Notorious (1946)

“Notorious” (1946)

IMDb

pre-rope

Hitchcock is one of the most important directors ever, someone who changed film rules, film codes, who introduced a huge number of new terms to film grammar.

He mastered and built new things around cinematic uses for camera movement, framing, and he bent narrative in marvelous brilliant ways. His top achievements can and must be studied by us today, they were the milestone for much of what followed, and in narrative terms, some things that he has done are still unsurpassed.

But, even if today, i look at really old Hitchcock films and detect in them bits and pieces of what his intuition might be getting at, I really believe that the 50’s were the the decade when he developed all the things for which i love him today, and believe him to be one of the masters. With Rope comes the first time in which he really builds something totally new, in that case bending camera movement, creating a cinematic eye, bright and new. Dial M… Rear Window, Vertigo, even Psycho. All those are works which you have to see.

But before Rope, what we have are hints. In this film, there are a few bits of framing and camera movement which are really cleverly and conceived. The coffee cup framed while a dialogue is going on. The crane shot that begins opened to the house lobby space, and closes on Bergman’s hand, holding the key. Those are really nice, and do something very hitchcockian: a scene where apparently nothing relevant happens (a trifle dialog, the simple arrival of guests), but through the camera movement and framing, a new meaning is given to a detail of the scene. Purely visual, few people worked as a purely visual mind as well as H..

But the grand picture, here and in nearly every film before Rope, is just not that great. As noir, this fails, because the world of this film is explained all the way, it’s a simple spy story, which we follow based on the tension of the “is she gonna get caught?” scenes. Noir would require a bizarre unexplained world, something about us not knowing what’s happening. This is a “mcguffin” type of construction, that stuff about the wine bottles, which are only good to make us want to follow. And Hitchcock always mastered that device, but his best results come when he uses that distraction to deliver us an incredible visual presentation for it. Not here.

We do have Grant and Bergman, a hot couple back than. They do deliver their performance well enough. They do exhale some cinematic magic. And Ingrid was a real woman, and a real actress. But this film is mostly based upon style. And style, we know, fades in no time. So this film gives us not much today, because the master hadn’t yet reached the perfection of his later cinematic manipulations of our visual minds. A few times before Rope he was close to achieve that. But here, he’s just trying out a few solutions, but this film is a pure exercise in style, a style that is no longer the one we look for today.

But Ingrid Bergman was some kind of a woman.

My opinion: 2/5

This comment on IMDb

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1 Response to “Notorious (1946)”


  1. 1 viktor March 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Finally somone who doesn’t regard Notorious as one of Hitchcock’s best films, I would rate in exactly the same way as you(4/10 on IMDB). Definitely his most overrated film, I stick to his 50’s productions too.


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