Wednesday, August 29, 2012

97/30 years ago today...

"Say it again, it keeps me awake"
"I love you"

Today is Ingrid Bergman's birthday - she would have been 97. It's also the 30th anniversary of her death. Reason enough to share a choice moment (I make no apologies for the superlatives).

Notorious is one of Hitchcock's very best and certainly his most obviously romantic film. It's gone on to become a template in how to make a spy/love story that is gorgeously romantic, chock full of quotable dialogue (unusual for Hitch and courtesy of Ben Hecht) and, because this is Hitchcock, is extremely exciting. It's also, for me at least, Bergman's most moving performance.
Alicia is a the original fallen woman - the daughter of a Nazi, a drunk and a whore - and not only is she well aware of it ("Mata Hari, she makes love for the papers") but everyone around her makes sure she is reminded of it at every turn: Devlin, who recruits her and falls in love with her and so has to hide his true feelings behind a steely veneer for fear of exposing her; the government agents they work for who are happy to throw her to the wolves and yet still look down on her; her Nazi mother-in-law.  And, of course, in the best tradition of Hollywood Melodrama, she has to prostitute herself and risk her life to prove that she is both a patriot and good girl after all.
The finale aches with the outpourings of the long-restrained emotions of the lead characters and the stair-case sequence is the very lesson in suspense. It is, most definitely, magnificent.

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