Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946)

Notorious

Sure it is debatable whether or not Hitchcock’s Notorious is a war movie. Let’s say it has a war theme, although a very faint one. I’m fond of Hitchcock movies and since I have a big collection, I thought I’ll re-watch this one.

Alicia Huberman’s (Ingrid Bergman) German father has been convicted for treason which leads to Alicia’s heavy drinking and affairs with various men. FBI agent Devlin (Cary Grant) is sent to recruit her for a delicate job. She’s to fly to Brazil and get access to the house of Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) who seems to be the head of a group of suspicious Nazis. Since Sebastian has always been in love with Alicia it should be easy for her to approach him.

At first it isn’t clear how far she will have to go. Not  even Devlin knows that his boss wants Alicia to become Sebastian’s mistress. From the first moment when they meet each other, there is something between Devlin and Alicia and if he trusted her he would fall in love with her. Alicia on her side falls in love with Devlin and tries to convince him that she has changed. No more alcohol, no more affairs. For Devlin the assignment to become Sebastian’s mistress is like a test which Alicia fails.

There are two story lines in this movie. One centers on the classic romance theme of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle between two people, the other story line concerns their spying activities.

When Devlin and Alicia discover  something in Sebastian’s house, it puts her in great danger.

I know I’ve seen this movie before but I could hardly remember it. I thought it wasn’t one of my favourite Hitchcock movies but this second time around, I liked it very much. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant are absolutely great in this. I wouldn’t know of many contemporary actresses who can fill a screen with their faces only. It’s captivating to watch all those conflicting emotions on her face. But Cary Grant who tries to fight his attraction and plays in a much more understated way is equally good.

I’m glad I watched it again, I think it’s become one of my favourite Hitchcock movies now. Why it’s on the History Magazine’s 100 Best war movies isn’t entirely clear. Kevin (The War Movie Buff) and I had been discussing this when he reviewed it here. Without his review, I wouldn’t even have considered it as a war movie.  Be it as it may, it’s one of the great black and white movies of the 40s.

Have you seen it? Which are your favourite Hitchcock movies?

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Casablanca (1942)

Cinema doesn’t get much better than this.  Casablanca is one of the truly outstanding movies, a movie to watch and re-watch.

It is not, in the strict sense of the term, a war movie, that’s obvious, it’s a war-time movie or, if you like, a war romance.

It is one of the movies I have seen the most. At least four times. One of the viewings was a mixed bag as it was the Technicolor version. Casablanca is the prototypical black and white movie. The Technicolor version was really outrageous and sacrilegious. So watch out, if you have never seen it, the original Casablanca must be b/w.

Casablanca tells a tragic love story but more than that it’s incredibly atmospherical, it has some of the most famous movie lines, a haunting tune and two great actors, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at their best.

Rick and Ilsa met years ago in Paris, at the beginning of WWII. We see their love story in flashbacks. When Rick decides to leave Paris with Ilsa, she simply doesn’t show up at the train station.

Years later they meet again in unoccupied Morocco. Rick is the hardened and cynical owner of one of the most popular bars in Casablanca. All sorts of people visit or hide in his establishment. Pretty much like all sort of people have come to Morocco for various reasons, most of them however hoping to get a visa for the US. There are also some nasty German characters swarming the premises.

When Ilsa and her husband appear in Rick’s bar, this is a shock for everyone. What happened in Paris, why did she not turn up and what does she want now? Ilsa and her husband try to get to America.
Will Rick help her or not? Will she leave her husband?

It is hard to imagine that anyone hasn’t seen this movie but, just in case, I’m not going to tell anything more.

Rick’s character is one of my favorite movie characters. I like the dialogue in Casablanca a lot. Rick is very cynical but has a point. He also illustrates that while women tend to get depressed, men tend to start drinking when life is too rough. He is one of those great monosyllabic movie characters with a “Don’t-you-dare-to come-too-close” attitude. I think it is precisely Rick’s character and Bogart’s great acting that prevent this movie of an unhappy love triangle to become mushy.

A movie like this would be unthinkable nowadays for many reasons. One can be summed up by the term “esthetic of smoking”. Not that I smoke but smoke rings look good in black and white movies, they add some mystery, just like fog.