Notorious (1946)

“When he told me a few years ago what he was, everything went to pot. I didn’t care what happened to me. Now I remember how nice he once was, how nice we both were. It’s a very curious feeling, a feeling as if something had happened to me, not to him. You see I don’t have to hate him anymore – or myself.”

‘Notorious’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1946, is an American spy drama starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, the daughter of an American Nazi spy. When her father is convicted, Huberman is recruited by an agent runner called T. R. Devlin, played by Grant, who tasks her with infiltrating a ring of Nazis in Brazil. Using her family connections she gains the trust of a senior member of the group, Alex Sebastian, played by Rains, but the mission is complicated when she falls in love with Devlin. As their romance develops, the pair uncover a plot to smuggle uranium and gradually Sebastian’s friends turn against him. ‘Notorious’ is generally considered the first Hitchcock movie in a cycle of films that cement his status as an auteur. All his techniques and tricks are here and watching the movie feels like being in the hands of a magician. Where the movie really succeeds, however, is away from the scenes of tension. Hitchcock’s depiction of Bergman and Grant’s love affair is one of the stand out achievements of the movie. Hitchcock takes the skills he has developed as a thriller director, all the tension and suspense, and transplants them into the presentation of a love affair. Famously, he got around the censors limits on the length of a kiss but having the actors kiss, talk, then kiss again. This has the effect of creating even more erotic tension between the pair, and emphasising the feeling of subterfuge and drama. ‘Notorious’, unlike many of Hitchcock’s other films, is not a thriller at heart, instead it’s a romance disguised as a suspense drama.

Would I recommend it? Yes – Bergman is great and Grant shows real range. Watch in a double bill with ‘Bringing Up Baby’ to see the actor’s adaptability.

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