Hitchcock knows suspense. It's ofter quoted by most of film society that Hitchcock may not have invented the suspense genre, but he perfected it. When you see a film such as "Notorious" you can certainly understand why most everyone thinks that way.
"Notorious" is revolutionary in more than one way—it introduced an incredibly strong female lead, like Hitchcock's "Sabotage" did; it enveloped the espionage craze; and it nicely wrapped up the post-WWII feelings...now add Cary Grant and the great Ingrid Bergman, cook up some intense situations, and you have a incendiary film that still remains effective.
After her father is convicted of treason against the United States, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) decides to live a little larger. No longer does she care about who she sleeps with or how much she drinks. Who cares about prudence?...let's have fun.
At a party that she throws, she meets a mysterious man named Devlin (Cary Grant). This man is a secret agent that is here to convince Alicia to be a spy for America...but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.
On a speeding, drunken car ride, Alicia finds out about Devlin's identity and is not too happy about it. She thinks that he's only there to spy on her like all the media and to con her into prison with her father. Although her father is German, Alicia considers herself American and Devlin taps into those patriotic feeling and convinces Alicia to fly to Brazil to help Uncle Sam spy on some good-for-nothing Germans.
While in Rio, Alicia and Devlin start a casual affair. They are both mature, both adults, and both in need of companionship—logically they know that nothing can come from it...but emotionally it's clear that they're both invested.
The chemistry here is good, yet what Hitchcock chooses not to show is more powerful than what he actually displays. There are no long conversations filled with sexually charged dialogue, nor is there Hitchcock's usual Freudian eyes—instead, the few moments the two characters have with each other are almost meaningless...and this is the foundation that the film is built upon.
It feels more natural than many of Hitchcock's other films.
Then the assignment comes in and it doesn't sit well with Devlin. Alicia is to seduce an old friend of her father's in order to gain access to his house where intelligence thinks that there are covert meetings occurring.
The man's name is Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) and he is easily manipulated. Alicia is no fool, and she agrees to the job. Perhaps she sees the opportunity as redemption for her family name...though Sebastian sees it in reverse. She is working for the U.S. and he thinks that she's working for Germany.
To clear a few things up, the film isn't about nationality, though that is seen quite a bit in it. Instead, "Notorious" is about suspense and, at its most sentimental core, a love story that seems doomed.
Shot in black-and-white and filled with star-power, "Notorious" is a huge success. The camera work is sensational, as is the script by legendary screen writer Ben Hecht.
There are so many moments in "Notorious" that are filled with tension...it adds on to the misery that overcomes the picture from moment one.
Something about the way the film is directed gives an unnerving look at survival instincts and the minds of the predator and prey.
"Notorious" is a great movie, no doubt one of Hitchcock's best.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones