowtoreturnthegazeNo
wonder,than,thattheposttheoristsspeakofthe"missinggaze,"
complainingthattheFreudoLacanianGazeisamythicalentitynowhere
foundintheactualityofthespectator'sexperience:thisgaze
effectivelyismissing,itsstatusispurelyfantasmatic.Atamore
fundamentallevel,whatwearedealingwithhereisthepositivizationof
animpossibilitywhichgivesrisetothefetishobject.Forexample,how
doestheobjectgazebecomeafetish?ThroughtheHegelianreversalfrom
theimpossibilitytoseetheobject,intoanobjectwhichgivesbodyto
thisveryimpossibility:sincethesubjectcannotdirectlyseethat,the
trueobjectoffascination,heaccomplishesakindofreflectioninto
selfbymeansofwhichtheobjectthatfascinateshimbecomesthegaze
itself.Inthissense(althoughnotinanentirelysymmetricalway),gaze
andvoiceare"reflective"objects,i.e.objectswhichgivebodytoan
impossibility(inLacanian"mathems":aunderminussmallphi).
Inthisprecisesense,fantasyproperisnotthesceneitselfthat
attractsourfascination,buttheimagined/inexistentgazeobservingit,
liketheimpossiblegazefromaboveforwhicholdAztecsdrawgigantic
figuresofbirdsandanimalsontotheground,ortheimpossiblegazefor

whichdetailsofthesculpturesontheoldaqueducttoRomewereformed,
althoughtheywereunobservablefromtheground.Inshort,themost
elementaryfantasmaticsceneisnotthatofafascinatingscenetobe
lookedat,butthenotionof"thereissomeoneouttherelookingatus";
itisnotadreambutthenotionthat"wearetheobjectsinsomeone
else'sdream"MilanKundera,inLalenteur,presentsastheultimate
signoftoday'sfalseasepticpseudovoluptuoussexthecouplefeigning
tomakeloveanallyclosetoahotelpool,inviewoftheguestsinthe
roomsabove,fakingpleasurablecriesbuteffectivelynoteven
accomplishingthepenetrationtothisheopposestheslowgallant
intimateeroticgamesofthe18thcenturyFranceDidnotsomething
similartothescenefromLalenteureffectivelytakeplaceinKhmer
RougeCambodiawhere,aftertoomanypeoplediedfrompurgesand
starvation,theregime,eagertomultiplythepopulation,orderedeach
1st,10thand20thdayinamonthsthedayforcopulation:inthe
evening,themarriedcoupled(whootherwisehadtosleepinseparate
barracks)wereallowedtosleeptogetherandcompelledtomakelove.
Theirprivatespacewasasmallcubicleisolatedbyahalftransparent
bamboocurtain;infrontoftherowofsuchcubicles,KhmerRougeguards
werewalking,verifyingthatcouplesareeffectivelycopulating.Since
thecouplesknewthatnotmakinglovewasconsideredanactofsabotage
tobeseverelypunished,andsince,ontheotherhand,aftera14hours
workingday,theywereasaruletootiredtoeffectivelyhavesex,they
pretendedtomakeloveinordertodupetheguardian'sattention:they
madefalsemovementsandfakedsoundsIsthisnottheexactinverseof
theexperiencefromtheprepermissiveyouthofsomeofus,whenonehad
tosneakintothebedroomwiththepartneranddoitassilentlyas
possible,sothatparents,iftheywerestillawake,wouldnotsuspect
thatsexisgoingon?Whatif,then,suchaspectacleforOther'sgazeis
partofthesexualactwhatif,sincethereisnosexualrelationship,
itcanonlybestagedfortheOther'sgaze?
Doesnottherecenttrendof"cam"websiteswhichrealizethelogicof
"TheTrumanShow"(inthesesites,weareabletofollowcontinuously
someeventorplace:thelifeofapersoninhis/herapartment,theview
onastreet,etc.)displaythissameurgentneedforthefantasmatic
Other'sGazeservingastheguaranteeofthesubject'sbeing?"Iexist
onlyinsofarasIamlookedatallthetime"(Similartothisisthe
phenomenon,notedbyClaudeLefort,oftheTVsetwhichisallthetime
turnedon,evenwhennooneeffectivelywatchesititservesasthe
minimumguaranteeoftheexistenceofsociallink.)Thesituationishere
thusthetragicomicreversaloftheBenthamOrwelliannotionof
panopticonsocietyinwhichweare(potentially)"observedallthetime"
andhavenoplacetohidefromtheomnipresentgazeofthePower:here,
anxietyarisesfromtheprospectofNOTbeingexposedtotheOther'sgaze
allthetime,sothatthesubjectneedsthecamera'sgazeasakindof
ontologicalguaranteeofhisbeing
Astothisparadoxoftheomnipresentgaze,afunnythinghappenednot
longagotoafriendofmineinSlovenia:hereturnedtohisofficelate
inthenighttofinishsomework;beforeheputthelighton,heobserved
intheofficeacrossthecourtyardacoupleofasenior(married)manager
andhissecretarycopulatingpassionatelyonhistableinthemidstof
theirpassion,theyforgotthatthereisabuildingacrossthecourtyard,
fromwheretheycanbeclearlyseen,sincetheirofficewasbrightly
lightedandtherewerenocurtainsonthelargewindowsWhatmyfriend

didisthathecalledthephoneofthisoffice,and,whenthemanager,
interruptinghissexualactivityforabriefintermission,pickedupthe
phone,hewhisperedominouslyintothereceiver:"Godisobservingyou!"
ThepoormanagercollapsedandalmosthadaheartattackThe
interventionofsuchtraumaticvoicewhichcannotbedirectlylocatedin
realityisperhapstheclosestwecancometotheexperienceofthe
Sublime.
AndHitchcockisatitsmostuncannyanddisturbingwhenheengagesus
directlywiththepointofviewofthisexternalfantasmaticgaze.Oneof
thestandardhorrormovieproceduresisthe"resignification"ofthe
objectiveintothesubjectiveshot(whatthespectatorfirstperceivesas
anobjectiveshotsay,ofahousewithafamilyatdinerisallofa
sudden,bymeansofcodifiedmarkersliketheslighttremblingofthe
camera,the"subjectivized"soundtrack,etc.,revealedasthesubjective
shotofamurdererstalkinghispotentialvictims).However,this
procedureistobesupplementedwithitsopposite,theunexpected
reversalofsubjectiveintoobjectiveshot:inthemidstofalongshot
unambiguouslymarkedassubjective,thespectatorisallofasudden
compelledtoacknowledgethatthereisnopossiblesubjectwithinthe
spaceofdiegeticrealitywhocanoccupythepointofviewofthisshot.
Sowearenotdealingherewiththesimplereversalofobjectiveinto
subjectiveshot,butinconstructingaplaceofimpossiblesubjectivity,
asubjectivitywhichtaintstheveryobjectivitywithaflavorof
unspeakable,monstrousevil.Anentireheretictheologyisdiscernible
here,secretlyidentifyingCreatorHimselfastheDevil(whichwas
alreadythethesisofthecatharheresyinthe12thcenturyFrance).The
exemplarycasesofthisimpossiblesubjectivityarethe"subjective"shot
fromthestandpointofthemurderousThingitselfuponthetransfixed
faceofthedyingdetectiveArbogastinPsycho,or,inTheBirds,the
famousGod'sviewshotoftheburningBodegaBay,whichisthen,withthe
entryintotheframeofthebirds,resignified,subjectivizedintothe
pointofviewoftheevilaggressorsthemselves.
MultipleEndings
Thereisyetanother,third,aspectthataddsaspecificdensityto
Hitchcock'sfilms:theimplicitresonanceofmultipleendings.Themost
obviousandwelldocumentedcaseis,ofcourse,thatofTopaz:before
decidingontheendingofTopazthatweallknow,Hitchcockshottwo
alternativeendings,andmypointisthatitisnotsufficienttosay
thathesimplychosethemostappropriateendingtheendingwehavenow
ratherinawaypresupposesthetwoother,withthethreeendingsforming
akindofsyllogism,i.e.Granville,theRussianspy,(MichelPiccoli)
tellinghimself"Theycannotproveanythingtome,Icansimplyleavefor
Russia"(thefirstdiscardedending);"ButtheRussiansthemselvesnowdo
notwantme,Iamnowevendangeroustothem,sotheywillprobablykill
me"(theseconddiscardedmeaning);"WhatcanIdothenifinFranceIam
outcasteasaRussianspyandRussiaitselfnolongerwantsme?Ican
onlykillmyself"theendingthatwaseffectivelyadopted.There
are,however,muchmorerefinedversionsofthisimplicitpresenceof
alternativeendings.AlreadythedenouementofHitchcock'searly
melodramaTheManxman(1929)isprecededbytwosceneswhichcouldbe
readaspossiblealternativeendings(thewomankillsherself;thelover

neverreturns).Hitchcock'smasterpieceNotoriousowesatleastapartof
itspowerfulimpacttothefactthatitsdenouementshouldbeperceived
againstthebackgroundofatleasttwootherpossibleoutcomesthat
resonateinitasakindofalternativehistory.7Inthefirstoutlineof
thestory,Aliciawinsredemptionbythefilm'send,butlosesDevlin,
whoiskilledrescuingherfromtheNazis.Theideawasthatthis
sacrificialactshouldsolvethetensionbetweenDevlin,whoisunableto
admittoAliciahisloveforher,andAlicia,whoisunabletoperceive
herselfasworthyoflove:Devlinadmitshisloveforherwithoutwords,
bydyinginordertosaveherlife.Inthefinalscene,wefindAlicia
backinMiamiwithhergroupofdrinkingfriends:althoughsheismore
"notorious"thanever,shehasinherheartthememoryofamanwholoved
heranddiedforher,and,asHitchcockputitinamemotoSelznick,"to
herthisisthesameasifshehadachievedalifeofmarriageand
happiness."Inthesecondmainversion,theoutcomeistheopposite;
here,wealreadyhavetheideaofaslowpoisoningofAliciabySebastian
andhismother.DevlinconfrontstheNazisandfleeswithAlicia,but
Aliciadiesintheprocess.Intheepilogue,DevlinsitsaloneinaRio
cafe,whereheusedtomeetAlicia,andoverhearspeoplediscussingthe
deathofSebastian'swantonandtreacherouswife.However,theletterin
hishandsisacommendationfromPresidentTrumancitingAlicia's
bravery.DevlinpocketstheletterandfinisheshisdrinkFinally,the
versionweknowwasarrivedat,withafinalethatimpliesthatDevlin
andAliciaarenowmarried.Hitchcockthenleftthisfinaleout,toend
onamoretragicnote,withSebastian,whotrulylovedAlicia,leftto
facetheNazi'sdeadlywrath.Thepointisthatbothalternativeendings
(Devlin'sandAlicia'sdeath)areincorporatedintothefilm,asakind
offantasmaticbackgroundoftheactionweseeonthescreen:iftheyare
toconstituteacouple,bothDevlinandAliciahavetoundergothe
"symbolicdeath,"sothatthehappyendingemergesfromthecombination
oftwounhappyendings,i.e.thesetwoalternativefantasmaticscenarios
sustainthedenouementweactuallysee.
ThisfeatureallowsustoinsertHitchcockintheseriesofartistswhose
workforecasttoday'sdigitaluniverse.Thatistosay,arthistorians
oftennotedthephenomenonoftheoldartisticformspushingagainst
theirownboundariesandusingprocedureswhich,atleastfromour
retroactiveview,seemtopointtowardsanewtechnologythatwillbe
abletoserveasamore"natural"andappropriate"objectivecorrelative"
tothelifeexperiencetheoldformsendeavoredtorenderbymeansof
their"excessive"experimentation.Awholeseriesofnarrativeprocedures
inthel9thcenturynovelsannouncenotonlythestandardnarrative
cinema(theintricateuseof"flashback"inEmilyBronteorof"cross
cutting"and"closeups"inDickens),butsometimeseventhemodernist
cinema(theuseof"offspace"inMadameBovary)asifanewperception
oflifewasalreadyhere,butwasstillstrugglingtofinditsproper
meansofarticulation,untilitfinallyfounditincinema.Whatwehave
hereisthusthehistoricityofakindoffuturanterieur:itisonly
whencinemawashereanddevelopeditsstandardproceduresthatwecan
reallygraspthenarrativelogicofDickens'sgreatnovelsorofMadame
Bovary.
Andisitnotthattoday,weareapproachingahomologousthreshold:a
new"lifeexperience"isintheair,aperceptionoflifethatexplodes
theformofthelinearcenterednarrativeandrenderslifeasamultiform

flowevenanduptothedomainof"hard"sciences(quantumphysicsand
itsMultipleRealityinterpretation,ortheuttercontingencythat
providedthespintotheactualevolutionofthelifeonEarthas
StephenJayGoulddemonstratedinhisWonderfulLife8,thefossilsof
BurgessShalebearwitnesstohowevolutionmayhavetakenawholly
differentturn)weseemtobehauntedbythechancinessoflifeandthe
alternateversionsofreality.Eitherlifeisexperiencedasaseriesof
multipleparalleldestiniesthatinteractandarecruciallyaffectedby
meaninglesscontingentencounters,thepointsatwhichoneseries
intersectswithandintervenesintoanother(seeAltman'sShortcuts),or
differentversions/outcomesofthesameplotarerepeatedlyenacted(the
"paralleluniverses"or"alternativepossibleworlds"scenariossee
Kieslowski'sChance,VeroniqueandRed;even"serious"historians
themselvesrecentlyproducedavolumeVirtualHistory,thereadingofthe
crucialModernAgecenturyevents,fromCromwell'svictoryoverStuarts
andAmericanindependencewartothedisintegrationofCommunism,as
hingingonunpredictableandsometimesevenimprobablechances9).This
perceptionofourrealityasoneofthepossibleoftenevennotthe
mostprobableoutcomesofan"open"situation,thisnotionthatother
possibleoutcomesarenotsimplycancelledoutbutcontinuetohauntour
"true"realityasaspectraofwhatmighthavehappened,conferringon
ourrealitythestatusofextremefragilityandcontingency,implicitly
clasheswiththepredominant"linear"narrativeformsofourliterature
andcinematheyseemtocallforanewartisticmediuminwhichthey
wouldnotbeaneccentricexcess,butits"proper"modeoffunctioning.
Thenotionofcreationalsochangeswiththisnewexperienceofthe
world:itnolongerdesignatesthepositiveactofimposinganeworder,
butratherthenegativegestureofchoice,oflimitingthepossibilities,
ofprivilegingoneoptionattheexpenseofalltheothers.Onecanargue
thatthecyberspacehypertextisthisnewmediuminwhichthislife
experiencewillfindits"natural,"moreappropriateobjective
correlative,sothat,again,itisonlywiththeadventofcyberspace
hypertextthatwecaneffectivelygraspwhatAltmanandKieslowskiand,
implicitly,alsoHitchcockwereeffectivelyaimingat.
TheIdealRemake
This,perhaps,alsopointstowardswhataproperremakeofaHitchcock
filmwouldbe.TotryandimitateHitchcockiansinthomsisanexercisein
advancecondemnedtofailure;toremakethesamenarrativeresultsina
SHAKESPEAREMADEEASYoutput.Sothereareonlytwowaysleft.Oneis
indicatedbyGusvanSant'sPsychowhich,paradoxically,Iaminclinedto
considerafailedmasterpiece,ratherthanasimplefailure.Theideaof
theexactframebyframeremakeisaningeniousidea,and,inmyview,
theproblemwasratherthatthefilmdidnotgofarenoughinthis
direction.Ideally,whatthefilmshouldstriveforistoachievethe
uncannyeffectofthedouble:inshootingformallythesamefilm,the
differencewouldhavebecameallthemorepalpableeverythingwould
havebeenthesame,sameshots,angles,dialogue,and,nonetheless,on
accountofthisverysameness,wewouldallthemorepowerfully
experiencethatwearedealingwithatotallydifferentfilm.Thisgap
shouldhavebeensignaledbybarelyperceptiblenuancesinthewayof

acting,inthechoiceofactors,intheuseofcolor,etc.Someelements
invanSant'sfilmalreadypointinthisdirection:therolesofNorman,
Lilah(portrayedasalesbian)andMarion(anonmaternal,withdrawn,
coldbitchincontrasttothebigbreastedmaternalJanetLeigh),even
ArbogastandSam,nicelyindicatetheshiftfromlate50stotoday's
universe.Whilesomeaddedshots(liketheenigmaticsubjectiveshotsof
cloudyskyduringthetwomurders)arealsoacceptable,problems
resurfacewiththemorebrutalchanges(likeNorman'smasturbationwhile
hepeepsonMarionbeforeslaughteringheroneistemptedtomakethe
ratherobviouspointthat,inthiscase,i.e.ifheweretobeableto
arriveatthiskindofsexualsatisfaction,therewouldhavebeennoneed
forhimtoaccomplishtheviolentpassageal'acteandslaughter
Marion!);onthetopit,somescenesarecompletelyruined,theirimpact
iscompletelylost,bychangingHitchcock'spreciseframing(say,thekey
sceneinwhich,afterleavingherofficewiththemoney,Marionathome
preparestoescape).Hitchcock'sownremakes(thetwoversionsofTheMan
WhoKnewTooMuch,aswellasSaboteurandNorthbyNorthwest)pointin
thisdirection:althoughthenarrativeisverysimilar,theunderlying
libidinaleconomyiswhollydifferentineachofthesubsequentremakes,
asifthesamenessservesthepurposeofmarkingtheDifference.10
Thesecondwaywouldbetostage,inawellcalculatedstrategicmove,
oneofthealternativescenariosthatunderlietheactualizedby
Hitchcock,liketheremakeofNotoriouswithIngridBergmansurviving
alone.ThiswouldbeaproperwaytohonorHitchcockastheartistthat
belongstoourera.Perhaps,morethandePalma'sandothers'direct
"homage"toHitchcock,thescenesthatannouncesuchaproperremakeare
tobefoundinunexpectedplaces,likethesceneinthehotelroom,the
placeofcrime,inConversationofFrancisFordCoppola,whocertainlyis
notaHitchcockian.Theinvestigatorinspectstheroomwitha
Hitchcockiangaze,likeLilaandSamdowithMarion'smotelroom,moving
fromthemainbedroomtothebathroomandfocusingthereonthetoilet
andtheshower.Thisshiftfromtheshower(wheretherearenotracesof
thecrime,whereeverythingisclean)tothetoiletsink,elevatedit
intotheHitchcockianobjectthatattractsourgaze,fascinatinguswith
itspremonitionofsomeunspeakablehorror,iscrucialhere(recall
Hitchcock'sbattlewithcensorshiptoallowtheinsideviewofthe
toilet,fromwhereSampicksupatornpieceofpaperwithMarion's
writingoftheamountsofspentmoney,theproofthatshewasthere).
AfteraseriesofobviousreferencestoPsychoaproposoftheshower
(quicklypullingopenthecurtain,inspectingtheholeinthesink),the
investigatorfocusesonthe(allegedlycleansed)toiletseat,flushesit,
andthenthestainappearsasifoutofnowhere,bloodandothertraces
ofthecrimeoverflowingtheedgeofthesink.Thisscene,akind
ofPsychorereadthroughMarnie(withitsredstainblurringthescreen)
containsthemainelementsoftheHitchcockianuniverse:ithasthe
Hitchcockianobjectwhichmaterializessomeunspecifiedthreat,
functioningastheholeintoanotherabyssaldimension(isflushingthe
toiletinthisscenenotlikepushingthewrongbuttonthatdissolvesthe
entireuniverseinthesciencefictionnovels?);thisobjectwhich
simultaneouslyattractsandrepelsthesubjectcanbesaidtobethe
pointfromwhichtheinspectedsettingreturnsthegaze(isitnotthat
theheroissomehowregardedbythetoiletsink?);and,finally,Coppola

realizesthealternativescenarioofthetoiletitselfastheultimate
locusofmystery.Whatmakesthisminiremakeofascenesoeffectiveis
thatCoppolasuspendstheprohibitionoperativeinPsycho:thethreat
DOESexplode,thecameraDOESshowthedangerhangingintheair
inPsycho,thechaoticbloodymesseruptingfromthetoilet.11(Andis
nottheswampbehindthehouseinwhichNormandrownsthecarswiththe
bodiesofhisvictimsakindofgiganticpoolofexcrementalmud,sothat
onecansaythatheinawayflushesthecarsdownthetoiledthe
famousmomentoftheworriedexpressionofhisfacewhenMarion'scar
stopstoimmerseintotheswampforacoupleofsecondseffectively
signalstheworrythatthetoileddidnotswallowthetracesofour
crime?TheverylastshotofPsycho,inwhichweseeMarion'scarbeing
pulledoutoftheswamp,isthusakindofHitchcockianequivalenttothe
bloodreemergingoutofthetoiletsinkinshort,thisswampisanother
intheseriesoftheentrancepointstothepreontological
Netherworld.)
AndisnotthesamereferencetothepreontologicalUnderworldoperative
alsointhefinalsceneofVertigo?Inthepredigitaltimes,whenIwas
inmyteens,IrememberseeingabadcopyofVertigoitslastseconds
weresimplymissing,sothatthemovieappearedtohaveahappyending,
ScottiereconciledwithJudy,forgivingherandacceptingherasa
partner,thetwoofthempassionatelyembracingMypointisthatsuchan
endingisnotasartificialasitmayseem:itisratherintheactual
endingthatthesuddenappearanceoftheMotherSuperiorfromthe
staircasebelowfunctionsasakindofnegativedeuxexmachina,asudden
intrusioninnowayproperlygroundedinthenarrativelogic,which
preventsthehappyending.12Wheredoesthenunappearfrom?Fromthe
samepreontologicalrealmofshadowsfromwhichScottiehimselfsecretly
observesMadeleineintheflorist's.13Itisthereferencetothispre
ontologicalrealmthatallowsustoapproachthequintessential
Hitchcockianscenewhichwasnevershotpreciselybecauseitrenders
thebasicmatrixofhisworkdirectly,itsactualfilmingundoubtedly
wouldhaveproducedavulgar,tastelesseffect.Hereisthisscenethat
HitchcockwantedtoinsertinNorthbyNorthwest,asreportedin
Truffaut'sconversationswiththeMaster:
"IwantedtohavealongdialoguebetweenCaryGrantandoneofthe
factoryworkers/ataFordautomobileplant/astheywalkalongthe
assemblyline.Behindthemacarisbeingassembled,piecebypiece.
Finally,thecarthey'veseenbeingputtogetherfromasimplenutand
boltiscomplete,withgasandoil,andallreadytodriveofftheline.
Thetwomenlookateachotherandsay,'Isn'titwonderful!'Thenthey
openthedoorofthecarandoutdropsacorpse."14
Wheredidthiscorpseemerge,fall,from?Again,fromtheveryvoidfrom
whichScottieobservesMadeleineintheflorist'sor,fromthevoid
fromwhichbloodemergesinConversation.(Oneshouldalsobearinmind
thatwhatwewouldhaveseeninthislongshotistheelementaryunityof
theproductionprocessisthenthecorpsethatmysteriouslydropsout
fromnowherenottheperfectstandinforthesurplusvaluethatis
generated"ourofnowhere"throughtheproductionprocess?)Thisshocking
elevationoftheridiculouslylowest(theBeyondwhereshitdisappears)
intothemetaphysicalSublimeisperhapsoneofthemysteriesof

Hitchcock'sart.IsnottheSublimesometimespartofourmostcommon
everydayexperience?When,inthemidstofaccomplishingasimpletask
(say,climbingthelonglineofstairs),weareoverwhelmedbyan
unexpectedfatigue,itallofasuddenappearsasifthesimplegoalwe
wanttoreach(thetopofthestairs)isseparatedfromusbyan
unfathomablebarrierandthuschangedintoametaphysicalObjectforever
outofourreach,asifthereissomethingwhichforeverpreventsusfrom
accomplishingitAndthedomainwhereexcrementsvanishafterweflush
thetoiletiseffectivelyoneofthemetaphorsforthehorrifyingly
sublimeBeyondoftheprimordial,preontologicalChaosintowhichthings
disappear.Althoughwerationallyknowwhatgoesonwiththeexcrements,
theimaginarymysterynonethelesspersistsshitremainsanexcesswith
doesnotfitourdailyreality,andLacanwasrightinclaimingthatwe
passfromanimalstohumansthemomentananimalhasproblemswithwhat
todowithitsexcrements,themomenttheyturnintoanexcessthat
annoysit.15TheRealinthescenefromConversationisthusnot
primarilythehorrifyinglydisgustingstuffreemergingfromthetoilet
sink,butrathertheholeitself,thegapwhichservesasthepassageto
adifferentontologicalorder.Thesimilaritybetweentheemptytoilet
sinkbeforetheremaindersofthemurderreemergefromitandMalevitch's
"BlackSquareonWhiteSurface"issignificanthere:doesthelookfrom
aboveintothetoiletsinknotreproducealmostthesame"minimalist"
visualscheme,ablack(or,atleast,darker)squareofwaterenframedby
thewhitesurfaceofthesinkitself?Again,we,ofcourse,knowthatthe
excrementswhichdisappeararesomewhereinthesewagenetworkwhatis
here"real"isthetopologicalholeortorsionwhich"curves"thespace
ofourrealitysothatweperceive/imagineexcrementsasdisappearing
intoanalternativedimensionwhichisnotpartofoureverydayreality.
Hitchcock'sobsessionwithcleansingthebathroomorthetoiletafterits
useiswellknown,16anditissignificantthat,when,afterMarion's
murder,hewanttoshiftourpointofidentificationtoNorman,hedoes
thiswithalongrenderingofthecarefulprocessofcleansingthe
bathroomthisisperhapsthekeysceneofthefilm,ascenethat
providesanuncannyprofoundsatisfactionofthejobproperlydone,of
thingsreturningbacktonormal,ofsituationbeingagainaftercontrol,
ofthetracesofthehorrifyingnetherworldbeingerased.Oneistempted
toreadthissceneagainstthebackgroundofthewellknownproposition
ofSaintThomasofAcquinasaccordingtowhichavirtue(definedasa
properwaytoaccomplishanact)canalsoserveevilpurposes:onecan
alsobeaperfectthief,murderer,extortioner,i.e.accomplishanevil
actina"virtuous"way.Whatthissceneofcleansingthebathroomin
Psychodemonstratesishowthe"lower"perfectioncanimperceptibly
affectthe"higher"goal:Norman'svirtuousperfectionincleansingthe
bathroom,ofcourse,servestheevilpurposeoferasingthetracesofthe
crime;however,thisveryperfection,thededicationandthethoroughness
ofhisact,seducesus,thespectators,intoassumingthat,ifsomeone
actsinsucha"perfect"way,heshouldbeinhisentiretyagoodand
sympatheticperson.Inshort,someonewhocleansedthebathroomso
thoroughlyasNormancannotbereallybad,inspiteofhisotherminor
peculiarities(Or,toputitevenmorepointedly,inacountrygoverned
byNorman,trainswouldcertainlyrunontime!)Whilewatchingthisscene
recently,Icaughtmyselfnervouslynoticingthatthebathroomwasnot
properlycleansedtwosmallstainsonthesideofthebathtubremained!
Ialmostwantedtoshout:hey,it'snotyetover,finishthejob

properly!IsitnotthatPsychopointsheretowardstoday'sideological
perceptioninwhichworkitself(manuallaborasopposedto"symbolic"
activity),andnotsex,becomesthesiteofobsceneindecencytobe
concealedfromthepubliceye?Thetraditionwhichgoesbackto
Wagner'sRheingoldandLang'sMetropolis,thetraditioninwhichthe
workingprocesstakesplaceunderground,indarkcaves,todayculminates
inthemillionsofanonymousworkerssweatingintheThirdWorld
factories,fromChinesegulagstoIndonesianorBrasilianassemblylines
intheirinvisibility,theWestcanafforditselftobabbleaboutthe
"disappearingworkingclass."Butwhatiscrucialinthistraditionis
theequationoflaborwithcrime,theideathatlabor,hardwork,is
originallyanindecentcriminalactivitytobehiddenfromthepublic
eye.TheonlyplaceinHollywoodfilmswhereweseetheproduction
processinallitsintensityarewhentheactionheropenetratesthe
mastercriminal'ssecretdomainandlocatestherethesiteofintense
labor(distillingandpackagingthedrugs,constructingarocketthat
willdestroyNewYork).When,inaJamesBondmovie,themaster
criminal,aftercapturingBond,usuallytakeshimonatourofhis
illegalfactory,isthisnottheclosestHollywoodcomestothe
socialistrealistproudpresentationoftheproductionina
factory?17AndthefunctionofBond'sintervention,ofcourse,isto
explodeinfirecraksthissiteofproduction,allowingustoreturnto
thedailysemblanceofourexistenceinaworldwiththe"disappearing
workingclass"
And,incidentally,isthesameattitudeofforcefulidentification
againstone'swillnotclearlydiscernibleinthoseLeftistcinema
theoristswhoareinasimilarwayforcedtoloveHitchcock,to
libidinallyidentifywithhim,althoughtheyarewellawarethat,
measuredbythestandardsofPoliticalCorrectness,hisworkreadsasa
catalogueofsins(obsessionwithcleansinessandcontrol,womencreated
uponthemaleimage).Ineverfoundconvincingthestandardexplanation
oftheLeftisttheoristswhocannothelpbuttoloveHitchcock:yes,his
universeismalechauvinist,butatthesametimeherendersvisibleits
cracksandasitweresubvertsitfromwithin.Ithinkthesocial
politicaldimensionofHitchcock'sfilmsistobesoughtelsewhere.Let
ustakethetwoclosuresattheendofPsychofirstthepsychiatrist
wrapsupthestory,thenNormanmotherherselfdeliversthefinal
monologueof"Iwouldn'tevenhurtafly!".Thissplitbetweenthetwo
closurestellsmoreaboutthedeadlockofcontemporarysubjectivitythan
adozenofessaysinculturalcriticism.Thatistosay,itmayappear
thatwearedealingwiththewellknownsplitbetweenexpertknowledge
andourprivatesolipsisticuniverses,deploredbymanysocialcritics
today:thecommonsense,asharedsetofethicallyengaged
presuppositions,isslowlydisintegrating,andwhatwegetis,ontheone
hand,theobjectivizedlanguageofexpertsandscientistswhichcanno
longerbetranslatedintothecommonlanguageaccessibletoeveryone,but
ispresentinitinthemodeoffetishizedformulasthatnoonereally
understands,butwhichshapeourartisticandpopularimaginary(Black
Hole,BigBang,Superstrings,QuantumOscillation);and,ontheother
hand,themultitudeoflifestyleswhichonecannottranslateintoeach
other:allwecandoissecuretheconditionsfortheirtolerant
coexistenceinamulticulturalsociety.Theiconoftoday'ssubjectis
perhapstheproverbialIndiancomputerprogrammerwho,duringtheday,
excelsinhisexpertise,whileintheevening,uponreturninghome,he

litsthecandletothelocalHindudivinityandrespectsthesacredness
ofthecow.
However,onacloserlook,itsoonbecomesapparenthowthisopposition
isdisplacedattheendofPsycho:itisthepsychiatrist,the
representativeofcoldobjectiveknowledge,whospeaksinanengaged,
almostwarmlyhumanwayhisexplanationisfullofpersonaltics,
sympatheticgestures,whileNorman,withdrawnintohisprivateworld,
ispreciselynolongerhimself,buttotallypossessedbyanotherpsychic
entity,themother'sghost.ThisfinalimageofNormanremindsmeofthe
waytheyareshootingsoapoperasinMexico:becauseoftheextremely
tightschedule(thestudiohastoproduceeachdayahalfhour
installmentoftheseries),actorsdonothavetimetolearntheirlines
inadvance,sotheysimplyhavehiddenintheirearsatinyvoice
receiver,andamaninthecabinbehindthesetsimplyreadstothemthe
instructionsonwhattheyaretodo(whatwordstheyaretosay,what
actstheyaretoaccomplish)actorsaretrainedtoenactimmediately,
withnodelay,theseinstructionsThisisNormanattheendofPsycho,
andthisisalsoagoodlessontothoseNewAgerswhoclaimthatwe
shoulddropthesocialmasksandsetfreeourinnermosttrueselves
well,weseethefinalresultinNormanwho,attheendofPsycho,
effectivelyrealizeshistrueSelfandfollowstheoldRimbaud'smotto
fromhislettertoDemeny("Carjeestunautre.Silecuivres'eveille
clairon,iln'yariendesafaute"):IfNormanstartstotalkwiththe
strangevoiceofhismother,it'snoneofhisguilt.ThepriceIhaveto
payinordertobecome"reallymyself,"undividedsubject,istotal
alienation,mybecominganOtherwithregardtomyself:theobstacleto
myfullselfidentityistheveryconditionofmySelfhood.
Anotheraspectofthissameantagonismconcernsarchitecture:onecan
alsoconsiderNormanasthesubjectsplitbetweenthetwohouses,the
modernhorizontalmotelandtheverticalGothicmother'shouse,forever
runningbetweenthetwo,neverfindingaproperplaceofhisown.Inthis
sense,theunheimlichcharacterofthefilm'sendmeansthat,inhisfull
identificationwiththemother,hefinallyfoundhisheim,hishome.In
modernistworkslikePsycho,thissplitstillvisible,whilethemain
goaloftoday'spostmodernarchitectureistoobfuscateit.Sufficeitto
recallthe"NewUrbanism"withitsreturntosmallfamilyhousesinsmall
towns,withfrontporches,recreatingthecozyatmosphereofthelocal
communityclearly,thisisthecaseofarchitectureasideologyatits
purest,providinganimaginary(although"real,"materializedinthe
actualdispositionofhouses)solutiontoarealsocialdeadlockwhich
hasnothingtodowitharchitectureandallwithlatecapitalist
dynamics.Amoreambiguouscaseofthesameantagonismistheworkof
FrankGehrywhyishesopopular,atruecultfigure?Hetakesasthe
basisoneofthetwopolesoftheantagonism,eithertheoldfashioned
familyhouseoramodernistconcreteandglassbuilding,andtheneither
submitsittoakindofcubistanamorphicdistortion(curvedanglesof
wallsandwindows,etc.)orcombinestheoldfamilyhomewithamodernist
supplement,inwhichcase,asFredricJamesonpointedout,thefocal
pointistheplace(theroom)attheintersectionofthetwospaces.In
short,isGehrynotdoinginarchitecturewhattheCaduveoIndians(in
LeviStrauss'magnificentdescriptionfromhisLestristestropiques)
weretryingtoachievewiththeirtattooedfaces:toresolvethrougha
symbolicacttherealofasocialantagonismbyconstructingautopian
solution,amediationbetweentheopposites?Sohereismyfinal

hypothesis:iftheBatesMotelweretobebuiltbyGehry,directly
combiningtheoldmother'shouseandtheflatmodernmotelintoanew
hybridentity,therewouldhavebeennoneedforNormantokillhis
victims,sincehewouldhavebeenrelievedoftheunbearabletensionthat
compelshimtorunbetweenthetwoplaceshewouldhaveathirdplace
ofmediationbetweenthetwoextremes.

[]

1. During the public discussion at the Hitchcock Centennary Conference


organized by NYU, October 12-17 1999. back up
2. See Sigmund Freud, "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality In a
Woman," The Pelican Freud Library, Volime 9: Case Histories II,
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1979, p. 389. back up
3. For a more detailed account of this Hitchcockian sinthom, see Slavoj
Zizek, ed., Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were
Afraid to Ask Hitchcock), London: Verso Books 1993. back up
4. Svetlana Alliluyeva, Twenty Letters To a Friend, New York: Simon and
Schuster 1967, p. 183. back up
5. Post-Theory, David Bordwell and Noel Carroll, eds., Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press 1996. back up
6. Jacques Lacan, The Seminar, Book I: Freud's Papers o Technique, New
York: Norton 1988, p. 215. I rely here on Miran Bozovic, "The Man Behind
His Own Retina," in Slavoj Zizek, ed., Everything You Always Wanted to
Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock). back up
7. See the fascinating report in Thomas Schatz, The Genius of the System,
New York: Hold and Co. 1996, p. 393-403. back up
8. See Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life, New York: Norton 1989. back up
9. See Virtual History, edited by Niall Ferguson, London: MacMillan
1997. back up
10. Perhaps the greatest achievement of van Sant's remake is the scene of
final credits, which follows the shot that ends Hitchcock's film and goes
on for long minutes - a continuous crane shot showing what goes on around
the car being dragged out of the swamp, the bored policemen around the
towing truck, all this accompanied with a soft guitar repeating in an
improvised way the main motif of Herrmann's score - this feature
supplements the film with the unique touch of the 90's. back up
11. Hitchcock's obsession with cleanness is well-known: in an interview,
he boasted that he always leaves the restroom so clean that no one would
have guessed, upon inspecting it, that he was there before This
obsession also accounts for the obvious pleasure-in-disgust Hitchcock
finds in the small filthy details that characterize the Cuban mission in
Harlem in Topaz, like the official diplomatic document stained by the
grease from a sandwich. back up
12. Is this sudden appearance not similar to Wagner's Tristan? Towards
the very end of the opera, after Triton's death, Solder's arrival and
plunging into the death trance, the break occurs with the arrival of
another, second, ship, when the slow progress all of a sudden accelerates
in an almost comic way - in 5 minutes more events happen than in all the
previous opera (fight, Melt and Kurwenal die) - similar to Verdi's Il
Trovatore, where in the last 2 minutes a whole package of things happen.
Such unexpected intrusions just before the ending are crucial for the
reading of the underlying tensions of a narrative. back up

13. When Lesley Brill claims that in Under Capricorn is a kind of


underworld creature trying to drag Ingrid Bergman back into hell, one is
tempted to say that the nun which appears at the very end of Vertigo
belongs to the same evil netherworld - the paradox being, of course, that
is a NUN, a woman of God, who embodies the force of Evil that drags the
subject down and prevents her salvation. back up
14. Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock, New York: Simon and Schuster 1985, p.
257. back up
15. It's similar with the saliva: as we all know, although we can without
problem swallow our own saliva, we find it extremely repulsive to swallow
again a saliva which was spit out of our body - again a case of violating
the Inside/Outside frontier. back up
16. He liked to boast that after he leaves the toilet, no one could, upon
inspecting it, guess that someone was there using it. back up
17. I owe this observation to Boris Groys, Koeln. back up

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