Action / Drama / Film-Noir / Romance / Thriller


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October 24, 2012 at 08:48 AM


Cary Grant as Devlin
Alfred Hitchcock as Man Drinking Champagne at Party
Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman
Claude Rains as Alexander Sebastian
700.20 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 41 min
P/S 3 / 31

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by windsong353 10 / 10

In My Top Ten!

As a young woman, back in the "olden days" days before video, DVD and TCM, I was always fascinated by this film, though it came and went on more obscure T.V. channels, with no clue of when it would return. Notorious has everything...inimitable Hitchcock moments, mystery, suspense, personal drama, high romance, passion, great character development, international espionage, nuanced acting, a visually stunning foreign locale, post-war period mystique, patriotism, fine supporting cast, a charmingly evil Claude Rains, a most sinister Mme. Konstantin, Grant at his most enigmatic and romantic, and Bergman her most alluring and luminous. As in all great films, it is a spot-on rendering of its own unique story in the ambiance of its own time, but timeless in its portrayal of human character and emotion. Like a handful of others, it is as satisfying a movie experience now as it was 40 years ago...probably more so...whether on first viewing or 40th.

Reviewed by Holdjerhorses 10 / 10

Cheeseballs and champagne? Good grief! . . .

"Notorious" is, of Hitchcock's "earlier" films, certainly the most durable and endlessly fascinating. Not, God knows, for its "brilliant" shots -- including the famous tracking shot from the foyer ceiling down to the key in Ingrid Bergman's hand.

But for the frank eroticism Hitchcock establishes from the opening party sequence on, and Bergman's breathtakingly uninhibited playing against her "virginal" type.

"Notorious" is riddled with bad, jerky rear-projection sequences. The first is Bergman's drunken drive along the Florida highway before the policeman stops her.

Then, every sequence where she and Cary Grant meet in the park in Rio. Sitting on that bench while the entire world "jerks" behind them.


Do we care? Hell, no.

Ingrid Bergman was never so starkly sensual and frank on screen, as she is as "Alicia." And Cary Grant, as agent Devlin, was perfectly directed to play cold and largely unresponsive to Bergman's unrestrained and ultimately heartbreaking heat.

Grant is given subtle moments early on, to show his falling in love with Bergman. The brief glance he gives her as she leans across his lap in the plane descending into Rio, before Hitchcock quickly fades it out, is almost pornographic (for the era).

Their repartee is so fraught with sexual tension and mutual challenge as to be unparalleled in cinema up till that time -- and perhaps even since.

Bergman, so powerful an actress, is utterly vulnerable and natural in the early sequences -- emerging from her father's trial with her usual Bergmanesque stoicism, only to instantly become surprisingly, drunkenly, girlish and accessible and dangerous in the next sequence -- brushing windblown hair from her lips as she drives -- viciously fighting off Devlin when she realizes Devlin's an agent -- awakening to a hangover so realistic you can almost smell her breath steaming off the screen -- finally agreeing, out of patriotism, to help the "cause." The range of Bergman's performance, from drunken party girl desperate to escape her background, to duplicitous double-agent portraying "Madame" Sebastian in elegant surroundings, to helplessly, hopelessly lovesick Alicia finally in love with an unresponsive American agent (Grant) -- to an imprisoned woman dying of poisoning -- Bergman is simply brilliant.

She was never more sensually presented on screen.

Nor was Cary Grant. One does not expect emotional displays or outbursts from a government agent.

Grant's / Devlin's professional reluctance to admit, much less act on, his feelings for Bergman's Alicia is evident from frame one. His self-control as an actor and as a man was never better realized. At any moment, he could sexually assault Alicia -- whether out of rage or love is never clear, until the final, tender, moments of the film.

By the time Alicia and Devlin reach the infamous two-plus minutes on-off kissing scene in Alicia's Rio apartment, viewers of both sexes are watering at the mouth, wanting them to devour each other.

That they don't adds another layer of suspense to what ultimately becomes almost unbearable tension after Alicia weds Sebastian and moves in with him, his mother, and the other Nazis.

This is an amazingly daring film in terms of female sexuality, for its day or ours. Hitchcock asks us, as he asks Devlin, to sympathize with -- and love -- a woman who not only sleeps around just as men do, but who is willing to sleep around under false pretenses for the good of her adopted country. If that's a stretch for audiences now, consider what it was for audiences in the late 40s.

Is there another "heroine" in cinema history who blatantly sleeps with a man she despises in order to win the love (and successfully) of another man whom she adores?

Name one.

Not "Mata Hari," who, no matter that she was played by Garbo, had anywhere near the emotional/political/moral complexity of Alicia.

We still have to contend with those cheeseball rear-projection sequences. But Bergman and Grant play them so beautifully that the shoddy rear-screen technological primitivism is immediately forgiven.

And the secondary casting is so flawless that, in "Notorious'" final sequence, as Claude Rains is called back into the mansion and walks up those steps to his inevitable death, and the door closes while Bergman and Grant escape to a new life, our feelings are a mixture of triumph and pity.

Truly, one of Hitchcock's most complex, sexually challenging, political, adult, ambiguous and disturbing films.

Forget the cheeseball rear-projections, please.

"Notorious" is several glasses -- perhaps too many -- of vintage cinematic champagne.

Good grief!

Reviewed by FilmSnobby 9 / 10

Hitchcock's "perfect" movie.

*Notorious* may not be Hitchcock's greatest film, but it may very well be his most perfect film. Rarely is a viewer treated to so much talent in all areas of film creation: Hitch directing, Gregg Toland photographing, Ben Hecht writing, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains acting. And everyone is firing on all cylinders.

What gives *Notorious* its singularity amongst the pantheon of Hitchcock's masterpieces is the highly symbolic, literate, and penetrating script by Hecht. Nominally, the film is about the OSS (the pre-natal version of the CIA) using a compromised young daughter of a condemned, unrepentant Nazi to infiltrate a cell of German expatriates in Rio de Janeiro just after the close of the Second World War. The plot hinges on some nonsense involving "uranium ore" stuffed in wine bottles in the cellar of Claude Rains' mansion. In actuality, the film is nothing less than a dark fugue on alcoholism, and secondarily (and of most interest to the director), invasion of privacy. Thirdly, we are treated to some more of the Master's endless fascination with Freudian slop: yet again, we get the Oedipus Complex in all its ardor, with a domineering old bat wielding the motherly whip-hand on Rains' cuckolded, castrated, romantic ex-pat Nazi.

But Hecht is interested primarily in alcoholism, and Hitchcock obligingly complies, utilizing a dizzying myriad of symbols and reference points. In the original script, Bergman's Alicia is something of a whore: the filmmakers were forced by the censors to tone this aspect down, thereby bringing Alicia's dependence on booze to the forefront. Indeed, Bergman spends much of her screen-time woozy-headed, whether from alcohol or poisonous coffee (symbolically functioning as the same thing). Very early in the film, she declares at a party, "The important drinking hasn't started yet!" Exactly. Throughout the movie, Bergman drinks in order to escape her unpleasant circumstances or to wash away bouts of low self-esteem. A bottle of champagne bought by Grant becomes a phallic symbol: he forgets it at the offices of the OSS, with arid results when he arrives home to Bergman. Wine bottles are literally the "key" to the plot. Spilled wine in a sink blows her cover. And late in the proceedings, the simple physical act of drinking -- coffee, yes, but the point comes across -- almost kills her.

There's much more going on here -- too much for a short review, really. Let's finish by asserting that Hitchcock's Forties period was every bit as cinematic as his later, grander, colorized period in the Fifties and Sixties. The slowly swooping shot from the crane, starting from high atop the ceiling of a ballroom and ending up focused on the wine cellar key in Bergman's hand, is merely one famous bravura moment. There are many others:

Grant approaching a hungover Bergman in bed, in which the camera takes her up-ended POV quite literally; Bergman, overcome with poison, hallucinating the figures of Rains and his mother into monstrous shadows that grow larger and larger, eventually merging into one darkness; the two great tracking shots of Grant and Bergman kissing in her Rio apartment and later when Grant rescues her from her poison bed. The trailers for *Notorious* were already calling Hitchcock the "Master of Suspense" . . . it's easy to see why.

As for the performances? Cary Grant proves to be a true soldier, spending much of his screen-time either expressionless or with his back turned to the camera (!), unselfishly giving the film to Bergman, even though his part is actually the more interesting one. Bergman, meanwhile, gives one of the best performances of her illustrious career. No two Bergman roles are quite the same; Hitchcock wisely allows her to do some of her own interpretation, particularly early on during the "character-building" scenes (before the plot moves all the characters into their appointed places on the chessboard). Perhaps best of all, both Grant and Bergman were at the very peak of the physical charms: the movie is some serious eye-candy for both genders. 9 stars out of 10.

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