Notorious (1946) – Alfred Hitchcock

Of all the Hitchcock films, and it is a pretty amazing body of work, my favorites are the ones starring Cary Grant. Suspicion, To Catch A Thief (featuring the gorgeous Grace Kelly), my favorite – North By Northwest and Notorious.

I decided to revisit Notorious the other night.

A taut spy thriller with a heart-wrenching love story. The lovely Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy is recruited by the American government in the form of T.R. Devlin (Grant).

Her mission is to go to Rio and infiltrate a group of Nazis hiding out there, identify them and provide information on them to Devlin. En route to South America, and as they get settled, the two begin to fall in love, though Devlin struggles to keep his emotions hidden.

Simple enough, until we learn that the leader of this group, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) used to be in love with Alicia while she and her father were in Germany. The higher-ups come up with the idea that this is a perfect in for Alicia, and that she should become romantically involved with Sebastian, cementing her place in his little group.

Things escalate as Sebastian proposes marriage…

How far is Alicia truly willing to go to find out what is going on? And what about her and Devlin?

Bergman is masterful, especially as things begin to kick in to high gear, in the latter half of the film, stealing a key for Devlin to investigate the wine cellar, the mis-direction caused by her and Devlin’s kiss in front of Sebastian, and the growing tension as she falls under suspicion of Sebastian and his sinister mother (Leopoldine Konstantin).

Grant, is always charming, and it’s in single shots that you see how much Alicia’s relationship with Sebastian is hurting him, though he doesn’t say anything because the mission takes precedence. The lonely shot of him sitting at their cafe, or on a bench waiting for her, how, as things progress for Alicia, he says less and less to her, simply standing, coldly, as their superiors discuss their plans.

The story, the characters are completely engaging, and it’s fantastic to see Grant and Bergman together.

It also features Hitch’s fantastic camera work… the coffee cup in the foreground, the fantastic shot that starts up on the balcony and then moves down and closes on Bergman finally ending with the close-up of the wine cellar key in her hand.

Nice.

There isn’t a single thing I don’t like in this film, it’s superbly crafted, has a stellar cast at the top of their game, and the story is involving, a romantic spy thriller… honestly, what’s not to like?

As the film progresses and Alicia comes under Sebastian’s suspicion, we can do nothing but watch as he and his mother come up with a heinous plan to do away with her. It’s made all the worse when she meets up with Devlin, and he can tell something is wrong with her, but she blows him off.

And then there’s the ending, depending on what kind of romantic you are, or I suppose what kind of mood you’re in, the film’s resolution is left firmly in the viewer’s hands.

Such a gorgeous piece of filmmaking. And of course, there’s Hitch’s brief cameo (as always).

I think it ay be high time to start revisiting some more Hitchcock films… in fact I feel a need to re-watch North By Northwest coming on…

Which is your favourite Hitchcock film?

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