#76: Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
Here's what I wrote about this one in the last blog post I put up:
"I think this is my fourth time seeing what many critics consider to be Hitchcock's first truly masterful American film (For my money, he was hitting it right out of the park in his first year over here with REBECCA and the underrated FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT). It seems to be something I return to every few years or so, mainly out of curiosity to see how my opinion on it has changed. The first time I saw it around 16, I didn't really care for it. There was just something cold and anti-climactic about it that kept me at an emotional distance from it. Every time I've seen it since, I've become more impressed by how assured the hand is that's directing it all. Before seeing it this time, I read an amazing article on how to read the visual language of NOTORIOUS by the late, great Roger Ebert. In the article, Ebert talks a lot about the strong/weak dynamics of staging and framing in cinematography and how adeptly Hitchcock can show a character's interior struggle (like Grant's Devlin) simply through the way they move throughout a scene. One thing that Ebert doesn't mention but that he inspired me to notice is how little Bergman's Elisha moves in the location of the frame throughout the film. I believe I counted only once or twice in the entire film where Bergman isn't framed on the dominant right of a shot (right in that golden ratio location where our eyes instinctively move). Just as she is the cynosure of the male character's attention, so is she ours within the frame. And, although she Uappears to be a weak pawn within their patriarchal jockeying, she holds the dominant position because she ultimately owns her sexuality. Her sexual freedom is what keeps her fixed and dominant and what makes the other male characters squirm around her in the frame.
With that all being said, I still feel an emotional detachment from the film (largely due to the unsympathetic nature of each of the characters), but I'm just so impressed by its visual brilliance and ultimately its perversity. It's interesting to watch the film now and see how it has next to nothing to do with espionage and everything to do with the pettiness of jealousy and the precarious authority of male desire. "
UPDATE: I watched this again this week, and it just gets better and better every time I see it.