Sunday, April 12, 2009

Notorious: Part 2

WARNING: This blog is best read while viewing the film. If you don't own the film, netflix it. If you don't have netflix, get in your car and either buy it or go to a rental place. Also-- look here-- amazon!

This entry begins a series of notes about the film Notorious. If you haven't seen the film, these probably won't make too much sense until you do. When you do, they will enhance the film and hopefully help to open up a new realm of film observation for your life.

This may be slightly tedious, so I will probably do it in bullet points. After I am finished talking about the entire the end of the series... I will write a further review. Please feel free to let me know any of your favorite parts, any critiques, anything you feel I really overlooked, and/or just what you think! I really want everyone to be involved in this as much as they want to! :)

Okay-- Let's get started!

  • Though Alfred Hitchcock was himself notorious for taking all the credit for films, he did work with the great screenwriter, Ben Hecht, to create the script and plot for Notorious.
  • All of Ingrid's gowns for the film were designed by Edith Head-- she worked on many of Hitch's films as well as with Ingrid many times. Edith Head was the best in the biz.
  • The opening credits include a slide that tells you the exact time and date of the setting. This is crucial to the plot as well as the historical setting because the audience has to be aware of the "post WWII atmosphere" in which the characters are living. "Miami, Florida, Three-Twenty P.M., April the Twenty-Fourth, Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Six..."
  • The courtroom shot is framed to give the audience a first person POV (point of view) so that we really get to make up our minds to where the story will go, even though Hitchcock has already determined that.
  • We have to know that "here she comes" is important because she is the daughter of the man on trial, a Nazi "German worker" (The word "Nazi" is never acutally used in this movie).
  • At her house, there is a cop outside, they all know it. Alicia Huberman is her name and partying is her game. She and her friends like to party.
  • She starts to adress the "party crasher" who is a sillouhette of Cary Grant. Alicia is hospitable but obviously a woman of loose morals. Her friends want her to get out and get away from the constraints of the law.
  • She determines the relationship before we even get to meet Grant as T.R. Devlin.
  • Oh, now things get interesting. There's one more drink left, they're all smashed. Ingrid Bergman is fantastic while playing a drunk. "There's nothing like a love song to give you a good laugh"She says. "That's right." He says. She is loosely drunk while Grant plays a more stiff drunk. He doesn't live outside the lines.
    All of the dialogue in this scene should be paid close attention to because it is all forshadowing the relationship as well as humourous and witty.
  • "How about we have a picnic?"
  • Watch where Cary Grant puts the glass after Ingrid Bergman hands it to him. That's not a table.
  • Take note of what Ingrid is wearing, the zebra print is NOT a mistake, her hair is that way for a reason and she's baring her mid-drift.
  • "Alicia: My car is outside. Devlin: Naturally."
  • When they walk outside, he offers her a coat. She says "you'll do." This is incredibly provocative as well as forward. This establishes the relationship even further, and we're not even 10 minutes into the film!
  • He does take care of her, making sure she's not cold, by wrapping the scarf around her waste. Sexy, yes. Kind, of course. I <3>
  • She never asks his name this entire night. She's not interested in the long term, only forgetting the past and living in the moment.
  • Don't drink and drive kids, they're acting.
  • Notice how the music isn't altering between characters, it's heavy romantic the entire time. I like that, it's different than others.
  • The footage of the driving is RIDICULOUS.
  • "Scared?" "No" "No- you're not scared of anything"
  • "This fog gets me. "-- hilarious

  • All of the language in the car is well written and extremely funny.
  • T.R. Devlin is a control freak. Notice his hand.
  • The rear view mirror shot is well done and classic Hitch.
  • "Whole family in jail, who cares?"
  • Notice how Grant never reveals his name, even when he shows the cop his badge.
  • The cop saluting Cary Grant is a way of showing the status of the character. He is obviously important to the story because he is with Alicia (Ingrid) all the time. He is her love interest. He has just been taken to a different level due to the respect of the law. He is now technically "above the law" as Alicia would be considered "below the law" because of her association with her father as well as her house being under servalliance.
If you are this far-- I just want you to know-- I will be bulletting until Alexander Sebastian shows up in the film. That is the point at which I will break for the next part.
  • She inquires where the ticket is, he finally tells us his name; Devlin. "Why you double crossing buzzard" This kind of language should be used more often.
  • The struggle in the car is fantastic acting on both parts.
  • Best way to end a fight. Judo chop.
  • The gender politics of this scene are intense. Due to her nature, Alicia wants to be independent, free willed, permiscuous, and in charge. Due to the time and the way that the gender roles (spheres) are constructed, if she oversteps her bounds as a woman, she has to be, naturally, put back in her place. Whether it is physically (which in this case it is), metaphorically, emotionally, morally, sexually (think Scarlett O'Hara), or any other a man. In the 1940s men, especially in America and in Hollywood, were considered in charge. The story has to remained balanced and the setting neuteral for all to be right in the world. There are ups and downs within this film and this theme. Take note of anytime you think that a character is acting masculine or feminine: they're testing their gender boundaries.
  • I love that even though he Judo chops the crap out of her, he still takes care of her, puts her to bed and also gives her a hangover cure.
  • Notice how her "rat" falls out and how disheveled Alicia is. This is one of Ingrid's finest scenes. Ingrid always wanted this to be as natural as possible and I think she really achieves it in this scene.
  • The rotating angle of the camera, from Alicia's 1st person POV is Hitchcock at one of his best shots. Innovative, creative and brilliant.
  • Another thing that I find really funny about the bedroom scene: There are two twin beds in the room. Now for one: Alicia is single, so why would she need two beds... I mean if her morals are already bent, why not just let her have one big bed to really show how slutty she is? And another point...why did they ever think that anyone would buy the idea of twin beds being acceptable?
  • Devlin has Alicia at her weakest. He is smart, structured and knows what's best. He is a C.I.A. worker, a patriot and is going to format her into what he wants and needs (both romantically and for the job at hand).
  • The language here is kind of "punny" thanks to the set up shot. "what's your angle?" "so you could frame me" I just think this is funny, if you don't, read anything Donald Spoto has written about Hitch and Ingrid Bergman.
  • This is the scene that we find out about the job.
  • Best line ever about "patriotism."
  • IMPORTANT: The idea of making a film that questions patriotism, loyalties, American morals, morals in general as well as going after the "German war machine" in South America could have caused major problems for this production. The film wrapped just before they released that Uranium ore was used in the bombs dropped on Japan. International relations had to be carefully conducted at this time and the themes and plot of this story really tested those ideals. The idea of working with possible traitors and prostituting a woman for American gain would not be highly gratifying to the American ideals of the time. I find this a really bad ass way to hit movie goers with a 1-2 punch!
  • She says she doesn't go for patriots...or does she!?
  • He has the evidence, she doesn't want to hear it, again he is in control.
  • We find that she is actually a patriot, just not into patriotism as a whole.
  • While listening to the recording, Alicia gives us the first emotions and cracks in her tough act begin to form. He also softens while he sees her soften.
  • She's still wearing the scarf. Lol. I love the walk of shame!
  • The boat captain is great comic relief. We need this up and down in the plot. Keeps the tension alive.
  • Alicia and Devlin are so obviously intrigued by one another. Classic sexual tension... I love it.
  • The airplane set up is a great branching effect. It allows for us to find out that her father has killed himself, part of the plan, who the boss is, and where they are going--more specifically. We also get the first signs of Devlin's serious attraction and Alicia's emotions. She is only soft when she opens up to Devlin, around anyone else, she can put on a front.
  • This shot of her across his lap is a great juxtaposition. They sort of switch roles for a second. They are both interested in different things all at once. They are in two different worlds. She is paying attention to Rio, he is paying attention to her beauty. It is almost like a painting. They forget who they are, or seem to be, without any inhibitions. Crafty technique. Intellegently used timing.
  • The way Devlin and Alicia are sitting at the cafe is something to which you definitely pay attention. Notice where they are sitting, how they are sitting and what they are doing. There is a transition towards the end of this "Part" which I will note later, when Alexander Sebastian comes onto the scene and the seating is a crucial, quick and somewhat of an overlooked transitional factor. It is one of my FAVORITE transitions in film, bar none.
  • Alica states how she doesn't mind cleaning but hates to cook. Important characteristic that is reiterated later.
  • The back drops are great, sound stage, fake, yet still so believable.
  • The dialogue here is unbeatable.
  • He says "yes ma'am" which indicates their relationship is farther along, she has more control. Also evident by her first refusal to drink. He calls her on it and they re-establish their roles.
  • "No Dev, I'm making fun of myself. I'm pretending I'm a nice, unspoiled child whose heart is full of daisies and buttercups."--All time favorite line in this film.
  • She taunts him when he asserts himself. They want to maintain their independence and their statuses. It becomes more and more of a fascade as the film and their relationship progresses.
  • They have assertiveness but because they are falling in love, they depend on each other's opinion--which before--would have never mattered.
  • She taunts him right into a smooch. WOOT!
  • Man handled. Dev <3's>
  • We meet the group of dudes who are the C.I.A. They are in charge of the mission and are a chorus of sorts. By "chorus" I am referring to the classic Greek style of a group of people who remind the audience of the correct/incorrect choices, the plot, the past, the future and what should/shouldn't happen. They are not completely a chorus because they dictate the mission as well. They are there to question the antics of the characters and to set up the conflict. There is a lot of passive agressiveness in this group of gentlemen which only heightens the conflict and swallows the feminine nature that could have thrived in the atmosphere, but is choked out instead. The sweet juxtaposition that arises here is, they are completely dependent on Alicia for the mission. She is a woman, but she is who they have to listen to and the carrier of all information, putting them all below her in stature, though it could never actually be addressed. Sexual politics again!
  • They are a reassurance of the plot. They are also returning to how the characters were originally set up.
  • This is one of the most famous kissing scenes in film history. The production codes of the time required a 3 second maximum for a kiss. Hitchcock wanted this love scene to last longer so he worked out some loopholes and ended up with a 3 minute long kiss. The actors stayed as close as possible, kissing on an off, involving the audience and a phone. The scene was seductive, provocative and completely within code. When Hitchcock approached Ben Hecht with the idea, all Hecht had ot say about it was "what's all this talk about chickens?" Hitchcock had the vision and the love of food, but not the words. Those came later. :)
  • Notice how Alicia decides to drop her hatred of cooking to satisfy her love interest. This is a huge step for a character like this. It shows commitment, selflessness and change. Her character is set up to not care about anyone but herself or what she wants, it's a bit early for her, so she'll be shut down, but it shows humanity in the character as well as potential for change--a nice dynamic.
  • The actors felt that this kissing scene was incredibly awkward to shoot, but of course came out beautifully.
  • "Alicia: This is a very strange love affair.
    Devlin: Why? Alicia: Maybe the fact that you don't love me....Devlin: "actions speak louder than words" SEXY! haha
  • The mission is set during this scene and it is wildly interrupted.
  • Take note of the champagne.
  • They are too happy for words.
  • Devlin is rudely reminded of the type of woman he is falling for, not ideal for a conservative type like him.
  • Jealousy and champagne will give you away!
  • We get word of Alexander Sebastian at this point... as well as the rondevous point.
  • Champagne?
  • The tone has again changed. He is about to shake up her newly established role as housewife and morally straightened young lady.
  • Back to being a prostitute.
  • The words in this scene are creative and poinent.
  • "Right below the belt everytime."
  • This conflict is simple lack of communication. This type of writing is overlooked sometimes because it seems so simple to fix, but due to human nature, it works and is totally believable.
  • We now find out Sebastian's motives and what's happening in Rio. The mission is set and they're back to their original roles, also-- they're fighting. Lol.
  • Mata Hari--sans papers.
  • "Not a word for that little lovesick lady you left an hour ago?"
  • "Alicia Huberman, the new Ms. Huberman"- admitting to the change, but they are both unwilling to let it happen and the plot as well as the characters are not ready for it either.
  • She returns to the bottle --liquid is a notable theme in this film as well. It brings relief and poison to the plot.
  • When they go riding, it is a sign of status. It also shows how Devlin is in control of the situation and how Alicia would much rather stay by his side and play. Sebastian's curiousity wins as well as Devlin's duty.
  • Alicia is thrown into the male sphere by men and must therefore be saved by a man.

OKAY-- Major transition of which everyone should be aware!! This is where the "1st act" would end in a play or where there is new conflict. ALSO: Remember how I said to note where they were sitting in the cafe? During this series of dissolves, the characters are sitting in their spots. There is a change. Cary Grant is sitting in his spot on the left in the cafe that Devlin and Alicia drank at in the beginning of their trip. Then there is a dissolve to a restaurant where Ingrid is sitting in her spot on the right. If you connect the two without the black out in between, it looks like they are sitting at the same table. Then when the dissolve is complete, Sebastian enters and takes Devlin's place. This is another switch in romance and stature. The deal has been sealed and now the characters must struggle to find new order.

This is where this post concludes...stay tuned for more of Notorious!


MrSheldrake said...

I gotta say I feel at ends with Notorious. I love it but I also find its setups claustrophobic, if one piece of the puzzle was misaligned the whole thing falls apart. I feel like Hitchcock needed to get this OCD film out of the way so that he could become more indulgent in his comedies.

I do think this film is the cornerstone of most David Lynch films, maybe thats why I have trouble getting into those.

On first watch I remember thinking that Bergman's character doesn't come off as Notorious, and Cary Grant comes off too melodramatic, but that Claude Rains is the best part of the movie.

I really admire the flatness of this movie, all of the rear projection shots. Its so completely different than how Orson Welles would have dealt with it, like Lady of Shanghai, has a similar plot. These days when I watch a movie like Notorious I think how could we take from that movie into a movie now, without going all Guy Maddin on it. If this film was shot in HD would it still be believable, or would the acting be stale and would the movie take on that otherworldly realness thats needed? Hitchcock often talked about how he struggled with color film, and Family Plot is ugly, so is most of Torn Curtain, would Hitchcock have lasted in the age of digital movies? or maybe he was able to take the symbolism and control he learned from silent film, and allow that world to exist with a little sound but still the grainy black and white world it needs. I'm rambling, but I love this movie, and I think most of all it excites me to continue working in movies.


Emily said...

I hope it's alright for me to read this blog post while viewing the film in my mind!
(It's not pathetic, right?)

I'd like to know who styled Ingrid's hair, especially for that horrendously peculiar "devil horns" updo she was wearing at the party (sorry for mentioning the party even before you've analyzed the scene but that comment about Edith Head reminded me of it).

Was Devlin drunk at the party? I often wondered, actually.

I love the "you'll do" and the subsequent scarf-wrapping. <3

The same "fog" gets me a lot, too. It's especially windy here where I live! haha.

I've read some opinions that Devlin had already fallen in love with Alicia by the time he gave her that Look on the plane. I don't think I quite agree, but I can't think of when he would have fallen for her, after the flight. Some time in the eight days in Rio before the cafe scene? And what were they doing during those eight days as they waited for their assignment?

When she taunts him and he grabs her and kisses her? Hot. Which makes me think he must have fallen for her by then.

What did they do in those eight days??

Beautiful first balcony scene. And I love how her thumb rubs his right ear as they talk about dinner. <3

When Devlin says that "actions speak louder than words", is that an admission of love? What actions is he referring to? That he's kissing her? I think I'm dense or something, since I seriously haven't figured it out. Help!

The second balcony scene is so poignant... the tension and how hard they're both trying to hide their pain always gets me. Devlin is obviously doing a better job at hiding than Alicia. But some of her words do hit him and it shows, if only for an instant, before he flatly responds. Sigh.

Poor Alicia.

Alexis said...

Thanks for posting! It's great to get these discussions out there and start really taking apart the film!
Exactly what I wanted to start!

MrSheldrake-- I agree that sometimes the film is claustrophobic, but it can also be classified as film noir-- like the Lady of Shanghai-- and one of the main elements of film noir is claustrophobia. I think that we, as an audience or as analyzers, have to put ourselves into historical context of the film.
Hitchcock didn't forget any pieces of the puzzle-- he made it work. If he had missed it would have fallen into one of his weaker films like Saboteur or later, Frenzy. I think if you think in the sense of the 1940s Ingrid's character is scandalous and would probably unappreciated in conservative American ideals. The movie itself is melodramatic, but I think out of all the characters, Cary's is the most statuesque and yes he does become the knight in shining armor--so yes it is melodramatic.

I like Orson Wells as well as David Lynch and Guy Maddin (I'm a huge Isabella Rossellini fan so I sought them out!)
The Lady of Shanghai is a great noir, but I don't think it's like Notorious-- my opinion of course. I think that movie moves around much more, as well as inclusive of more exterior shots, and follows the male protagonist much more than Notorious. Rita Hayworth's character is definitely notorious and she is more of an antagonist than Ingrid's character of Alicia. Really I think Alicia and Devlin share the role of protagonist--shifting of course--another fluidity of this film!! I LOVE IT!

I love that you brought up the struggles with color film. Have you read about his issues with the long shot as well? Well I should say "lengthy" shot... if you look closely at the table in Under Capricorn, you can see the sections that the actors had to fall back with to get the technicolor camera through the shot. All of the stuff I have read about this process and Hitch's obsession with it were really interesting-- check out "Spellbound By Beauty."

You work in movies? That's really interesting! What do you do? I was just accepted into University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts--the Production/filmmaking M.F.A.

I'm glad you have brought a lot of the aspects from various other realms of film--silent, film noir, color, avant garde, modern and historical.

I think if Notorious were remade today, it would have to be about the story behind the story or have new spins to it. Hitch's attention to shooting was marvelous for his time and we would never be where we are in film with out it (Orson Wells also had a lot to do with it-- Kane anyone?)
I think that it would have to mix in a variety of film including HD, 16mm and 25mm maybe even finding other old fashion techniques maybe doing everything by hand (or lift like in the ball room scene) but I think anything can be achieved-- how it would be received would be a different story. Idk about that.

Thank you for bringing your ideas and opinions to the table! I'd love to keep this up and feel free to tell more!

I think I will address some of your questions on the actual blog... some of Mr. S will be there too--
I'll look more into the hair thing-- I love the hair in the ballroom scene and I'll see if I can read anything about what Edith Head was going for there.
I think that Devlin was drunk at the initial party-- look at him just as he pours the last drink... he stumbles a bit, but he's definitely not plastered-- he might be putting up a front in order to keep control--or he can just handle his liquor like a man (sexual politics again!).

I believe that they fell for each other at the first party scene. They just seal the deal when she decides to go on the mission and then the look on the plane is just further evidence.

I love the detail that the two had in the kissing scene--great acting and chemistry.

I think actions speak louder than words is that he loves her and it's a borderline comment referring to sex, love and their relationship. She wants to hear words all the time, she's the talker and emotes all over the place. He's trying to tell her that he loves her without uttering the words. Take it however you want to! :) The rules are there for you to interpret!

Thank you again for your comments. These were a great start to a hearty debate/discussion.

Leave more!!! :) YEY!
Alexis :)

Kittenbiscuits said...

Hi there! I just discovered your blog and I'm loving it! I'm a huge Ingrid fan (and Cary Grant fan ;)) and Notorious is my all time favorite movie.

I've really enjoyed reading your analysis of the film. One thing I would like to comment on is about the Commodore. I have always thought Alicia and the Commodore had a relationship and he was sort of her "patron" or "sugar daddy" -- in a matter of speaking. Or at least is trying to be. I don't know if you've watched the Criterion version of the film, but there is a fantastic commentary and they discuss this. There was actually a scene deleted prior to the party scene where another man who she was living with in the bungalow, who owned the bungalow, is going to take her to Havana for a week. This was cut because of code restrictions. So I've always thought, and in Hitch's amazing way, the little bits of dialogue between Alicia and Commodore are hints to their "relationship." Which would put more significance on why she says to Devlin "you better go and tell him" when she agrees to work for Uncle Sam.

About Me

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An avid Ingrid Bergman fan, I am a student of her life and work as well as film, filmmaking and Classic Film in general. I have my M.F.A. in TV/Film Production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and have been making a living in the business they call show. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @alexis_morrell