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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Classic Film Review: Notorious (1946)

Notorious stars Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a Nazi sympathiser who has been convicted of treason. Alicia is convinced by the government, spearheaded by Devlin (Cary Grant), to infiltrate a group of her father's friends in Rio. While waiting for her assignment, Alicia vows to change her ways and begins a relationship with Devlin. However, her fake relationship with Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) quickly becomes serious - from his point of view - and he proposes to her, despite the misgivings of his mother (Leopoldine Konstantin). What follows is a game of cat and mouse that leaves Alicia's life in danger.

This is an excellent film. Cary Grant is at his suave best as Devlin, masking everything wherever possible, and Bergman's bad-girl-turned-good act is very appealing. There is definite chemistry between the pair, only really quantifiable when you compare the Alicia/Devlin relationship with that of Alicia/Sebastian. However, Rains is excellent in the film as a whole, particularly the last few scenes where his panic shines through. The supporting players add to the tension but, really, this film belongs to Grant and Bergman.

There are genuine moments of tension and mystery, and with it being a Hitchcock film you're never quite sure where it will go. Some of the camera angles, particularly at the beginning after Alicia's drunken stupor, add to the effect and the scene of her 'realisation' later on is both perfectly shot and perfectly acted. You have to pay attention to the sharp dialogue at times and I did rewind to catch full meanings on occasion but it all conspires to create a riveting finale.

Notorious richly deserves its reputation as one of Hitchcock's best. I doubt the tension will diminish on second viewing or many viewings after that.

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