The legacy of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies is their generosity. There’s so much beneath the usual considerations of plot, pace, and performance that each encounter erases the ones before. All my repeat viewings have accumulated into a rich familiarity but never complete or complacent knowledge. Hitchcock allows for dozens of interpretations and a diversity of devotion: Lots of people adore these movies but not always in the same way or for the same reasons. The richest of them – “Suspicion,” “Notorious,” “Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” “The Birds,” “Marnie” – are like cities: There’s always some side street, some building, some statue you’ve never noticed or you’ve noticed but have never appreciated. They’re like planets, too: The centers are as complex as what’s on the surface.
This is all a long way of saying that the best way to better understand the man who made those and dozens of other movies is simply to see them. There’s no case to be made for a mangy shortcut like “Hitchcock.” It’s all surface and formula. The movie takes Stephen Rebello’s invaluable 1990 account of the making of Hitchcock’s biggest hit, 1960’s “Psycho,” and implodes by trying to turn the book into camp. Anthony Hopkins plays the director as a creepy parade float, obsessed with his female leads and handy with a double entendre. (“You may call me ‘Hitch,’” he says, “hold the ’cock.’”)