Thursday, October 19, 2017


Notorious (1946) recently revived as part of Village East’s Hitchcocktober Festival is no Vertigo (1958) or North By Northwest (1959). Though it’s set in Rio, it partakes of none of the director’s signature explorations of place. There's no crop duster or bell tower scene; though it's got espionage, there’s no equivalent of the suspenseful triumph of good over evil on the face of Mount Rushmore. Actually Notorious is more a love story than a thriller with the suspense deriving from the testing of love. Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a convicted spy tests the love of the American agent, Devlin (Cary Grant). The German criminal, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), tests Alicia and Sebastian’s mother (Leopoldine Konstantin) tests her son. The story is really the Boys From Brazil, to the extent that it deals with escaped Nazis in Latin America, and a Wagnerian Liebestod haunts the film from the beginning in the form of alcoholism that almost gets Alicia and Devlin killed in a wild car ride. Later, it takes the form of Alicia’s poisoning which also recalls Romeo and Juliet. In both cases toxins cloud the perceptions of Hitchcock’s heroine and turn the world upside down. But the movie is fundamentally an open and shut case, very much like the door that shuts behind the doomed Sebastian in the finale.

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