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Notorious

August 9, 2016

Notorious (1946)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Actors: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains

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Synopsis: Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), daughter of a convicted Nazi operative in the US, is recruited by T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate a suspected Nazi ring in Rio de Janeiro.

Review: This moderate conspiracy thriller doesn’t carry the cine-psychological virtuosity of Alfred Hitchock’s best work but it still showcases his inimitable ability to infuse what is essentially hokum material with a superior, gothic feel.

As ever with Hitchcock, there’s the ingenious way he communicates story as much through framing and editing over mere exposition. One instructive example of this storytelling brio is in the opening courtroom scene where the indictment of Alicia’s Nazi father is communicated. Instead of it featuring just a conventional head-on shot of the defendant and associated players in the courtroom, the scene is shot through a gap in the door, implying someone’s reception and processing of that vista (we later assume it’s Cary Grant’s government agent) is as important as the dialogue itself.

While not being in the upper echelon of the Hitchock canon, it’s unquestionably one of the finest hours of its main star, Ingrid Bergman. In a role that was made for her transnational allure/ambiguity, she owns the complex trajectory of her character’s arc from the dissolute playgirl of the film’s opening, to the clever pawn amid all the male characters’ scheming in the middle stretch, to the more conventionally romantic figure who (huge spoiler alert) requires rescuing by Grant at the end. Clad in some gorgeous outfits by the incomparable costume designer, Edith Head, Bergman’s luminosity is probably the most enduring legacy of this classy little number from Hollywood’s golden age. (August 2016)

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