|Article Type:||Movie review|
|Subject:||Motion pictures (Movie reviews)|
|Author:||Glass, Betty J.|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of International Women's Studies Publisher: Bridgewater State College Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Bridgewater State College ISSN: 1539-8706|
|Issue:||Date: Nov, 2008 Source Volume: 10 Source Issue: 2|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Marion (Motion picture)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Russo-Young, Ry|
Marion (1). Ry Russo-Young, 2005 (Super 8)/2006 (DVD), Helavanna
Productions, New York City, 7 min.
Russo-Young made a fearless choice for her third short film, Marion--a deconstruction of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), "... perhaps the most terrifying film ever made" (Wood 2002:142), "... possibly the single most influential film of the past half century" (Boyd and Palmer, 2006: 13), and among the "... most frequently taught and critically revered films." Moreover, Marion focuses on Psycho's shower sequence, "... one of the most analyzed sequences in all American film" (Williams, 2004: 167, 178). Released two years after Russo-Young's 2003 graduation from Oberlin College, Marion has enjoyed a positive reception, winning the Jury Award for Best Experimental Short at both the 2005 International Chicago Film Festival and the 2006 SXSW Film Festival and winning First Prize at Italy's 2006 Potenza International Film Fest for Best Emerging Vision.
Marion re-presents three scenes from Psycho, using three actresses to portray Marion in split screen format, while one actor plays boyfriend Sam Loomis in all three versions, and one actor plays the presumed Norman/Mother attacker in all three shower scenes. The filmmaker's goal was to deconstruct conventional narrative structures. Given the time constraint alone, vast amounts of Hitchcock's background information are eliminated from Marion's stark storylines. Thus, viewers are left to their own devices concerning the identity and motivations of the mysterious killer who attacks all three Marions. Missing, too, is the signature Bernard Hermann score so effectively intertwined with Psycho's imagery. (Universal's 1999 Collector's Edition DVD of Psycho includes "The Shower Scene with and without music" and "The Shower Scene's Storyboards by Saul Bass" among its Special Features.)
Like Psycho, Marion is filmed in black and white. Its first scene is the hotel tryst, with original dialogue from Psycho including Marion's plea for marriage and Sam's speculation that she is considering breaking off their relationship. Neither location nor date is provided. Deconstruction begins with two of the Marions dressed in black lingerie and a Hispanic woman cast as Marion #3 (right-hand screen). Moreover, the couples' interactions are different. Scene 2 depicts Marion packing in her bedroom, already fully clothed. We do not know what color lingerie any of them now wear. Marion #1 (left-hand screen) leaves behind the unexplained envelope of cash, while Marions #2 (center screen) and #3 pack the cash in their suitcases, rather than the large handbag employed in Psycho.
Scene 3, the shower sequence, begins with each Marion entering the shower stall and being attacked by an unidentified, knife-wielding intruder. The Hispanic Marion #3 soon succumbs to the assault, as in the original Psycho. Marion #1, however, manages to wrest the knife from her attacker and kill him with it. She then leaves her shower and rescues Marion #2 by killing her attacker. Marion #1 then leaves Marion #2 without saying anything and goes to Marion #3's shower stall. While Marion #1 is repositioning Marion #3's body, Marion #2 enters and kills her, then steps past the two dead Marions to stand inside the shower stall, dropping the knife.
Needless to say, these seven minutes can be mined as a mother lode (pun intended) for classroom discussions and film critique assignments, because viewers cannot help bringing along the cultural baggage of 48 years of Psycho's presence in film history. Was Marion #1 going to start over somewhere else, without Sam and without the money? What was the relationship between the three Marions? Was Sam three-timing the Marions? Given Russo-Young's background as the child of a lesbian couple, what autobiographical strands (so often a part of Hitchcockian criticism) can be woven into the interactions between the Marions? Is homophobia a factor in the initial attacks by the unidentified assailant? Does Marion #2 mistakenly assume Marion #1 killed Marion #3? In surviving her 'punishment' for her sexual choices, has Marion #2 successfully overturned the patriarchal goal of men's control of women?
Unlike Psycho, Marion does not provide the audience with an alternative character for transference of sympathy and identification. At best, a viewer can latch onto one of the three Marions during the first or second scenes, only to experience consternation while trying to comprehend a specific Marion's actions and fate in scene 3. Is Marion #2, the sole survivor, normal? Indeed, as film critic Robin Wood observed about Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), Marion leaves its viewers with a "... sense of bewildered desolation, [a] sense of helplessness, ... [w]e are stunned, the bottom is knocked out of the world, we cannot at all see where the film is going, what possible sequel this event can have: all is chaos" (Wood 2002:117).
Marion enhances the gender shock Hitchcock introduced with Psycho, while capturing the essence of deconstruction with the unanticipated outcomes of the three Marions' decisions and actions. Russo-Young's Marion #2 embodies the "final girl" of Carol J. Clover's feminist analysis of slasher films, a sub-genre launched by Psycho (Clover, 1992). Only remnants of Hitchcock's motifs appear in Marion, but Marion's information gaps invite informed debate, bringing contemporary awareness of gender studies and a generation of feminist theory to an analysis of the weltanschauung depicted in Psycho.
Repackaged by Indiepix in 2007 for educational audiences, the accompanying Special Features, including a "Making of Marion" documentary and an interview with Oberlin College professor Ryan Brown, were not seen by the reviewer.
Clover, C. J. (1992). Men, Women and Chain Saws. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Williams, L. 2004. "Discipline and Fun: Psycho and Postmodern Cinema," in Kolker, R., ed. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wood, R. 2002. Hitchcock's Films Revisited. New York: Columbia University Press.
Reviewed by Betty J. Glass (2)
(1) This short film is also available through Indiepix Films as an educational DVD edition, which includes Special Features (2007; $200.00).
(2) Betty J. Glass is an Associate Professor of Information Technology/Libraries at the Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno. She is a member of the University's Women's Studies Advisory Board and is the Libraries' Women's Studies Subject Specialist. She is a Past Chair of the Women's Studies Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
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