dir. alfred hitchcock
“Don’t you need a coat?”
The film “gets a maximum of effect from a minimum of elements…. Of all your pictures, this is the one in which one feels the most perfect correlation between what you are aiming at and what appears on the screen…. To the eye, the ensemble is as perfect as an animated cartoon…” – Truffaut
In high school, I had a teacher that organized a unit on film studies, and I cannot overstate how much it changed my life. It was here that I learned that movies were more than entertainment, a thought that hadn’t really occurred to me before. I learned that every movement (by a character or a camera) has a purpose, whether you realize it immediately or not (and that sometimes the coolest ones take a couple extra sittings, but are well worth the wait). Even more striking to me, though, was that cinema had a language: every single moment speaks a hundred different things, and knowing this sparked the need to learn that language.
Notorious was included in this unit, and is one of the first films I remember ever really thinking about. We watched the climactic scene in class at least twenty times (enough that watching the film now, five years after this first viewing, each word and cut and shot were familiar) and it still gave me goosebumps. Bradley, if you’re reading this, thank you for giving me those first tools in learning how to appreciate this medium as much as I do now, and thank you as well for giving me my first look at Notorious, which has stayed with me all this time.
At last free from David Selznick’s watchful gaze, Alfred Hitchcock was able to make a movie exactly the way he wanted it, and the result is the brilliant Notorious. Cary Grant leads as an agent charged with ensuring Ingrid Bergman’s safety and success as she infiltrates a group of Nazis who have established a base in Rio de Janeiro. The film is of course notable for its stellar cast, but perhaps more so for Hitchcock, who in this film blocks some of the most flawless sequences in his filmography.
“I guess I’m the girl nobody remembers.”
There are so many sequences and motifs and classic Hitchcock things in this film that are worthy of papers all their own. Part of me wants me to talk about these sequences I have in mind, but all of me wants you to just go and watch this film. Like all of Hitchcock’s films, it requires your undivided attention–things tend to fall through the cracks otherwise–but it’s well worth it. Here you see perhaps the finest director of the twentieth century completely in control of his vision, and the result is certainly one of the best pictures he ever directed.
Criterion Spine #137