Archive for December, 2012


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. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

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.

THE GOOD

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.

 Image

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.

Image

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.

Image 

THE BAD

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.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo about an hour into the film, ordering a drink at the bar.

 Image

FINAL THOUGHTS
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. 

Image Image Image Image Image

The 30th film Hitchcock directed was the intriguingly titled Spellbound, however rather disappointingly it does not involve witches (as you would think from the title) but rather explored the subject of psychoanalysis.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Ingrid Bergman plays Dr. Constance Petersen, a lonely psychoanalyst working in a mental hospital, when her new boss (Gregory Peck) arrives and acts in a strange manner it does not take her long to realise he is not who he says he is. This leads to a series of discoveries as the two leads go on the run in attempt to clear his name and discover who he really is.

THE GOOD

The main thing this film is famed for is the dream sequence and it is easy to see why. The dream sequence created by famous surrealist artist Salvador Dali is incredible to watch as a sequence of strange imagery that really helps create a dream-like world. The sequence is only two minutes long in the final cut of the film however it was originally planned to be 20 mins and I am going to endeavor to find this extended version.

 Image

The performances of both lead characters are some of the best I have seen in a Hitchcock film, Bergman is (as always) impeccable as the hard-working doctor tied down to her job. However it is Peck who really makes this film portraying a man who doesn’t know who he is perfectly in a truly believable performance.

There are a few moments in this film that are extremely Hitchcockian and deserve a mention. Firstly the use of notes is incredibly important in this film as it allows for visual storytelling. However it the close-up of important objects that really bring this film to life; the point-of-view shots of a glass of milk being drunk and also of a gun being fired look incredibly realistic (especially the gun and hand which had to be specially made giant models to get the perspectives right).

 Image

THE BAD
The bad points in this film feel is the same as every week in that the characters fall in love near instantly and this is so unbelievably cheesy that it just destroys the movie. 

The ending also felt a little forced with the dream sequence suddenly making complete sense and everything being explained in a very roundabout scene. But this was no real issue overall.

 

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo about 40 minutes in leaving a hotel carrying a violin.

Image

FINAL THOUGHTS

Spellbound is a good film throughout without ever really coming across a great. Therefore it must be awarded 4 Hitchstars.

Image Image Image Image

Lifeboat is the first Hitchcock film in this challenge to be set in one location. This is something that excited me as both Rope and Rear Window are two of my favourite Hitchcock films and these also take place in one claustrophobic environment.

WHAT HAPPENED?

After a German U-Boat bombs their ship, a group of survivors find each other on a lifeboar. They also rescue a German Captain who is the only person who knows how to navigate the boat. Can they trust the Nazi to lead them to safety or is he simply sailing them towards the enemy. As the survivors debate this the film leads to a fantastically thrilling ending. 

THE GOOD

The film is very good for tension as the small area of the Lifeboat does not allow characters space to stay out of frame for very long and thus the space is cluttered with people near constantly. This gives the film a very claustrophobic feel as the characters are penned in. The tension is built well throughout the film starting with small arguments and slowly rising as hunger,  thirst and tiredness take their toll on each character.

Image

Another factor that adds a lot to the film is the constant moving of the set, throughout the entire film the boat is constantly shaking forward and back. This is rather unsettling but adds a lot to the impact of the film. At moments of high tension the boat rocks adding more effect to what is going on.

Image 

THE BAD
One of the major problems I had with this film is that there was no real protagonist; no likeable character to back throughout the film. Each survivor was built up as a person who has good characteristics and bad ones; which obviously was intended to add realism to the film. However the lack of a main character hindered the film progress particularly towards the end when I felt as if I should be caring for the characters when I really wasn’t.

Another problem with the film is the ending, the ending is rather good and for the time (the film being in essence a propaganda piece) it was a success. However I feel that ending could have been so much more and if this film were ever remade (God forbid) the ending is one aspect that could be improved greatly.  

 CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock appears in an advert for a weight loss pill called ‘Reduco’, both the before and after pictures are actually Hitchcock as prior to filming he had just been on a diet.

Image

FINAL THOUGHTS

Lifeboat is a tense claustrophobic film which is hugely successful for what it is and deserves more acclaim than perhaps it gets from Hitchcock fans, however the lack of a character to back is a huge hindrance and therefore I award it 4 Hitch’s. 

Image Image Image Image

This weeks film is Shadow of a Doubt, a film which Hitchcock constantly claimed to be his favourite of his own work. This is something which obviously raised the bar when going into watching the film and I can’t help but feel disappointed afterwards. 

WHAT HAPPENED?
‘Rich‘ Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) decides to visit his quiet, average family in the middle of nowhere. It isn’t long before his niece (Teresa Wright) – who is also named Charlie after him – become suspicious of his motives for visiting them, particularly his reluctance to converse with two harmless men and refusal to have his photo taken.

THE GOOD

The film builds well, it is a slow, tense film in which nothing happens yet it does at the same time, if that makes sense. In other words the film is quite dialogue heavy, with little action. This however leads to an extreme tenseness throughout the film in scenes which would not necessarily seem dramatic, for example Young Charlie racing to the library before its closed.

Image

The film is also an exquisite example of visual storytelling, with key plot points told visually through the use of a newspaper and clever camera movements.

 Image

The film is also good in the sense that it keeps you on the edge as you try to remember figure out who the good guy is and who is evil. This balance is perfectly crafted as all characters seem to sway in one direction then the other; keeping the audience on their toes without them becoming bored. It is this that is the true mastery of the film and something which makes me see why Hitchcock preferred this from all his work.

THE BAD

The films ending is again disappointing and I have noticed this is a common feature of Hitchcock films, the endings are either amazing or ridiculously bad. Unfortunately this film falls into the latter, with events taking a very unforeseen twist.

The film also has many moments which come across as ‘cheesy’ for example a scene where Young Charlie is courted seems ridiculous; this however is due to the modern perceptions of romance against those of the time in which the film was made and therefore shouldn’t really be a factor on which the film is judged. Saying this however it did hinder my enjoyment of the film and thus is mentioned.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a rather long cameo in the film, playing cards on the train. At the end of his cameo there is a close-up on the cards revealing he is holding the entire suit of spades. Oh Hitch, you mad man.

 ImageImage

FINAL THOUGHTS

Shadow of a Doubt is a film I enjoyed on the whole but somehow didn’t. I think this is due to the high expectations to which it was set, knowing that Hitchcock liked this film more than say a masterpiece such as Rear Window made me expect something very special or at least very Hitchcockian. This film however contains no moments of true cinematic magic and nothing truly memorable. Therefore it can be awarded only 4 Hitchs. 

Image Image Image Image