This Christmas week I watched Notorious which is another Hitchcock film I knew little about other than that it was amongst his highest rated. The film turned to be excellent and one of the best films I have seen in this challenge.
Ingrid Bergman plays a young lady whose father has recently been jailed for being a German spy during the war. She is then recruited by the charming Mr. Devlin (Cary Grant) to become a undercover agent in Brazil. After falling in love with Grant, Bergman finds that her new job requires her to marry another man (Claude Rains), this leads to lots of tension over everything from whether Rains will discover who Bergman is to whether there is enough champagne to cater for a party. The overall result is fantastic.
Much of the film is good but the first thing that should be highlighted is the performances of the three leads. All three are perfectly cast and seem to pull off their characters to perfection, Bergman’s fear towards the end of the film is astounding.
The film is also technically great with some interesting camera-work highlighting the central themes of the film. One great shot is a moving shot from Bergman’s point-of-view which follows Grant as he approaches her on the bed and twists wonderfully framing Grant upside down and putting the audience truly in Bergman’s position.
Further than this there are several very Hithcockian moments, the use of close-ups on important objects (a key, some wine) is used throughout however it a sequence in which Bergman falls ill that truly stands out. As she tries to leave the room the faces of the other characters become out-of-focus shadows which is very effective. This technique is something that Hitchcock used in his earliest films such as The Ring and Downhill. However this film marks the first time in which the effect is truly motivated and fits in with the content.
It is also worth noting that this film has an incredible kissing sequence between Grant and Bergman which was truly astounding, not for its great blocking, but for the fact that for the first time in this challenge the love between to characters in the film was actually motivated and the emotion was felt rather than just a cheesy ‘I love you’ it was nice to see characters fall in love with a few scenes dedicated to show just that.
As you can probably tell I am full of praise for this film. It is a true classic and one that is under-appreciated and therefore difficult for me to find faults with. However after some thought I did come up with a minor flaw in that it was the film did not really tie everything together at the end. I would explain more but don’t want to give spoilers as this film is a must watch.
Hitchcock makes a cameo about an hour into the film, ordering a drink at the bar.
Notorious is a classic film that deserves as much recognition as any of Hithcock’s film. It is proper example of how to build tension within film. Therefore I easily award this film 5 Hitch’s.