Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock)

In catching up with lesser or minor Hitchcock it becomes easy to forget how fully and perfectly integrated and complete a film he could turn out, if allowed the (half-) chance. In Notorious, famously named by Francois Truffaut as the film in which Alf got the closest to delivering his original intentions exactly, a sigh of relief is to still be heard at the feeling of escaping, somewhat, from under Selznick’s thumb. Gone are the corniest tricks and tropes to which David O. was attracted; gone are the attempts are literary high-mindedness that revealed themselves only as exercises in middle-brown fatuousness that were a Selznick production’s trademark when he was at his worst. Instead, Notorious is a purely cinematic work, the story almost irrelevant; even at the points when Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman (or Claude Rains) are going through their expository lines, all that really matters is the electric charge bought about by simply placing these people, irresistibly linked and drawn towards each other, in the centre or the side of a frame.
Enough has been said by enough people about the film at this point, just as enough has been said about the magnificent cinematography, those dollies and that reduction of the world to a series of objects, looks and movements that are given to us in close-ups that reveal their fullest import (i.e. their very centrality to all of human life at that moment), to fill several shelves worth of books. It’s best just to say that Notorious is the best example of what Godard was getting at in Histoire(s) Du Cinema: Hitchcock’s possession and use of the currency of the absolute, and his control of the universe. Notorious is like a diamond: hard, sharp and inscrutable.

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