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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Notorious

Starring: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: NR
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: August 1946
Genres: Classic, Mystery, Noir, Suspense

*Also starring: Claude Rains, Louis Calhern, Leopoldine Konstantin, Reinhold Schunzel

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Jerry Saravia review follows ---
2.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

Of all of Alfred Hitchcock's love stories, "Notorious" is one of the most romantic and truly illuminating. Illumination is the key to the film's success. With a plot centering on Nazis and uranium, the heart of the film is really the electric chemistry between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, and a suspenseful final act that will leave you breathless with excitement.

"Notorious" begins with a fabulous shot of Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, who is having a party after learning of her father's conviction for Nazi spying. She tries to forget, and we notice the back of a stranger's head seated at the party but we don't who he is except perhaps Alicia's possible suitor. Later, she is drunk and recklessly drives with the man (Cary Grant), who turns out to be a CIA agent named Devlin. Devlin has a job for her, and she is reluctant to participate and is annoyed she did not get a speeding ticket. The job entails Alicia getting intimate with a former lover of hers, Sebastian (Claude Rains), who runs a spy ring and may be involved with hiding uranium in wine bottles (a substance used in making bombs). Eventually, Sebastian deeply falls in love with her and marries her. Devlin grows jealous, realizing he loves her. Unfortunately, Sebastian watches Alicia like a hawk, and Hitchcock is brilliant at showing that subjective sense of looks and stares as he does in the party sequence..

"Notorious" has a special degree of illumination provided by its lighting schemes, and by Bergman's iridescent beauty. Along with Catherine Denueve, Bergman is indeed one of the most beautiful women in film history and Hitchcock exploits that beauty to great effect. Whether she is seated at a cafe or in bed writhing with pain due to the effect of arsenic in her tea, she never looks less than glamorous.

Cary Grant is the straight man, and more subtle than in his other films - he is passive and grows jealous but it is his dialogue that speak great truths of his emotions. At one point, while hearing about the CIA's plans, he refers to another agent's bridge-playing wife as boring in contrast to Alicia's looseness and promiscuity. Devlin holds his emotions in check, acting stern and disapproving of Alicia and her immediate marriage.

Claude Rains is one of the finest most astute actors ever, and here he is also restrained - his looks and glances suggest everything. There is also the sense that he does care for Alicia...and perhaps is more trustworthy than Devlin even after learning her secret.

Hitchcock has a tremendous number of tricks up his sleeve, and some shots are astounding in their impact - they greatly help build tension and suspense. The three-minute kissing scene between Grant and Bergman is as sensual and sexually charged as any scene from today's steamy thrillers - what makes it so luscious is the interruption of the kisses and the embraces. At that time, the Hollywood Production Code would not allow for kisses to last longer than three seconds. This scene foreshadows the final moments from the bedroom to the staircase where Grant descends while helping the sickly Bergman - the spy ring and Sebastian watch. There is also a superb zoom-in shot from the top of the staircase to a close-up shot of Bergman's hand holding the key to the wine cellar where the uranium is hidden. The wine cellar sequence is also bewitching - Grant carefully removing bottles that obstruct the view of a wine schedule while one slips away and breaks revealing uranium particles - and it also builds to a great kissing scene. This film is definitely one of Hitchcock's prime examples of visual elegance.

"Notorious" is not as densely complex as "Vertigo" or "North By Northwest," but it is packed with suspense and thrills galore. And its emotionally romantic love story shows the Master knew how to deal with human relationships.

Copyright 1999 Jerry Saravia

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