Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (Movie Review)

 For the first movie review of the year, I thought I would go with a movie by one of my favorite directors. Alfred Hitchcock was a cinematic genius and an auteur. He was born in 1899 and directed over (according to one source) 66 movies, made 2 TV shows, and appeared several books. The first Hitchcock movie I will review here (the first of many I’m sure!) is the 1946 movie starring Cary Grant, Ingred Bergman, and Claud Rains titled Notorious!

Cary Grant’s character in this movie is a CIA agent by the name of T.R. Devlin. To quote Hitchcock from a radio interview on this movie, 
“his [Devlin’s] job is to get the girl in bed with the other man.” 
Essentially, the girl (aka Alicia Huberman played by Ingred Bergman) is supposed to sleep with Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains). Of course, Devlin and Alica actually love each other. So as Hitchock commented, “It’s an ironic thing, really.”

Cary Grant was in a total of four Hitchcock movies in his carrier (most famous of which is “North by Northwest”). I have actually talked about Grant before for his role in Arsenic and Old Lace. Devlin is very different from Mortimer Brewster in that Devlin is very serious. He does not show any emotion through his body. It is his actions which really shows how he feels about Alicia which really counts. Those Casablanca fans might recognize Ingred Bergman as the same actress who played llsa Lund. In contrast to Grant’s role, Bergman’s role as Alica Huberman shows her emotions through his words. Her lines are the most moving through the whole movie. Claude Rains is perhaps best known as the loony Invisible man and Senator Joseph Harrison Paine from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Interestingly, Claude Rains was also part of the cast of Casablanca. His role is very entertaining and I sort of feel sorry for him in the end (no spoilers…).

You can’t talk about an Alfred Hitchcock Film without mentioning the MacGuffin of the film. What is a MacGuffin you ask? Well, lets quote the master himself on the subject,
“It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says "What's that package up there in the baggage rack?", and the other answers "Oh, that's a McGuffin". The first one asks "What's a McGuffin?". "Well", the other man says, "It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands". The first man says "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands", and the other one answers "Well, then that's no McGuffin!". So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.”
In other words, a MacGuffin is a "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction" (to quote Wikipedia). This movies McGuffin (or MacGuffin…the spelling doesn’t matter) is uranium. Hitchcock’s timing could not be greater as a Atom Bomb had just been on Japan and of course uranium is a key element in the making of an Atom bomb—something the Nazis in real life would be interested in.

Cinematic Notes
Hitchcock is famous for his cinematic genius. At the very beginning of this film when Alica has a hangover, the camera twists and turns not unlike the human eye (thus giving you the impression of being in her shoes). Hitchcock also used a hanging camera (which he also used on Psycho) to give wonderful shots which you couldn’t get normally. There are so many wonderful cinematic notes when talking about Hitchcock I really just advice you to watch one and you can figure it out.

This is a wonderful movie. It cost 2 million to make but it collected over 8 million in profits, so I would say this is a successful movie. It is a wonderful love story if you are interested in that and is most definitely a classic. Check it out if you like Hitchcock!

“There's nothing like a love song to give you a good laugh,”
--Ingrid Bergman (as Alicia Huberman in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious 1946 RKO Radio Pictures)

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