Monday, October 29, 2012

Notorious 1946

If a film student asked me to recommend a movie for them to watch to learn the rudiments of movie making I would not hesitate to tell them to watch this classic Alfred Hitchcock film. Everything about this mo vie, which by the way I saw again the other night for maybe the 5th time is perfection, from the great Ben Hecht script, to the cinematography and of course Hitchcock’s direction and the superb performances by Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman both of whom were at the peak of their beauty and talent. The plot is typical Hitchcock that touches on themes that have occupied him for pretty much his entire impressive career, and I’ll try to give away as little of the story as I can so that first time viewers of the film can feast on it without knowing too much about the plot. The story involves espionage and the efforts of a secret agency of the United States (think O.S.S. ) to find out what a rogue group of Nazi’s are up to in Rio de Janeiro. Its just after the war and this band of nasty Nazi’s is headed by Claude Rains (brilliant and Oscar nominated) who lives in a very large mansion with his mother from hell played with relish by Leopoldine Konstatin who gives a marvelous scary performance and is the first of Hitchcock’s long list of mommy horrors. Grant plays an agent who must get Ingrid Bergman to work with them to find out what the Nazi’s are up to and he pushes her to come into the mix because of her family ties, you see her father was a Nazi spy who she hated and also at one time she had Rains eating out of the palm of her hand and falling madly in love with her. Bergman of course is no Nazi but she is one hell of a play girl and a nasty drunk (in the original story that the film is based on she was actually a prostitute) who loves a good time and makes no bones about it. Here is Madonna Bergman who just a year earlier was playing a nun in The Bells of St. Mary and is now playing against type a bad girl (she also played another bad girl in 1946 in Saratoga Trunk). In real life this Madonna was a few years away from playing to some a real life bad girl, cast away for more than a decade by Hollywood for her life choices but that’s another story. Grant is also playing against type oh he’s still suave and debonair but he’s also a cold son of a bitch who tosses Bergman left and right to make sure she plays by his rules. The film has several famous sequences including the long erotic kissing scene between Bergman and Grant that begins on a balcony overlooking a process shot Rio and moves inside to answer a ringing phone, the incredible crane tracking shot that begins high above an elegant party and then swoops down to an important key prop and the very taunt and suspenseful wine cellar scene with the Hitchcockian MacGuffin sitting on a shelf. In the end of course Grant finally becomes Cary and Bergman Ingrid and this very entertaining and smooth romantic thriller comes to a satisfying end. Also with the always terrific Louis Calhern as the laid back boss of Grant’s and the complex cinematography is by Ted Tetzlaff . One of the ten best films of 1946.


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