Posts Tagged ‘Hitchcock’

Notorious (1946) ***** Restoration

Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock; Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Leopoldine Constantin; USA 1946, 142 min. 

International espionage, romance and intrigue coalesce to make Notorious one of Hitchcock’s most unsettling thrillers. Cary Grant plays a perverse American agent who pushes the daughter of a tragic German spy into the bed of a Nazi ring leader. She goes along with the plan because she is in love with him. And he doubts her love because she goes along with his dreadful plan.

Devlin (Grant) is a debonair agent working for the US-government in post war 1946. The Nazis are still lurking in the toxic undergrowth and Devlin is instructing Bergman’s beautiful but emotionally broken Alicia Huberman how to  infiltrate their midst. Devlin falls for her, but their ‘honeymoon’ in Rio comes to an abrupt end when Nazi ring leader Alexander Sebastian (Rains) turns out be a willing victim of a honey trap. Sebastian is an old friend of Alicia’s father, who committed suicide after being convicted of espionage. Despite their great age difference – the foolish old man has already been rejected by Alicia during the war – he makes another bid for her affections and she acquiesces disillusioned by a string of love with dashing but unsuitable men (just like Eva-Maria Saint in North by Northwest). Devlin and Sebastian are lost souls – emotionally immature, they obey their super-egos: and Devlin is in awe of his older superiors, all father figures; whereas Sebastian is under the cosh of his dominating mother (Constantin), who is jealous of all the women he meets. Devlin and Sebastian are equally jealous of each other, and it nearly ruins Devlin’s plan. But after he finds out that the Nazis are amassing uranium, used for developing the atom bomb – Sebastian and his cruel mother become aware of Alicia’s double play. Fully aware that her son would fall victim to his fellow conspirators, if they found out about Alicia, Mrs. Sebastian schemes to kill Alicia slowly with cyanide – a plan that holds weight, Devlin believing – in his blinkered egotism, that Alicia is back on the bottle.

Although Hitchcock directed North by North West as a comedy: Gary Grant’s Thornhill is much more victim than perpetrator, and James Mason is a much cooler antagonist; Claude Rains is just caught in a double-bind between Alicia and his mother. While Eva-Maria Saint is blonde (and therefore much more dangerous), Bergman’s brunette garners more sympathy, Ted Tetzlaff camera caresses her, but shows Devlin as a cold and unkind boss. Notorious is about a perverted ménage-à-trois, North by North West is more a comedy-thriller with a happy-ending. But there is a wide gulf between Grant’s emotionally buttoned up Devlin and playboy Roger Thornhill, who enjoys the dangerous ride – up to a point.  But the Mac Guffins and enemy characters are exchangeable as always. The proof is in the (German) pudding: The American distributors did not want the German audiences to be reminded of their recent past (bad for business), and changed the Nazis into drug lords.

Amusingly, Hitchcock and his screenwriter Ben Hecht were investigated for years by the FBI simply because they did not believe that the duo actually made up the uranium story: Notorious was shot before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In real life, the original producer David O. Selznick dumped the whole project for a mere 800 000 Dollar on RKO – who made a handsome profit with box-office receipts well over eight million; a profit of 237 Million $ in today’s money.





Vertigo (1957) Remastered *****

Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock; Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara del Geddes, Tom Helmore; USA 1957, 128 min.

VERTIGO is based on The Living and the Dead by the French duo Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac set in France in the 1940s. Henry-Georges Clouzot had adapted their previous novel for Les Diaboliques, but Hitchcock was unhappy with Alec Coppel’s original script and asked the San Francisco based Samuel Taylor for a re-write.

Filming took place between September and Christmas 1957, the 1958 summer release of Vertigo was either a critical or box-office success – and Francois Truffaut gave it just six pages (out of 300) in his ‘Definitive Study’ Of Hitchcock.

James Stewart plays police officer John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson who is plagued by agoraphobia after an accident that kills a fellow officer. Even his artist girlfriend Midge Wood (del Geddes), cannot seem to get through to him after the tragedy, then an old school, ship owner Gavin Elster (Helmore) asks him to keep an eye on his wife Madeleine (Novak), who is suicidal, and believes she is a re-incarnation of Charlotta Valdes, who committed suicide in 1857 aged 26. Elster reveals to Scottie that, unbeknown to his wife, Madeleine is Charlotta’s great-grand daughter. Scottie starts following Madeleine, and saves her from drowning near the Golden Gate Bridge. The two fall in love, and afterwards drive together to Muir Woods, Cypresse Point and finally the missionary of San Juan Bautista, where Madeleine confesses  love for Scottie, before climbing the steeple whence she falls to her death, Scottie unable to save her due to his phobia. 

Scottie becomes clinically depressed and Midge visits him during his confinement but spoils everything painting a garish portrait of herself as Charlotta Valdes; the real painting hanging in the Legion of Honour Museum, which Scottie visits regularly. Despairing, he meets the shop assistant Judy Barton from Salina, Kansas, who is a brunette, but resembles Madeleine, who was a blonde, eerily. Scottie is trying to remake Judy into Madeleine, but stumbles on a deadly secret: Elster has used him, and it was the real Madeleine Elster, who got killed at the missionary. Scottie drags Judy to San Juan Bautista to make her confess, but ends up losing her a second time.

Hitchcock regulars DoP Robert Burks, editor George Tomasini and particularly composer Bernhard Herrmann make Vertigo a standout success and his most mature masterpiece. The director had cast Vera Miles in the leading role, but to his annoyance, she got pregnant. Whilst Kim Novak brilliantly fills her shoes, Hitchcock told her on the first day of shooting that he would not tolerate her “pre-conceived ideas”. 

San Francisco provides an eerie backcloth to this alienating drama, deeply Anti-Proustian in its conception, maintaining that memory is free and floods back in every detail. Here Hitchcock sees memory as just a distortion: however hard Scottie tries to re-invent Madeleine, she remains Judy under the glaring green light of an advertising sign. Vertigo is a double murder, both crimes committed by the most tragic of Hitchcock’s heroes. AS

Park Circus is delighted to announce the Presenting Alfred Hitchcock season with an opportunity to explore Alfred Hitchcock’s signature style in the year that Vertigo celebrates its 60th anniversary. 

Vertigo will screen in a new 4K restoration at the BFI, Southbank and at cinemas across the UK from 13 July. The film will also be released in international territories.

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