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75 Notorious 
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Post Re: 75 Notorious
Hitchcock's Notorious is often cited as the most representative film of the director's distinct style. I've watched the film twice in the past few days, and I've been seeking out and reading whatever I can. Here are 2 Criterion essays on the film:

Those Criterion essays do an excellent job of explaining exactly what is so impressive about this film. Hitchcock's talents are on full display. The film is shot with an artistry that is almost unmatched in today's films. There are at least 2 signature scenes/shots in the film - the ending Odessa Steps homage and the crane shot at the beginning of the party that ends with a close up on the key. When speaking about individual Hitchcock scenes, these are both frequently mentioned as among his best. I'll add to those the final shot of the film, where Claude Rains has to walk back into his own home, doomed to his fate. The symmetry of the shot, and the way he gets smaller as he walks farther away and into the house/prison has lingered in my brain since I first saw it.

The film is very much concerned with keeping up appearances. The characters in the film are all pretending to be something they aren't in order to get what they want. The plot is perfect for Hitchcock's style because it allows for ample amount of suspense. The difference here, as the essays point out, is an undercurrent story that explores human relationships. The reason the film can resonate is because it has a human element absent from many of Hitchcock's greatest films (the happy ending may have something to do with this as well). Symbolism is present throughout the film, as there are distinct alcohol and key motifs used to relay how emotionally fragile many of the films characters are (especially Bergman).

Aside from the happy ending, I agree that this film is an excellent representation of Hitchcock's overall style. The film is stylish, while still maintaining its substance. And of course, there's a MacGuffin. I wouldn't call this my favorite Hitchcock film (I'd actually put it 5th or 6th), but it's a true classic and a great starting place for anyone just getting in to the director.

After reading over this post I realize its a bit rambling and disjointed. Oh well.

Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:05 pm
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Post Re: 75 Notorious

This film deserves its place in the top 100. It was here that Hitchcock perfected his style, tone, and his ability to compose a scene. Motivations are always clear, tension is always present, and yet there remains an exciting element of intrigue. It is easy to predict what will happen next, but you never lose interest, as Hitchcock creates a sense of doubt. Without going into details, Notorious was paramount to developing tension through cinematography.

Like Pete said, Notorious is character driven, which is unusual for Hitchcock. His films generally focus around what happens when his characters get mixed up in something bigger than them, usually some kind of plot. I suppose that is present here as well, but it is kept in the background. For instance, in Vertigo, we are more interested in discovering the meaning behind Madeleine's behavior than we are about Scottie's guilty conscience. In North by Northwest, Cary Grant's character is discovering the conspiracy just as we are. But Notorious is all about the love triangle and the suspense stems from breaking trust.

As a result of being character driven, Notorious really showcases its actors. Ingrid Bergman shows incredible range, but is a bit over the top at times. Watching Cary Grant here was like watching Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind... his subtle brooding is unexpected. Appreciated, but unexpected. It is this element of his character that drives the staircase sequence: he finally breaks his silence and shows an intensity that finally wraps the story together. Claude Rains is superb here. If it weren't for his nuance and passion, the film would feel hollow.

Yet for all this film does well, it is undermined by something very simple. I have a problem with many films from the 1930s through the 1950s and the way they treat budding romance. It is totally implausible. How many movies have you seen where the leads go from passive hostility to passionate embrace in under 15 minutes? Am I the only one who has a problem with this? I've always been tempted to pass this off as a result of the culture of the time, but I think that's just a cop-out. It doesn't make sense why the two romantic leads should be in love based purely on physical proximity. Now, in some films, this isn't a major issue; but in Notorious it is the whole premise of the film. Without their relationship, this would be a simple political drama. Perhaps it would have worked better if Grant and Bergman's characters were established as estranged lovers from the beginning who rekindle their romance after collaborating against the Nazis. Overall, this is an unforgivable blemish in an otherwise spotless film.


Mon May 14, 2012 3:41 pm
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