Another TCM plug

In a previous post, I said that comparing any movie to Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious is equivalent to the highest praise I can give. I meant that statement; I feel that Notorious is one of the most perfect films I have ever seen. Lucky for any of you who haven’t had that privilege, I’m here to alert you that Turner Classic Movies is airing this marvelous piece of work this weekend, fittingly as a part of their ongoing “Essentials” series.

notorious.gifIn Notorious, Ingrid Bergman is Alicia, an American whose father was a spy for the Nazis. Cary Grant’s agent Devlin believes her to be the perfect candidate to do some of her own spy work, by helping him take down a ring of Nazi spies hiding out in Rio de Janeiro. Seems that one of their members, Sebastian (the great Claude Rains), was once in love with her, and Alicia has a reputation for promiscuity that makes Devlin assume she won’t mind taking advantage of that fact. But as Devlin gets to know Alicia, and they come nearer unraveling the Nazis’ plans, he finds himself both falling in love with her and angry at her for what she has agreed to do, even though it was he who asked her in the first place.

Bergman and Grant both give performances among the best of their impressive careers. The dialogue is such that much of the communication between them takes place in subtext: true intentions veiled, feelings of love hidden in insults. They play it so well that at any moment there is never any question what they are really talking about. The famous sequence in which they repeatedly start and stop kissing while having a conversation, designed that way to get around censorship rules that limited the length of on-screen kisses, but serving the characters’ relationship perfectly anyway, is still dazzling 61 years later.

Hitchcock and his screenwriter, the legendary Ben Hecht, constructed the most satisfying kind of movie: one in which the final scenes bring the plot lines together in an ingenious way, and the characters have no choice but to act exactly as they do and meet their fates. The typically brilliant cinematography enhances every moment of suspense; the closing image is rightly one of the most famous in cinema.

Set your recorder for tomorrow night at 5:00 Pacific time. TCM is using this movie to kick off a whole night of films starring Claude Rains. If you are one of those baffling souls who has still never seen Casablanca (there, he is the corrupt police captain who utters such immortal lines as “Round up the usual suspects!”), it’s on immediately following Notorious. Seize the opportunity.


1 Response to “Another TCM plug”

  1. 1 Becca December 7, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    This screenshot (×768.jpg) represents the scene that is the reason I get tense when film characters go into wine cellars. It is a very specific feeling, one that I’m sure could be captured in one single made-up German word, like schadenoenokellerphobia, perhaps. But there is just so much weight and importance on those bottles of wine, it’s just too much pressure! Perhaps Hans Blix didn’t think to look for the proof of WMDs in Saddam’s wine cellars, and that is why we are losing the Iraq war. Yes. That is why.

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