Saturday, July 25, 2009

Notorious: A Woman's POV (Well, Mine.)

Joe Frank, a new reader, who has just complimented me by "stumbling" onto my blog and telling me that he likes what I do, wrote this about my Notorious Part 1 post.

"I just stumbled on your blog after searching for reviews on Notorious. I have often told people that Notorious is my favorite film. Usually, I get a blank look in response. Even people familiar with Hitchcock are often not familiar with the film.

I first saw Notorious a few days before Cary Grant died. I was stunned. Classic films aren't necessarily known for deep character development. My prior favorite Hitchcock films, North by Northwest and Rear Window, were driven mainly by story. Notorious is very different. The three main characters are very messed up people. You could spend hours discussing Alicia and Devlin. One question, why does Alicia fall in love with Devlin? Is it for the superficial reason that he is tall dark and handsome? After all, he treats her poorly through most of the film. As a man who has stuggled to understand women,I would like to hear a woman's persective."

Joe poses some fantastic questions, that I don't know have definite answers, but I'm willing to give my opinion based on my LOVE for this movie and my research that has followed the love trail.

I wouldn't go as far as saying "classic films aren't necessarily known for deep character development," personally I think that might be too broad. There are so many different types of classic film that they may or may not depend on character development. I would say a film like Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, A Letter to Three Wives, The Graduate, Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, The Wizard of Oz depend a lot on the characters. Actually I'd say that Notorious is extremely character driven based on some key elements.

Their location doesn't matter.

Their object doesn't matter (in fact the "Uranium Ore" is the MacGuffin).

Whether or not they are successful really has little to do with their lives.

What the two need is each other. They are polar opposites that are driven away by politics and scandal and driven toward each other by love, lust, affection, beliefs and loyalty.

In these films, what matters is the way the characters interact. In order to have the contrast between characters or the depth that we need to believe they're worth investing time and emotions we need some sort of development of character.

In order to know that Ingrid's Character, Alicia Hubermann is not just a Nazi-whore, we have to know several things:

She didn't like her father.

She didn't have the same beliefs as other Germans.

She wasn't actually a German but a German-American (which at this point in history would have been a HUGE deal).

How she feels about patriotism (My FAVORITE LINE: "waving the flag with one hand and picking pockets with the other").

She is actually quite loyal to her lovers (though she has had many we see that she is reformed by Dev).

All of these elements are almost the opposite of the straight, dark, rule-following T.R. Devlin.

His character isn't nearly as developed. I mean, we don't know what T.R. stands for (I like to think Teddy Roosevelt--it would just be great to have an environmentalist who's name became the "teddy bear" to be Dev's name).

I agree the Hitchcock films you have mentioned earlier were definitely story driven. I mean do we really care who Jimmy Stewart's character is? No. We want to know what the hell is going to happen when Grace Kelly goes into that apartment...EEK!

Though from an Ingrid Bergman fan point of view-- I care who those characters are because they are rumored to have been based on Ingrid and Robert Cappa... But that's a whole different can of worms. Lol.)

NOW I want to get to the juicy stuff-- why does Alicia looooovvveee Deviln?

I like to think Devlin is not as stiff and dark as his first impression lets on. He does little things, "actions not words" as he puts it, that show he loves Alicia. For example:

On the plane, he listens to Alicia talking about her father and though he interrupts her story

with, "we're coming into Rio," he then checks her out BIG TIME when she looks out the window. He is obviously intrigued by her and who she is or might be. I find that incredibly attractive, I think Alicia unknowingly does too.

They romp around, they have a great dinner. Though he later forgets it, he does pick up the (liquid themed) champaign.

I think he is the post to her waving flag like personality. If we had two characters like Alicia, they'd bounce off of each other. They'd never fall in love, they'd be too busy competing for attention and fighting for their space. Devlin gives Alicia space. He dangles the steak from a stick, and she wants to know what else there is. It's a perfect match.

I think we should all re-watch the film. I mean I'm always game for that, but this time, pay attention to Devlin. Let it be his story for once. I don't know if you'll be convinced, but I have a good feeling, that you might see more this time to his softer side.

Thank you for sharing your comment, Joe. I hope this wasn't too harsh. I really love talking about Notorious and thouroughly enjoy picking it apart and discussing.

Everyone should feel free to do the same. I'd love to read your opinions about Devlin and Alicia's relationship and what you love about them.

OH WAIT! I forgot to tell you-- What I love about these two-- I totally relate to Ingrid's character in this film. I think more than any other film. I think Alicia is a tough cookie, she's a hard sell and wants things her way. She has extremely high standards and requires someone to love her despite her fallen attributes and lives up to her expectations. We all love Cary Grant (if you don't, you can leave now) so when he plays a hard-ass like Devlin, he challenges her persona. I love this. I hope someday to find that. Maybe he'll look like Cary Grant--maybe not.

He better not forget the champaign!


Anonymous said...

Thank you to Joe, whose question has sparked a very interesting blog post and discussion about Notorious!
Great post, Alexis! I agree completely with Dev and Alicia being opposites which more easily allows them to fall in love than if they were more similar.
I wonder what makes Dev love Alicia? Her patriotism? Maybe Dev's been hurt in the past by women like Alicia ("I've always been scared of women, but I get over it"). Maybe deep down he's not actually as stiff as he seems to be, that he likes vibrant, strong women, but has been burned before...
I think that Alicia doesn't like being as 'notorious' as she is, that she just wants to be a nice girl again, like before things with her father went downhill. And maybe in Dev she sees the potential for a nice, normal love affair?
I definitely will take your suggestion and re-watch the film, and focus more on Cary's performance this time instead of Ingrid's :D

Meredith said...

notorious is one of my favorite films, and i agree that it really showed that cary grant was not simply playing himself all the time, he put a lot of work into his characters and this does show a different side of his talent, just as suspicion did. when he melts at the end seeing ingrid poisoned and in distress *I* melt.

thanks for the great post and to joe for prompting it!

About Me

My photo
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