Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Notorious is considered by many to be Hitchcock’s best film from the 40s, and while I can’t quite agree with that in a world where Shadow of a Doubt exists, it’s certainly in his Top 2 from the decade. It’s a bit out of the ordinary for him in that it’s as much a romance as it is a thriller, something I don’t think he really tried again until Marnie (no, Vertigo does not count, and you are wrong for thinking that it might).
The film stars Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant as a young lady whose father was just convicted for being a Nazi spy and the federal agent who brings her in to work undercover and expose further Nazi plots. She falls for him pretty much instantly, but he is unfortunately enough of a company man that when his superiors want her to seduce a Nazi operative in Brazil (Claude Rains, somewhat more visible here than in his most famous role) he all but pushes her into the Nazi’s arms.

It’s an interesting film, both visually and story-wise. Hitchcock shows here that he was ever-improving as a visual artist, almost blending the crazed visuals of Spellbound with the lavish grace of Rebecca (making me kind of want to retroactively knock a star off of my Spellbound review in the process). The acting, something that’s normally a bit touchy with Hitchcock, is in fine form here, with all three leads really going the extra mile to make the film work (indeed, Rains was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role, losing to a double amputee). The plot feels like one of his 30s spy thrillers strained through the mentality of American brilliance. We’ve got everything you need for a classic movie, from uranium to poisonings to Cary Grant being his usual wonderful bastard self.

I think one of the main benefits of Hitchcock’s career is in how he just made so many, cranking out a movie pretty much every year, that people are able to completely forget about his underwhelming ones like Jamaica Inn or Topaz and just focus on all of his really good ones like this. Compare that with a director like, say, Paul Thomas Anderson, who brings out movies so infrequently that if he ever makes a lousy one it’ll be half a decade before he can try to fix any career damage. I’m not honestly sure where I’m going with this analogy, but I will say that, for however I may grumble about Hitchcock being a bit overrated (seriously, the best director EVER? Come on), I think most directors out there would love to have a movie as good as Notorious on their resume. Though I don’t know how many would be happy to have made such a good movie and then find out the entire thing’s on Youtube.

Rating: *** ½

No comments: